It's not often that a new banking product changes the way consumers talk about money. But it's even rarer that an offering changes the way banks talk about money.

That's what PNC Financial Services Corp. did with its Virtual Wallet and Virtual Wallet Student online personal financial management tools. The money management platform, initially introduced in August 2008, helps consumers to oversee their various accounts with the bank, schedule payments, track spending, hit savings targets, receive alerts if their checking account drops below a certain threshold, and file reimbursement requests. (The student-oriented version came out in June 2009.)

Along with changing the model for personal financial management, according to Mark Schwanhauser, analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research, PNC's Virtual Wallet has set itself apart by "changing the language" - reflecting a more natural and consumer-oriented bent. Case in point: Instead of a budget the Wallet discusses spending; in place of financial goals, it contains a 'wish list' much like an online shopper would set for themselves at a retail site like Amazon.com.

"We really think we have aligned online banking with the way people think about their money," says Mike Ley, vp for PNC.

Ley says that his team not only worked on making the language more colloquial, but making the look and feel of Virtual Wallet more "interactive and visual" to match up with today's online customers. Aimed at engaging the much sought-after emerging generation of banking customers, Virtual Wallet positions itself as more streamlined alternative to traditional PFM software from firms like Quicken.

The Pittsburgh-based bank has quadrupled its growth among this segment since the release of Virtual Wallet and 80 percent of the users who sign on to it are new to the bank. The bank did not release the exact number of users, but is currently signing up more than 2,500 Virtual Wallet users per week.

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