The difference between digital banking and personal finance management (PFM) software continues to blur.
Intuit Inc. (INTU) announced Wednesday it is incorporating features from Mint, its well-known consumer-facing PFM software, into its digital banking line. Pilot tests with bank customers will begin later this spring, with general availability of the offering expected to hit by early next year.
Intuit bought Mint, which now counts more than 12 million users, in 2009.
The initial Mint product line for banks will combine Intuit mobile banking apps and online banking software with aspects of Mint PFM featured front and center. On the online banking home page, Mint content, such as a newsfeed-like stream of account alerts and a collective view of linked external accounts, will appear in widgets to customers. To access more Mint features, such as a budget creation tool and a feature that displays category spending within a pie chart, consumers will click on a tab labeled Mint.
"We want to blur the lines between PFM tools and digital banking," says Greg Wright, vice president, product management at Intuit Financial Services, the company's unit that sells to banks.
This latest development is a natural evolution of the Intuit product.
"This is a sign of where Intuit needs to go and wants to go. …It's all part of this essential movement to resurrect and redefine PFM," says Mark Schwanhausser, director multichannel financial services at Javelin Strategy & Research. "This is where the industry as a whole will go. …I'm intrigued and happy to see it. The word that comes to mind is 'finally.'"
"I'm surprised it took so long," says Ron Shevlin, senior analyst at Aite Group.
Intuit's move underscores a trend at large, in which banks and other financial services providers feature PFM tools within digital banking view in an attempt to engage more users. To date, PFM delivered through online banking has suffered from single-digit adoption rates, which some blame on poor positioning and a lack of intuitiveness within the design of the features.
Some banks have already begun featuring PFM tools in a more prominent way. Regions Bank, for one, recently added pie charts of online banking customers' transactions on the home page as an attempt to draw customers to PFM services.
Future iterations of Mint online banking, meanwhile, may integrate PFM elements more deeply with online banking. (Think of the ability to set up goals while a person views his savings account, for example.) "We have more ambitious plans down the road," Intuit's Wright says.
In the meantime, it's worth noting what didn't make the homepage of Intuit's new product: the ubiquitous pie chart. "It has fewer payoffs for the key real estate," Javelin's Schwanhausser says. The decision, he says, likely has to do with how the slices of pie won't change much for consumers over time.
Instead, account alerts are getting prime real estate in a widget labeled "Money Insights" on the home page, which analysts view as the most interesting content of the forthcoming Mint offering for banks.
"That's what I think people want," Shevlin says. The section displays a feed of account alerts, such as when a credit card APR has increased, for example.
Cathy Graeber, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, Inc., also cited built-in advice as the most intriguing PFM tool as it can fuel more ways banks can cross-sell, if done successfully.
Though the final product is in pilot phase, one notable difference between Mint.com and Mint digital banking is that the latter will only serve offers to consumers from a specific bank, while consumer-facing Mint pitches offers from numerous banks, including ones that pay it. In other words, in Mint digital banking, consumers won't get pitches by a bank's competitors.
Shevlin points out this may potentially cannibalize current Mint advertisers.
Intuit serves about 2,900 financial institutions, providing about 1,100 with digital banking (online and mobile) and 1,800 with data services. Roughly 500 financial institutions offer FinanceWorks, Intuit's existing white-label PFM offering. Intuit did not share future plans for FinanceWorks.
Intuit will aim to sell Mint well beyond its customer base, likely trying to sign deals with large banks.