Smarty Pig LLC, which helps banks provide online savings accounts with a social networking element, now lets users monitor their money through third-party financial management Web sites.
Mike Ferrari, a co-founder of the Des Moines company, said in an interview Monday that demand for a link to third-party sites was clear roughly a year ago, when Mint Software Inc. erroneously listed Smarty Pig as being compatible with its account aggregation feature, and some Smarty Pig users tried unsuccessfully to link their information to Mint's personal financial management site.
When Smarty Pig installed software last week that lets users export their account details, the effect was immediate and automatic, Ferrari said. "Anyone who had actually set up Smarty Pig in these accounts, they immediately started to pull" the data. "So what we saw was, in a three-day period, we saw roughly 10% of our users immediately started synching their data with a money management site."
Smarty Pig announced Monday that it was exporting data to other companies through OFX, a widely used application for updating personal financial management applications and Web sites with information from users' accounts.
News of the change quickly spread online, he said. "I woke up one morning and I checked our Twitter account, and all of a sudden I saw lots of 'tweets' from people coming in and saying: 'Hey, my Smarty Pig account works today for some reason.' It was one of those things that we just hadn't really anticipated."
Personal financial management sites have become more popular during the recession as more people have sought tools to give them a full picture of their finances. Many providers, hoping to appeal to this appetite, have added features such as budget forecasts and links to investment accounts to improve the utility and ease of use of their analytic tools.
Smarty Pig has also benefited from this trend, Ferrari said. "Our business right now is, frankly, going extremely well. This month alone we will be up over 500% from last month's sign-ups."
He would not say how many accounts his company has, saying that information is proprietary to the banks that host the accounts.
Smarty Pig launched about a year ago. West Bancorp Inc. of West Des Moines, Iowa, is its U.S. bank partner. In October an Australian version was launched through Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
Smarty Pig lets users make their savings goals public, so friends can encourage them to contribute more to their savings accounts and even make their own contributions. It makes most of its money through the licensing deals it strikes with banks; a lesser revenue source is lets users convert their savings into gift cards, which it buys in bulk and sells at a discount.
Most of the users who move their money out of a Smarty Pig account send it to a bank account through automated clearing house transfers. About 20% to 25% choose gift cards, and 5% have their savings balances loaded on to a stored-value card.
Ferrari said that after OFX integration, its most requested feature is mobile access, which it plans to add in the next four to six weeks. This year it expects to launch in three to five more countries.
George Tubin, a senior research director at TowerGroup Inc., a Needham, Mass., independent research firm owned by MasterCard Inc., said that OFX integration is a natural fit for Smarty Pig. "The type of user that uses these online financial services offerings are the type of people that are looking for that type of capability."
Such users are typically "much younger, much more Web savvy" than those who keep their money in a traditional bank account, he said.