A new partnership between DailyWorth, a women's financial information site, and Intuit's personal financial management [PFM] site Mint.com reveals the potential of PFM to be sharpened by combining it with editorial content for specific user groups.
"The PFM tools out there are being used by pretty much anyone and are meant for the masses, but there are different things going on that affect people's financial planning needs," says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at Celent.
Mint.com's tools will be made available to users of DailyWorth, a resource designed to help women build net worth through a variety of educational materials, articles, blogs and other interactive media. In addition to the cross availability of each other's services, the two firms, which did not return requests for comment, will team on three new projects — a savings challenge to encourage customers to grow a financial buffer for an emergency; access to national money experts to help participants use Mint.com's tools to set financial goals; and a series of webinars.
Another approach is emerging at Citigroup, which is making its Women & Co. portal available free to all women, as opposed to only Citigroup customers. Women & Co. provides links to existing PFM tools in a less formal manner than DailyWorth's explicit tie to Mint.com. "We're looking to make financial management part of the everyday journey...and when you're thinking about personal finance, we put the tools out there," says Linda Descano, president and CEO of Women & Co.
Women & Co. itself is not a financial aggregation and budgeting engine. Women & Co.'s content includes educational materials, links, blogs and advice columns on subjects such as managing finances, wealth management, retiring, career management, hiring financial professionals and managing budgets. Contributors include users and financial professionals who provide content that's tailored based on research into past usage and the interests of the site's audience.
Descano says the aggregation tools are available via links related to the content, and include Citi's own PFM engine; Bundle (a peer spending site that counts Citi among its investors), and other public PFM sites — Women & Co. does not endorse specific PFM firms. The push of aggregation-driven PFM is also not heavy — Women & Co.'s research has found that its users prefer to do research in a venue that's tacitly different from where they actually conduct transactions. "Our goal is to be objective and make useful tools available to our users," says Descano.
Women & Co. is hoping to fill what it sees as a market gap between general financial content sites and broad-based PFM sites. "There is so much out there, how do you break through the clutter and get to what's practical, what you can act on?" Descano says. "There are a lot of great tools out there, but you have to have the conversation with yourself. All too often women and men alike will use these tools to come up with a plan, but that's the end of it. Our goal is by keeping the conversation going, you're able to keep a personal financial management plan in sync with your life."
Jegher says segmenting PFM products, or related services tangential to the actual budgeting tools, is not only a good idea for PFM services, it's an essential move. He says targeted use of PFM tools will increase because "mass market PFM" doesn't work — the generalist PFM tools aren't designed to meet the needs of varied user groups.
Beyond gender-based personal management sites, Jegher says the sites could and should also be divided and designed based on the specific financial needs of income segments.
"If one person is wealthy and another person is in debt, those two people are going to have very different needs for PFM," Jegher says. "The wealthier person will want to know immediately how to invest or make more money, while the person in debt will want to know how to pay bills or will want information on financial literacy."
Jegher says this isn't being done widely at banks right now, but there is an opportunity to use PFM as part of a dashboard in which customers use widgets to set preferences on PFM and other information tailored for their specific segment. "It's about enabling basic customization with the tools that are in the toolbox."