Title: Head of Marketing Innovation

Institution: ING Retirement Services

Latest innovation: INGcompareme.com

Denis-Martin Monty spends a lot of time thinking about retirement while he's on the job, though mostly it's the retirement of other people.

That's what's made the quick success of www.INGcompareme.com, a portal that allows people to view the personal finance and retirement planning habits of peers, so gratifying to the six-year veteran of the institution. "It's exactly what we meant to do with the site," says Monty, whose hats at ING Retirement Services include head of marketing innovation and intelligence as well as management responsibilities for the ING Institute for Retirement Research, two units that have been very busy over the past couple of years.

"People are thinking a lot more about planning for retirement and saving for retirement," Monty says.

Mining the peer financial planning terrain that before 2009 had been mostly reserved for independent firms like Mint and Wesabe, INGcompareme.com has gotten 3 million page views in less than a year from more than 150,000 users.

These usage numbers and praise from industry commentators suggest Monty's found the right place on the online peer review curve. An indelible component of the red hot PFM space, peer reviews should quickly become an expected part of an institution's Web presence.

"It's a core competency that should be developed for every financial institution," says Lou Truehouse, a consultant in online peer comparison for Experian, noting that the model is a useful way to get clients thinking about their futures. "We do this ourselves, when we deal with our own (institutional) clients. We engage in peer comparisons prior to meetings and doing true consulting work."

Monty's strategy of placing consumers in contact with an anonymous cohort group is particularly shrewd because the portal bridges the gap between consumer knowledge and action. Truehouse says that once consumers use the portal to get a sense of where they stand financially, ING is in position to provide the venue, experts and tools to make the desired changes in the consumer's retirement or financial management plan.

"If you come up with a great product it will be copied in no time by competitors," he says. "So for banks, it's really about the knowledge and service that you are providing for consumers."

The portal's a work in progress, since it's updated by its users' engagement. People answer a series of demographic questions, including age, gender, income and marital status; as well as deeper dives into education, children and occupation - then get a picture of how people like them are managing investments and other finances. The activity becomes part of the site's database. "We've tested how people go through the tools, how they go form one comparison to the next," says Monty, who's now working on a project that uses that information to improve user experience.

ING's retirement services unit benefits from soft selling - users can engage with ING via a number of channels after using the portal. And ING gets insight into consumer behavior that can be used down the road for marketing or product development.

There's also learning on both sides. Consumers get to see the habits of their peers ("Did you know the average 45-year old who took this survey has $150,306 saved for retirement?" asks the site's home page), and Monty gets to see the habits of consumers. "You can see the emotion in people as they are using the tool," Monty says. "As people go through comparisons, the more likely they are to change their situation."

Monty is now working with ING's business analytics group to improve the portal's methodology, to capture data in a way to ferrets out outliers, fictitious information and data that users enter by mistake. Feedback and blog postings - which beyond scattered criticisms of a few individual questions on surveys have typically praised the service's usability and information - are also being considered as the portal is updated. "We want the tool to become what the users want it to become," Monty says.

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