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PFM meets AI and reinvents financial planning

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Ian McKenna

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New PFM techniques demonstrated at Finovate have the potential to facilitate totally new ways to help consumers get the savings habitat 

Last week’s new expanded format Finovate shone, as always, a spotlight on a diverse wealth of exciting ways to use technology to enhance the financial services industry. One of the challenges of attending the show is there is so much to take in. Rather than try and address multiple areas in a single summary I’m going to break down my review of the show to look at different areas.

In a separate blogs I will consider the solution that for me was the overall highlight of the show, presenting quite simply the best US automated advice service I have ever seen and in a further summary I will look at the other presentations which fall outside my normal focus of WealthTech but provided stimulating ideas which I intend to progress separately.

In this blog however I want to focus on a subject which is increasingly important to the UK market in the run-up to the launch of Open Banking next January. This is what has historically been known as Personal Financial Management tools, however increasingly the technology suppliers offering solutions in this market are trying to rebrand the services into different definitions. For me PFM works very well however it appears these organisations want to be seen as delivering more than just aggregated information.

There were three different presentations from organisations in this field which really stood out to me at Finovate Fall, each was exceptional in its own right.

MX website screen shot.JPGI have long been a huge fan of MX, indeed I would go so far as to say in my opinion they are the best in the world at Personal Financial Management and aggregation. Rather than display their latest innovations as they frequently do at Finovate their team focused on hard numbers that make a compelling case for embracing these services. If non-customers who adopt a bank’s PFM are three times as likely to open a current account within a year and typically deposit four times as much money does this not make a strong case for delivering similar services to pensions and savings customers?

MX have reputation for achieving adoption rates way beyond their competition and attribute much of this to the breadth, depth and quality of aggregation data cleansing and enhancement. This should be a key factor for UK PFMs to consider.

Another key point they raised was the importance of high app ratings to get people to download and use them. Apps with 2 stars will typically only achieve a 15% download rate and 3 stars only 46% download compared with a 96% download rate for 4-star apps. This translated to a six-fold increase in use where business switched from low-scoring apps to higher rated ones. Clearly getting positive app reviews should be at the centre of any roll-out strategy.

 

Moven Stash app shot.pngMoven are a highly respected name in PFM who have quietly entered the UK. After launching with TD Bank in Canada and Westpac in New Zealand they opened on these shores in February. I believe Moven’s service can provide huge benefits to the pension industry. In my view few pension providers fully recognise the potential impact of the pending rises in auto enrolment contributions will have on customers on national average earnings. At this level of income it is not that people don’t want to save but that they are under such financial pressure that they can’t afford to save unless we can help them find economies.

Moven users are typically able to reduce their discretionary spending by between 4% - 8% per month. In addition, the service enables users to identify things they want and save towards them.

It helps them track multiple goals and prioritise them recognising that users won't be able to achieve everything they want. Nudges are provided to encourage positive savings behaviour and recognise when reductions in discretionary spend have been achieved. The service will also identify further economies a user can make and it’s really easy for them to set personal spending targets.

Looking at the practical impact their new “stash” Service has actually resulted in 25% of customers opening savings accounts even though no interest was offered! To me that seems to be exactly the sort of services pension providers should be deploying to help auto enrolment customers adjust to the increased contribution levels coming in the near future. As there are interactions directly at the operating system level within mobile devices we are able to provide far more intuitive and instant notifications. Currently Moven haven’t deployed all their capability to the UK but based on their ability to deliver rapid deployment and recognition of the use of such services in a long-term savings environment I see them as an organisation who should be on any supplier shortlist for potential institutional delivery of PFM.

 

Yodlee’s Finovate presentation was strongly focused towards the savings, financial wellness and wealth management industries. The influence of parent company Envestnet is clear to see. From my own conversations with Envestnet I know they saw Yodlee as the silver bullet to complement their impressive range of technology solutions for institutions and advisers.

Yodlee pfm website screen shot.JPGAt the show they demonstrated a Financial Coach powered by Artificial Intelligence. Big data sets are invaluable when building AI so Yodlee being able to base their analysis on over 23 million users, accounting for $20 trillion spending, income and investment data provides a strong foundation.

The financial coach monitors an individual’s spending, saving, borrowing and planning, and provides suitable guidance.

The process begins by looking at an individual’s spending/income ratio and timeliness of bill payment. In the context of savings the service considers an individual’s provision for emergency funds and also their long-term savings plans. A traffic lights approach is taken to identifying situations where additional guidance would be beneficial based on mining the 70 billion transactions in their records. People like you analytics, geolocation, and discount offers can be used to identify potential savings. To me these are potentially powerful tools that could be used to build significant trust with customers, my only question is to what extent will they have been localised for UK use.

 
If you are interested in understanding more about how Personal Financial Management can transform customer relationships in pensions, savings and wealth management see our new insight study, “Personal Financial Management- How to fix the UK’s Broken Relationship with Savings
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