It didn't take long for consumers in Spain to start flock to BBVA's white-label offering of a personal financial management tool - and to become an exhibit in the case for PFM as a major new appendage, if not the backbone, for online banking.

In just under a year, BBVA signed more than 400,000 users to its free Tu Cuentas ("you count") service, which is built on a California-based provider's new PFM tool for banks. The provider, Strands, also has its moneyStrands product in beta use by Dutch financial giant ING.

BBVA joins a growing group of banks aggressively pursuing PFM that also includes Citibank - which is reportedly developing a site with Microsoft. "PFM's critically important - it's a vision of the future of online banking," says Emmett Higdon, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, who says that about 50 percent of the banks he speaks with are interested in PFM. That's a dramatic expansion from the early days of 2006 when Bank of America first used its Yodlee-powered MyPortfolio account aggregation service to deliver PFM.

"Banks have a lot of data that they throw at customers. What appeals to users is the simplicity of [PFM] services," says Higdon. Vendors are responding in kind, with moneyStrands joining a field that includes Yodlee, Wesabe and Geezeo. The private-label PFM competition among vendors will soon expand with, a widely used consumer solution, which will be fashioned into a new online banking system add-on by new owner Intuit. Intuit's Digital Insight, powered by Quicken, already offers FinanceWorks, an online PFM tool for banks to offer consumer and small-business clients.

BBVA's Tu Cuentas, currently available in Spain but slated for international expansion, includes graphical representation of the customers' financial health, breaks down income and expenses - and charts the evolution of these data points over time to give consumers a view of whether they have done better or worse than planned in a given span. The product also categorizes transactions and allows consumers to use personal tags if desired as a guide to make financial decisions. Consumers can also be compared to similar peer users to put their own financial profile into context.

Additionally, an alert feature allows consumers to configure their own financial alerts - which can be combined with budget goals - and BBVA Tu Cuentas will notify consumers when they cross over predefined limits. Tu Cuentas also offers an automatic selection of personalized suggestions such as tips to inform customers before they make spending choices, a short list of most-liked products matching each customer spending patterns, financial products and services that may better address customer needs and relevant facts and aggregate stats based on community behavior. Future development includes greater use of third-party data to allow users to browse properties for sale or rent, including maps, different traits for properties - presented next to mortgage offers on the site.

The service was a fast success for the $783 billion-asset bank. Besides rapid enrollment, the bank found that user time spent on the bank's site doubled.

Banks are turning to these white-label products, says Atakan Cetinsoy, vice president of personal finance products for Strands, because they are maturing quickly, and consumers are demanding them. "People want new ways to understand their finances," he says. "They want to do something more than what they are used to doing."

Peter Glyman, co-founder of Geezeo, says his firm has recently received interest from community banks and credit unions - including Stanford University's credit union, which went live earlier this fall with a PFM service integrated with Geezeo's online platform. He adds Geezeo has also built a cross-marketing platform for institutions - a bank that wants to offer a home equity line of credit in a targeted fashion, for example, will have access to consumers with a specific profile. "There's a lot more value in consumers seeing how they're doing on expenses," he says.

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