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Online Banking

Intuit Builds a New Control Panel

When Intuit Inc. launched FinanceWorks in 2008 it said the personal financial management system would revolutionize online banking.

The product was a success - one in three Intuit clients offers it. The firm is now expanding the product. The latest software brings its PFM tools, as well as new features such as merchant-funded rewards, front and center. "Having your entire financial picture in one place, making all key jobs more discoverable and more intuitive - and ultimately easier to use ... will increase the engagement [financial institutions] have with the user," says Albert Ko, svp of consumer solutions for Intuit Financial Services.

Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at Celent, says Intuit "is moving in the direction where online banking is headed, which is a 'dashboard'-like experience that goes beyond a static display of information."

Beneficial Mutual Bancorp Inc. of Philadelphia has offered FinanceWorks for more than a year and began testing the new online banking experience a few months ago. About 140,000 of Beneficial's online banking customers use the new interface. "It is very straightforward and transparent, and the ease of use is the most important," says Denise Kassekert, evp of relationship banking for the $4.7 billion-asset Beneficial.

Kassekert said in addition to a clear, concise view of their financial life with the bank, customers' ability to make bill payments and cash transfers directly from the FinanceWorks home page represented an advance. The original FinanceWorks did not support payments and transfers. Today, customers "have an immediate overview of their relationship with the bank, and they can make a decision if they need to," she says.

Analysts said the changes reflect cross-pollination from Intuit's ownership of Mint.com, a free-to-consumers PFM Website Intuit bought in 2009. Mint, which is used by millions, creates a dashboard of consumers' financial lives by aggregating customer accounts, detailing their spending and helping them set financial goals.

"The intent is to make the home page more approachable and more actionable for consumers, and it shows consumers the relationship between one element and another," says Emmett Higdon, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Higdon says one of the common features of modern Website redesigns is a reduction in the number of clicks that consumers must make for common things like bill payments, viewing statements or setting up alerts. Intuit's redesign reflects that, he said.

The Forrester analyst says the advantage Intuit has over third-party PFM providers is its support for transactions to be made directly from the home page. "It keeps the customers coming back to your site to manage their finances, as opposed to a third-party site," he said, where consumers must leave if they want to pay bills.

Analysts also said they were intrigued by the rewards piece of the new home page. "By bundling merchant-funded rewards into the online banking offering ... there is a huge opportunity for the financial institutions," says Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group LLC in Boston.

Intuit's financial institutions business is the former Digital Insight Corp., which it bought in 2007. The companies had been working on the design of FinanceWorks before the acquisition.

Through its more than 1,500 financial institution clients, Intuit said it has relationships with more than 10 million banking customers. About 3 million use the new home page, which Intuit said it has been testing for about a year.

"The new online banking experience transforms the way consumers interact with banks or credit unions, and it helps financial institutions increase customer engagement," Ko says.

Analysts said the new Website would also increase stickiness for the financial institutions using it.

"This type of home page for online services is critical for banks and credit unions to deliver on the promise of becoming the financial hub for their customers," Cathy Graeber, founder of the consulting firm Swimming Upstream, said in an e-mail.

Ko says Intuit is considering adding customization, but he said it was something that financial institutions requested Intuit examine in a measured fashion. "With further customization, I think the jury is still out," Ko says.