Personal financial management tools offer lots of promise, but are facing sluggish consumer use.
"There's a huge awareness issue," says Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at Celent, which found that in 2011, only 3.8 percent of all U.S. online banking users were active users of PFM. Most alarmingly, 22.3 percent of online bank consumers had signed up for PFM but weren't using it. "3.8 percent is a horrifically low number," says Jegher, who is predicting that number will rise as PFM tools become increasingly melded with online banking. But he stresses the importance of ensuring that consumers know what PFM is and how it works specifically for them. "You can't just launch a solution and say 'we have budgeting and expense tools and here's how it works.'"
In an effort to boost awareness and usage, Geezeo has launched Geezeo Interactive (GI), which will offer a variety of marketing services tied to PFM. The firm, which offers PFM services to financial institutions on a white label basis, has hired Jim Craig, the former vice president of marketing at the Newport News, VA-based 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union, to supervise Geezeo's marketing effort. "My job is to help financial institutions leverage the tools in their marketing and sales processes to get the most value out of them," says Craig.
GI will work with clients to form marketing campaigns, which will depend on the needs and goals of each financial institution. Geezeo will likely charge a fee for the campaigns, though the structure of payment is still being developed. Also in development is the execution strategy for the campaigns — such as media channels and the use of external marketing or advertising agencies for creative content. "The marketing depends on the financial institution. Are they basically getting started with PFM? Do they need help getting the product out and getting customers to use it. Or have they launched and are looking to help drive use?" says Craig.
Jegher says early PFM deployments have mostly either been a new window that can be accessed from a bank's site through a click, or a feature function on the site. A third alternative, in which PFM components reside on a dashboard that's a basic component of online banking, is where he says the tools will eventually reside. "The majority of banks that have embarked on PFM have not come close to this third phase because they aren't using [the PFM firm] for online banking," Jegher says.
Until PFM tools become a ubiquitous part of an online dashboard, providers will have to work harder to make sure consumers are aware of the products and their benefits. While consumer use is obviously important for any product, it's particularly important for PFM because new data is accumulated as the tools are used, making the tools more effective in the future.
Bryan Clagett, Geezeo's CMO, says the firm is seeing about a seven percent user adoption rate at its client banks. Geezeo has 16 clients that are live, with more than a dozen in the queue. He's looking for that adoption rate to increase to about 15 percent with the help of marketing. "We're looking at it statistically from an odd vantage point because we don't have the scale yet, it's still early. But if we can get adoption of PFM that's tied to core product use, bundled with checking accounts, debit and card accounts, we can show PFM as a benefit added to those core products," Clagett says.