Banks left behind in the move to next-generation online financial suites may finally get their chance to move to "PFM Lite" in 2009.

Several major online banking platform providers, including Fiserv, Intuit's Digital Insight and S1, have launched or plan to introduce upgraded platforms that will integrate transactions with new budgeting and investment features. And in the case of Fiserv and S1, advanced graphical interfaces as well.

Fiserv, as showcased at both the 2008 Finovate conference in October and at BAI Retail Delivery in November, takes a major step with its Online Advantage platform; it provides an integrated bill pay and PFM tool set with a rich Internet application (RIA) interface and splashy GUI for bank clients' online pages.

With three undisclosed banks already live and five more in the implementation queue, the company says Online Advantage is the first full online banking integration between the CheckFree billpay transactions system and the Corillian online banking platform, which both came under the Fiserv umbrella in late 2007.

Fiserv's unveiling follows October's release, after a year of development, of Digital Insights's FinanceWorks consumer PFM platform-a descendant of the Digital Insights software that Intuit acquired in 2007. FinanceWorks also created a small-business version in December that has 200 banks in the pipeline. About 450 are scheduled to deploy the consumer platform.

The Fiserv and Digital Insight upgrades come at the tail-end of Web 2.0 interface updates at competitors such as Online Resources and Harland Financial. Next up, S1 in March, when a new interface debuts complete with user-customizable screens and interactive Web applications, according to S1 vp of product strategy Jerry Silva, also a former senior TowerGroup analyst. "That's going to allow our clients to apply their look and feel to the interface," he says. "We take care of the underlying code."

With Web 2.0 and other PFM tools, banks can finally compete from a "look and feel" standpoint with the popular third-party sites, says Mark DeCastro, research manager for consumer banking and credit practice with Financial Insights. That involves customization which "seems to be the trend, allowing end users to design their online banking application into something that works for them," he wrote in a December Financial Insights report.

These upgrades are a long-awaited answer to the aggregated financial sites from the likes of Mint.com, Wesabe plus the trail blazed by some larger banks, including Wells Fargo and PNC Bank, which offer advanced banking options and cleaner GUIs; users across the board expecting more site widgets and single-page Flash views.

"The reason Web 2.0 is so important," says Fiserv vp of product management Bob Homer, "is that it does engage a consumer with just-in-time information in a new way."

These new solutions also indicate that banks are finally overcoming the bitter taste from failed screen-scraping aggregation practices earlier this decade. "With our consumer FinanceWorks solution the key differentiator from Mint is that it's within the financial institution," says Intuit spokesman Tobin Lee. "We're pulling from 5,000 sources of data [for aggregation], and it's going to be the customer's primary hub of financial activity."

DeCastro says the new PFM tools follow a similar strategy as the third-party sites which attract Money and Quicken software users who want simpler budgeting and spend-tracking tools.

"These products we've seen allow you to do a bit of aggregation, and to create reports to show your spending habits, either on what you spent or what's down the pike," says DeCastro.

These new online banking platforms can also integrate easily with new offerings such as remote deposit capture services, and in Fiserv's case can serve as a new source of marketing analytics.

Despite the dismal outlook for financial services this year, Intuit expects Digital Insights's FinanceWorks to be a growth engine in 2009; Intuit bought Digital Insights in February 2007 to re-enter the online banking vendor space while maintaining its direct-user business model for Quicken Online and Quicken software.

In a recent quarterly earnings call, Intuit officials predicted the firm would reach a doubt-digit percentage jump in revenue in its financial institutions business, as banks turn to e-banking and billpay tools to boost deposits and fees.

"If you look at the overall scheme of things, attracting and retaining and growing deposits is a No.1 priority," says Aite Group research director Gwenn Bezard.

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