Wells Fargo & Co. aims to help consumers navigate their finances more easily with its My Money Map personal financial management system.
My Money Map ties together several PFM features that Wells launched separately and gives PFM a higher profile within its online banking system.
Launched Dec. 10, My Money Map combines Wells' My Savings Plan, My Spending Report and Budget Watch products. The new service provides a dashboard view of a consumer's financial picture using data from Wells accounts. It presents this data in the form of interactive, clickable bar charts and provides a resource library on topics from debt management to savings strategies.
Observers call the change subtle but important.
"The goal is to be able to see the trees and the forest simultaneously," said Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst at Javelin Strategy and Research in Pleasanton, Calif.
"Bringing PFM to the home page can reconstruct that mental framework by placing accounts, must-do transactions like bill pay and PFM insights to the same page, enabling consumers to see things as a whole," Schwanhausser said.
By contrast, putting PFM on one of 12 tabs within the bank's online offering would indicate to consumers that they should think about their money in compartments, not as a whole, Schwanhausser said.
Wells Fargo has been actively enhancing its PFM suite. This month it announced Cash Tracker, a service that helps customers keep track of the money they withdraw from ATMs. Though this is not connected to My Money Map, the bank said it plans to connect all of its PFM offerings eventually.
Brian Riley, senior research director for bank cards at TowerGroup, said the enhancements complement Wells' strategy of having a deep knowledge of its customers. He said Wells is one of the best in the industry at cross-selling products and services; on average its customers have four products, compared with two at most other banks.
"PFM is a way to institutionalize the quest of cross-selling," Riley said.
The resource library in particular may be less about education and more about sales, Schwanhausser said. "This is a cross-sell opportunity, and a straight marketing thing," Schwanhausser said.
Patrick Smith, a senior vice president in Wells Fargo's online financial management group, said My Money Map provides customers with "convenience, control, simplification and organization."
Smith said increased customer retention was certainly one goal of the new product.
"Helping customers meet basic financial needs, including helping them track and control spending, build savings and manage cash flow and debt will increase customer stickiness," he said. "Through internal research, we know the more engaged customers are in our online services, the more satisfied they are."
Though Wells Fargo has offered PFM longer than most banks have, some observers said the San Francisco company's latest enhancements simply put it on par with more recent rivals.
Emmett Higdon, senior analyst for e-business and channel strategy at Forrester Research Inc., said that "the graphical functionality is something they've needed for some time."
Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group in Boston, said that "from a functionality perspective," Wells isn't "leapfrogging," it's "just catching up" by adding unity to its PFM tools.
Third-party vendors' products, such as Intuit Inc.'s Mint, are still far more robust, and banks have to play catch-up to interest consumers in their own PFM products, Shevlin said.
"Wells Fargo has to make an investment in its PFM capability if they want to drive adoption and utilization," Shevlin said, emphasizing that PFM still appeals to only a minority of consumers — at most 20%.
Third-party PFM vendors said centralizing information in an easy-to-read format was critical, and it would help provide a closer relationship between banks and their customers.
"If a bank helps a customer see and act on all their financial information in one place, regardless of the source, the bank is in a strong position to deliver relevant and meaningful insights that help customers make better financial decisions," said Albert Ko, senior vice president of consumer solutions for Intuit's financial services unit.
Solidifying and consolidating financial relationships creates "more opportunities for cross-sell and, ultimately, improved profit per customer," Ko said.
Peter Glyman, president and co-founder of Geezeo Inc. in Tolland, Conn., said consolidation onto a dashboard was a crucial step. But another one would be allowing customers to customize the dashboard to highlight financial topics that are most important to them, he said.
"At a glance, consolidation is a natural evolution of any [PFM] design," Glyman said. "We work with our clients to extend our dashboard in ways that speak to [consumer] life stages."