Financial institutions sure are excited to offer personal financial management (PFM) software to customers these days. The problem is, customers are slow to take them up on it.
My Community Federal Credit Union, a Midlands, Texas-based credit union with 23,000 members, recently launched a PFM product from MoneyDesktop, which has picked up several awards for its innovative interface and “BubbleBudgets,” and is looking at ways to get customers to use it.
Ryan Caldwell, MoneyDesktop’s chief executive, says that PFMs are misunderstood. “We need to stop using PFM as a term to mean pie charts and bar graphs,” Caldwell argues. “PFM is anything that helps someone manage their personal finances.”
So if financial institutions are sold on PFM — and PFM is good for you (like broccoli) — why aren’t customers rushing to adopt it?
Aite senior analyst Ron Shevlin points out two major factors that slow uptake: First, the lack of involvement in management of household funds by bank customers, and, second, few bank customers want their banks involved in helping manage their spending — just 13% of those surveyed in an Aite report.
When banks understand what he calls a“Google level of service,” in which expectations are wildly exceeded, the relationship between banks and customers will be transformed — and customers will want banks more involved in managing their financial lives.
Shevlin and Caldwell agree on the need for guidance. Shevlin has written that PFMs need to be integrated with tools that guide and advise customers, and MoneyDesktop now includes a GuideMe application within its PFM product.
Another factor that should help PFM adoption for My Community members using MoneyDesktop is consistency across channels. MoneyDesktop reports that 60% of online banking users at some of its clients are using PFM. As more transactions move to mobile, and the mobile experience on tablet and smartphone closely resembles what online banking users see on their desktop computers, mobile PFM adoption should rise. Caldwell also stressed that PFM should be gamelike in that the software sets goals and you can see yourself moving closer (or not) to achieving those goals.
My Community is also advertising in its branches and holding a “MoneyDesktop Week” to alert members to its new PFM product.
Lezlie Veach, My Community director of training and development, is optimistic that once users get the hang of PFM, adoption and continued usage will follow. There are, after all, plenty of ways to dress up broccoli.
Update: This story was corrected to report that 60% of MoneyDesktop users at some of its clients use PFM, not 60% across the board, as was previously stated.