Like most financial executives, My Community Federal Credit Union's Susie Masten and Lezlie Veach are really excited about new innovation in personal financial management (PFM), such as offering the budgeting tools on mobile devices.
Getting consumers just as excited about PFM and its use as part of mobile and web banking is another matter.
"We're in west Texas and west Texans are hard to sway. It's going to take a while. But it's an excellent tool and it is fun to use," says Masten, senior vice president and chief operating officer of My Community Federal Credit Union, a credit union in Midland, Tex., with about 23,000 members.
My Community just launched a PFM application from MoneyDesktop. MoneyDesktop, which competes in a crowded PFM space that includes players such as Mint, Geezeo and Intuit's FinanceWorks, aggregates account information from more than 10,000 financial institutions and provides services such as expense tracking, budget creation, debt management and visual reports of a consumer's financial health. My Community will make PFM part of the landing page of its online banking site and part of the initial lure as it builds out mobile banking services. "We call it a sticky service. Our members can find all of their financial information in one spot and not have to leave the credit union to see where they have different financial relationships," Masten says.
MoneyDesktop's PFM includes a "GuideMe" application, which is designed to work like a financial GPS or a personal financial coach, positioning a user's financial location in relation to a goal. MoneyDesktop is also big on visuals. It uses what it calls BubbleBudgets, graphics in which bubbles represent different categories of spending that change colors depending on how well a consumer is adhering to the budget goal.
"I really like the BubbleBudgets, it's a way to tell at one glance where you are. I'm also grateful to see the bar graphs go away. Bar graphs are boring," Masten says.
Thus far, the hype for PFM has been more on the institutional side than on the consumer side. American Banker Magazine recently reported that PFM is underperforming — consumer adoption is relatively low compared to the attention financial institutions are paying to PFM.
Bret Skousen, vice president of strategic partnerships for MoneyDesktop, says the company uses design and ease of use to make PFM appealing to users. The company would not disclose consumer adoption numbers, but he said that at some clients, 60% of online banking users are using PFM. "By having a very consistent experience across the desktop and mobile device, a user only has to learn one system basically. It's not an identical experience, but it's very consistent," Skousen says.
Skousen says to promote channel consistency, the company's developers build workflows that enable the different languages that drive MoneyDesktop's web interface (which is programmed using HTML5) and varied mobile operating systems, such as Apple's iOS and Android, to work together to produce content that presents almost the same on different screens. MoneyDesktop also relies on its mix of internal and external account aggregation routers to pull financial account information together quickly.
To make its members aware of PFM, My Community is advertising it in branches and is having a "MoneyDesktop week." The credit union is also running videos highlighting MoneyDesktop on screens in its branches. "We would like to put an iPad in every teller station so we can demonstrate how MoneyDesktop can be used," Masten says.
Veach, vice president of training and development for My Community, says that once members get the hang of using PFM, adoption and usage will follow. "Setting up a budget isn't something that you have to spend hours doing. You can do it very quickly and check it often, in a matter of minutes."