Answering Call for PFM, Tenn. Bank Rewarded with 25% Adoption Rate

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When a couple of customers asked Wilson Bank & Trust if it participated on Mint.com, the Tennessee community bank decided to investigate personal financial management (PFM) tools to deliver through its digital banking channels.

"We have to listen to our customers," John McDearman, executive vice president, tells BTN.

The bank, which is based in Lebanon, Tenn., polled its customers about PFM tools and discovered that a good portion wanted them. Seeing the potential, some employees at the $1.7 billion-asset bank started to test tools that would allow Wilson to deliver Mint-esque features.

"I would say the research itself took 12 months," says McDearman.

The list of PFM vendors that sell to financial institutions includes the likes of MoneyDesktop, Geezeo, Strands Finance, and Yodlee.

The bank chose MoneyDesktop, launched the vendor's PFM tools in March, and formally announced the new service Tuesday. The features allow online banking customers to pull in external financial accounts, create budgets, visualize spending habits and categorize transactions as well as add memos to them. The bank hopes the service will improve retention rates as well as attract new customers.

MoneyDesktop's user interface impressed the bank so much so that it picked the vendor even though the company was not an official partner of Wilson Bank & Trust's core provider, Jack Henry & Associates. The vetting process took a bit longer than normal because of that, McDearman says. "Anytime you integrate with a third party, there's always some challenge," he says. "Jack Henry was very accommodating." And ultimately, the integration went smoothly, he says.

Before the PFM tool was rolled out to customers, the bank tested MoneyDesktop's software among employees so they'd be prepared to teach consumers. "One of our keys to success has been education of our own employees," McDearman says.

Employees were asked to pull in outside accounts, to test that key feature. MoneyDesktop worked to fix the few gaps that popped up during the testing period.

Since the PFM tool's spring debut, the bank has seen more than 25% of its roughly 20,000 active online banking users adopt the tool. (People sign up through online banking.) Wilson defines active online banking users as those who use online banking during the month.

That's a strong early usage number compared to industry norms of the past couple of years. PFM tools delivered by banks have been heavily criticized by industry analysts for single-figure adoption rates, which negate the promise of PFM: cross-selling customers based on their own data. Some analysts say that to drive usage rates up, PFM providers need to integrate the tool with online banking and offer ways to help customers save money on a daily basis.

To drive engagement, Wilson created email campaigns, banner ads, a countdown to launch on the website and social media messages. "It doesn't hurt it's a free product,"McDearman adds.

Customers can also download a separate mobile PFM app. The PFM app cannot integrate with the bank's existing mobile app, which is a shortcoming for now.

In the coming months, Wilson will be one of the first banks to test MoneyDesktop's latest feature: Target and Insight, which aggregates account holder data from the PFM platform. The feature will allow the bank to send targeted offers to customers who are likely to want a specific product like an auto loan.

The appeal? "It doesn't mass market to everybody,"McDearman says. "The best source of marketing is getting information or product offerings to people they can use."

"Our best customer is the one we already have," adds Becky Jennings, vice president of marketing and sales. "You don't want to just sell a product; you want to fulfill a need."

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Comments (1)
Good for them!
Posted by FrankRauscher | Wednesday, July 17 2013 at 12:49PM ET
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