Wesabe Inc., which operates a Web site where consumers can manage their finances for free, is now selling its technology to banks and credit unions, so they can offer it to their customers on their own sites.
The San Francisco company is one of several that initially offered financial management applications directly to consumers online and now are also selling the software to banks.
Marc Hedlund, Wesabe's co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview Tuesday that since it went live in 2005 it has received some inquiries from banks wanting to offer its applications, though few requests seemed serious.
That changed in recent months, he said, when the economy soured and banks began looking for technology to help retain depositors.
"In September, when the market started to really turn down, for a short while we didn't hear from anybody — and then we were hearing from everybody," Hedlund said.
Wesabe has not had a positive cash flow since its founding, though he expects to have one by early next year. The vendor has long resisted sharing its plans for making money, and Hedlund said that when it became obvious that the sudden interest in its technology was no fluke, he shelved the still-undisclosed business plan in favor of a new one: License its technology to any financial institution that wants it.
The company has three contracts in negotiation today for a white-label product called Springboard, which it has been offering to banks and credit unions since January and expects to formally introduce today.
(Hedlund would not identify the three companies negotiating with Wesabe or explain his company's other options for revenue, because he may still pursue them.)
Wesabe is one of several providers of software that lets users upload data from multiple financial accounts. Springboard analyzes spending habits and enables people to share finance tips.
Verity Credit Union of Seattle is evaluating Springboard but is not one of the three companies negotiating with Wesabe.
Shari Storm, the credit union's chief marketing officer and a vice president, said the social element of Wesabe's software is a perfect fit at a time when members are seeking advice on how to get their finances under control.
In her own experience with credit counseling, "if people had support groups, they were far more likely to be able to pay off their debt [and] be able to meet their financial goals," Storm said.
Verity provides debt counseling, she said, and Wesabe can supplement that for people who have low debt or prefer to interact online.
"It's really good for young people, too, because it feels so much like where they're already used to hanging out," Storm said. "It kind of feels like Facebook."
Last month Geezeo Inc., a Framingham, Mass., rival, began offering banks its own white-label financial management product, complete with community aspects.
Wesabe has long opposed accepting advertising, since pitching ways for people to spend money runs counter to its mission of helping people save, Hedlund said, and it impedes negotiations with bankers who would not want to use the technology of a company that is trying to help people switch accounts to an advertiser.
George Tubin, a senior research director at TowerGroup Inc., a Needham, Mass., independent research firm owned by MasterCard Inc., said the way Wesabe presents account information "is certainly superior to any bank site that is out there."
What Wesabe and its rivals offer "is where we're going," he said. "That's the direction of personal financial management that banks will be offering over time."