Posts Tagged ‘PFM’

Buh-bye, Quicken

August 16, 2008

Personal Financial Management sites (PFMs), Wesabe, Mint, Geezeo, Buxfer, Expensr, NetWorthIQ, Jawaala, etc., got a boost in this month’s issue of Fast Company magazine. In a hilarious editorial by Steve Johnson, Quicken is given a gentle let-down as Steve declares his break-up with the software package. Quicken has been straining the relationship for too long, always demanding to be upgraded, always saying that spending the additional money is done in the name of what he “really” wants, but without actually listening to hapless Steve. Steve is not breaking up because the younger, sexier PFMs “all seem to understand the real me”, but because they just don’t click like they used to.

Many ages ago (in the late 90s), futurists predicted the end of desktop software, and envisioned all services delivered straight over the web via the universal platform/operating system known as the browser. I had trouble believing or understanding that model especially because the web is so agonizingly slow. Whether or not that vision comes to pass, software without at least some online/connected component is a thing of the past.

PFMs have moved from interesting novelty to hundreds of thousands of users. Today, the back page of Fast Company magazine, soon, it will be mainstream media. The important question to ask is not “how many people are using it today?”, but rather, “how soon will it be before word spreads and everyone does it this way?”

Is the iPhone going to revolutionize banking?

July 14, 2008

Ron Shevlin wrote a post this morning about why the iPhone isn’t going to revolutionize banking. His point is that there may be some evolution, but not revolution. My counterpoint is that when talking about degrees by which these things happen, it can be difficult to draw a line between these two. And waiting for that line to become bright is a risk that some might not want to take.

Ron thinks that there are too many people rushing in to these revolutionary technologies. I actually think it’s the opposite: there are far more people in the financial world who are taking a wait and see attitude than those who are claiming there is a revolution and jumping in feet first. It’s just that the feet-first types are the vocal ones who make the noise and get the attention. Because, really, who wants to admit they are going to take a wait-and-see approach? I give props to Charles Bruen for taking a hard-line wait-and-see stance on mobile banking.

But let me back up to Ron’s bigger issue; what is revolutionary and what is evolutionary? While it is indeed hard to determine what is truly “disruptive” and “revolutionary” (yes, these words are used too often) at the time they are occurring, nevertheless, some of these things DO take root and create significant change. As one example, in 2005, Facebook had but one million users. Hardly a disruptive revolution, right? But it had momentum and was growing fast, and now has 80 million users. That would make Facebook the fifteenth largest country in the world if it were a country. Three years ago, most people had barely heard of it. Today it’s a part of the culture. When exactly did it go from a blip on the radar screen to mainstream?

I believe the same is true for mobile banking, P2P lending, and PFMs. Yes, these revolutions are not happening violently because banking isn’t sexy. But if there were any way I could get off the sidelines and do something with these technologies, I would be in the game. I give huge props to Gene Blishen for being light years ahead of the curve on what mobile banking can be and do.

Dan Dickinson, in a response to Ron’s post, asks if there is anyone on twitter who does NOT use an iPhone, and states that he will never buy anything made by Apple. As far as the game-changing nature of the iPhone and mobile connectedness, this misses the point.

The point is this: for those of us who were tethered to a desk in order to use our PCs and access the net, laptops were a revolution. Now you could go anywhere with a laptop, be connected/do your work, but you could only connect to the entire internet when you found wifi, which was rare or expensive and often both. With an iPhone (and to some degree any smart phone) you can connect to the net ANYWHERE you have a cell phone connection, which these days seems like just about anywhere. That’s powerful, game changing stuff, and also not as clunky and bulky as a laptop.

But again, here’s the real reason why people LOVE their iPhones, and why it’s indeed a paradigm-shifting, disruptive, revolution (he he!): Because it’s so FREAKING PERSONAL. iPhone owners feel that it’s “my” internet on their iPhones, it’s MY connection to MY friends and MY music and MY phone and MY pictures and MY contacts and MY address book and MY calendar and MY videos and MY games and MY apps! I can customize it with pictures of MY friends and MY kids on MY home screen, and take a photo ANYWHERE I am and instantly email it to my friends. Try wrestling away any device (no matter whether its an iPhone or something else) that has so much personalization and connection… it can’t be done. And to the extent that BlackBerries and Treos do this too, well, yes, that’s why their users love them just as much as us Appleheads love our iPhones.

PFM discussion at BarCampBank SF

March 30, 2008

Session 3 of BarCampBank SFThe following are my rough notes typed during session two of BarCampBankSF, held in the Wozniak Lounge of the UC Berkeley campus. BarCampBank SF was an unconference devoted to innovation in personal finance. Here is the wiki page and the CrowdVine page. More photos can be found on the BCBSF Flickr Group. Attendance was around 60 people, including Andy Kaufman who found out about the event that morning at 9 am (because someone who had already arrived was twittering about it), and arrived in time for the last two sessions of the day.

One of the most remarkable things about this session is that we had several different Personal Financial Management (PFM) companies represented at one table, along with two companies in the personal retirement/net worth site category. (And Zopa, and someone who formerly worked for a personal finance division of Yahoo!) While there was a small amount of guardedness re: business plans, there were also a lot of kudos given, and much sharing of ideas. This was probably mostly due to the consensus that this type of site is just in its infancy.

Personal Financial Management Sites session (Session two of the day)

Areas to be discussed during this session:
1 – account aggregation
2 – making it simple
3 – customization
4 – mobile
5 – security

Notes from what was actually discussed:
Let’s introduce all the PFM companies here at the table:
Expensr – build awareness for each user – compare expenses to people like me
– tag yourself — manually enter or bank ofx download
Wesabe – Prospective tool, helps you going forward (compared to Quicken is rearview mirror)
– banks think of PFM as a tool to sell more products to customers, lock them in, etc.
– Wesabe really wants to help people
Networth IQ — track your net worth – track, share, compare your networth
(Also at table: Boulevardr, VaultStreet)

Other PFMs not here:
Mint – the positive about Mint: drives through to a result

Wesabe & Expensr, shoot for a positive customer result FIRST, unlike Mint which built the right side of Google before the left side

users want to analyze data – in a consumer form –

what’s the value proposition of PFM sites?

difference in these types of tools for investment vs expenses – who am I comparing to? large, global community versus small tight-knit community like me

different people in different life stages and income want different things out of these tools
(college students budgeting pizza and beer vs. older folks looking at financing kids’ college)

trust level with the PFM tools- younger professionals totally trust, not a big issue. Issue is for older folks.

with Wesabe – security – decouple person’s name from financial data
Jason is worried about one security corruption by ANY one PFM company blows up the entire industry

Pizza Breakwhat is the ideal way that transactions SHOULD work for PFM sites?

Jason -wesabe – wants customer transaction to belong to CUSTOMER – token given to Wesabe once by customer so that bank then gives JUST transactional data to Wesabe and nothing else
suggestion: why not create a consortium of PFM’s for this platform of interoperability standards (BITS – banking industry technology secretary)

Credit card companies – don’t know Expensr and PFMs exist
Wesabe – big banks know this is happening, some things are great about it, some things they wish they could make go away

Yodlee – good at building sucky tools. Yodlee plateaued at 1 million users

Jason – what is a PFM tool at end of day? Decision support tool. Interested in helping people make good decisions about money. helping people about making good financial decisions. Overcome ability to actually transact (like bill pay)

People don’t like to manage money. how do we overcome inertia?

Is Wesabe and PFMs where it’s going?

Jason – people aren’t going to chose their bank based on PFM (ie Mint is wrong/bad)

Banks have snouts in trough with customer fees – banks will eventually have to take snouts out of trough and actually help people with their money

Jwalla PFM – through CU online banking side

PFMs will be like Bill Pay is now – another tool/product, which hooks you into the instutuion so the customer won’t leave

Wesabe in discussions to partner with CUs

Takes forever to get trusted in the financial space – Yahoo didn’t have that. – at the end of the day made by brand name is all that matters, even when product is inferior

PFM only at the very very beginning of what this space is/will be (Wesabe, Expensr etc)

Social aspect is where it’s at (for both Wesabe, Expensr) (not about wizards and tools) community gives emotion, sticky & voyeuristic

Life events are what drive people to PFM (graduation, marriage, etc), not bottoming out

How do we make PFM fun? video game-like? what’s the pain point? notifications that are in my best interest. get rid of pain, maximize opportunity

We don’t need no stinking mobile banking!

November 23, 2007

So glad to see that everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and ignore SMS/mobile banking. Apparently Forrester research has determined that there is no significant demand for it. (Ron Shevlin, Mobile Banking Boom or Fizzle?; Lisa Hochgraf, Raining on the Mobile Banking Parade; Doug True, Mobile Banking | a Papa John option?)

Phew! I am so relieved to learn that all we have to do in regards to mobile banking is sit on our hands and watch what everyone else does. Nope, no need to be ahead of the curve on this one. Let someone else take the arrows on this, as the president of a 55,000 member credit union told me several months ago not long after I wrote what I really wanted as a banking consumer.

Gosh, and I was worried about the PFM folks like Geezeo, Wesabe, and Mint who have ALREADY built banking/text messaging features into their platforms, and what that means for credit unions. Okay, good to know that we can ignore these PFM’s explosive growth, and that we’re not missing out on an opportunity to engage those younger members we are always wondering why we aren’t connecting with.

Truly, the problem here is one of a generational gap. (Darn it Ron, you’re right, it IS all about generations! 😉 ) The problem is simply this: The current generation of credit union management is not good at text messaging. They either have never done it, or haven’t done it very often, and are thus unskilled in rapid text messaging. Therefore they think that text messaging is a cumbersome communication method (it is, but there are certain things its brilliant for). They have never explored the options available in their cell phones, and don’t understand things like Quick Messages for frequently sent texts. This older generation doesn’t realize how the younger generation is using their cell phones as a central communication device.

So here’s the funny thing about credit unions contemplating offering SMS-banking: There’s nothing to predict or contemplate. PFM services like Geezeo, Mint and Wesabe are ALREADY making it possible on top of YOUR financial institution’s online banking. Don’t believe it? Just sign up on Geezeo right now and see for yourself. Signing up and using Geezeo is quick, free, and easy.

Doug and Lisa — I heart you both beaucoup, and think you are both doing fantastic things for the CU movement. But seriously, calling SMS-banking a niche with little demand is like calling online banking a niche with little demand five or six years ago. Just like personal computers were a niche with little demand in 1983. And that new-fangled television thingy was a niche with little demand in 1959. And automobiles were a niche with little demand in 1908….

Offering banking text messag… errr, nevermind.

October 19, 2007

In July, I wrote about what I would like to have as banking or credit union consumer… the ability to text message my bank or credit union with “balance” and get my current account balance sent back to my cell phone. I figured it might be one or two years before my credit union offered it. One executive of a 55,000 member credit union said he doesn’t see a need for it, his members are not asking for it. (Note to CU executive: How are you not seeing the MILLIONS of cell phones used by EVERYONE around you? Who doesn’t have a cell phone at this point?)

But now I realize that banks and credit unions are perfectly fine not offering it. Because the new generation of Personal Financial Management (PFM) sites (Wesabe, Mint, Geezeo) will do the job nicely on your credit union or bank account, bypassing the financial institution entirely. So credit unions and banks, sit back, relax, and let the new generation do it for you. No problem. I’ve already signed up on Geezeo, and I may check out Wesabe and Mint just to find out the differences between these online PFMs. It took me all of five minutes to sign up on Geezeo and verify my cell phone for text messaging balances, and I never had to leave my home. Future blog post: Why PFMs will soon rule the world. (Quicken and MS Money are now officially 15-minutes ago.)

And if you don’t think that online PFMs are going to take off and skyrocket, that’s probably what you thought about P2P lending… who would ever do that? Just look at Prosper’s growth rate… at the current rate, in one year, Prosper’s membership will make them larger than the third largest CU in the nation. And that’s in only their first 2.5 years of existence.

New BarCampBanks update

October 18, 2007

I just had a great Flashmeeting with Frederic Baud in Paris and Matt Iverson in the Bay Area. (Love the Flashmeeting interface…. good stuff.) Frederic is interested in helping Matt get BarCampBankSF off the ground, and helping me get BarCampBankNewEngland off the ground. So here’s what came out of the virtual meeting:

BarCampBankSF: Matt Iverson of BoulevardR has interest from Jason Knight of Wesabe, as well as the Mint people and Bryan Sims of Brass, in being a part of the event. That should be enough to get the ball rolling. He’s thinking about doing it on the Sunday before President’s Day, so that’s February 17. He’s looking for local Bay Area help in organizing the event and finding a venue, and he’s thinking about holding it in or around the UC Berkeley campus.

BarCampBankNewEngland: I’ve talked with Peggy Powell, the director for America’s Credit Union Museum, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the site of the very first CU created in the United States, and we’re looking good for holding the event there. I think it’s mahvelous that we will be discussing the current revolution in personal finance at the site where the CU revolution in personal finance was launched 99 years ago. At this point, I’m thinking April 26, 2008, and would love any input/feedback on that date for coming to New Hampshire for the event.

I’ve got interest from several parties for being a part of this event, including Ron Shevlin of Epsilon, Peter Glyman and Shawn Ward from Geezeo, and Doug Williams, and possibly Trey Reeme, and Matt Dean of Trabian. If you would like to participate, please put your name down on the BarCampBankNewEngland page.