In launching a revamped financial aggregation site today on the World Wide Web, Intuit Inc. is trying to walk a fine line: fulfilling consumers' wishes without raising banks' ire.
Intuit was scheduled to formally announce today that its Quicken.com site on the Internet will now include a page where information on a consumer's banking, brokerage, and credit card accounts can be gathered together -- even accounts at different financial companies, if they agree.
Intuit will also offer account summary pages for financial companies to add to their own sites. Fees for this service have not been determined, Intuit said. Such pages would display the host company's logo as well as the Quicken logo. Information on the customer's accounts at other participating companies -- and the brands of those companies -- would also be shown.
Intuit says the summary pages are intended to give consumers a "holistic" view of their financial lives. But some bankers may worry about erosion of customer loyalty.
Executives at the Mountain View, Calif., company say the Quicken.com summary page is not intended to put Intuit in direct competition with financial services providers. "Banks know us," said Nancy E. Tubbs, director of Web finance at Intuit. "They trust us not to do anything stupid."
The first companies to make their customers' account data available on the Intuit Web page will be Discover Financial Services Inc., a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.; and the TD Waterhouse discount brokerage, which is mostly owned by Toronto-Dominion Bank. Several other credit card companies, banks, and brokerages will follow shortly, Intuit said, but it declined to identify them.
More than 900 financial institutions currently let their customers download account information to the Quicken personal financial management software on the personal computer desktop. But analysts said many institutions would be reluctant to send customer data to Quicken.com.
"It clearly disintermediates banks," said Avivah Litan, research director at GartnerGroup, Stamford, Conn.
Bill Doyle, director of on-line financial services at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said: "Banks regard this information as strategic."
Yet the analysts said Intuit is moving in the right direction.
"The action is going to be in providing consolidated account information," said Mr. Doyle, whose firm applied the term "open finance" to this form of easy consumer access to multiple providers.
Ms. Litan said banks are wise to work with a data aggregator such as Intuit to give consumers their complete financial picture, even if it means displaying other brands on the consolidated statement. If banks fail to do this, she said, customers eventually will go elsewhere.
"The more open-minded banks are the ones that realize they can't go it alone," Ms. Litan said.
Intuit will charge neither the consumers that use the site nor the companies that downloand customer information to it.
Mr. Doyle said Intuit would win many new consumer users by moving more Quicken services to the Web. The appeal of financial management software has been limited by its complexity and the need for periodic updates, he said.