Author: Tom Stinton
Whether it’s fitness, nutrition or your connected home; colourful, easy-to-read dashboards and gentle notifications are helping us manage more aspects of our lives. So how about our finances? How can a financial services app help?
You walked to the shop and took the stairs at work. Don’t think your efforts went unnoticed. Your FitBit didn’t miss a step. In fact, it’s been following you for the past weeks, or even months, rewarding you daily with an inconspicuous buzz on your wrist whenever you achieve your key target, sending you a weekly reminder of your progress and pinning badges on you whenever you meet new milestones.
We’re becoming increasingly familiar with technology monitoring our everyday lives. We regularly dip into its easy-to-read dashboards with their colour-coded, graphical information. Equally we don’t mind getting the odd gentle reminder on our smartphone or wearable if it keeps us on track to meet our goals.
Could a similar financial services app also keep us on track with our finances?
PFM: tools for those that like numbers
Well, there are already numerous personal financial management (PFM) tools available. Microsoft created its Money tools well over a decade ago and, since then, a whole wealth of software has appeared with many financial institutions creating their own.
These tools are all well and good for those with a mind for numbers but for many, particularly those that find it difficult to keep their finances on track, they’re just far too complicated.
Sometimes you have to download the data manually before importing it. You often have to set up different categories and teach the tool what goes where. It isn’t real time and if you don’t upload the data regularly, then it’s just plain out of sync. And the graphs, reports and notifications … let’s just say that they might fill anyone without a maths degree with dread.
In a nutshell, they’re simply no good for the people who need them most.
Managing your personal finances the modern way
Many of those products appeared before the Internet of Things (IoT) emerged. They weren’t made to automatically gather data in real time and to sort and analyse the information for us. The technology simply wasn’t there.
In today’s smart, connected world, an app on a smartphone – or even smartwatch – could help individuals keep track of their financial situation in real time without them needing to do anything themselves. More than that, it could learn about their personal behaviours and habits and, in turn, help them transform bad habits into good to keep them out of financial trouble.
Take for example, someone who is nearing their overdraft limit. The app could gently notify them of their remaining balance whenever they walk into their usual supermarket. It could – in a very simple, discrete and friendly way – remind them how much they spent there during their previous two or three shops and suggest an appropriate target for today’s shopping. That way, it might help them stay on the right side of their limit.
Equally, the app could allow them to set an average daily spend and then send through a sad face 🙁 as soon as they go over or a happy face 🙂 at the end of the day if they’ve stayed under. It could send through a weekly or monthly update on progress, on how much money they have saved or how much they have reduced their debt for example, and reward them with badges whenever they meet key milestones.
After all, we all like a pat on the back now and again.
The long-term result?
A modern, easy-to-use personal financial management tool is key to turning around bad financial habits, for helping individuals to keep their finances fit and healthy. Immediate rewards for good behaviours reinforce good habits one step at a time; and a little reminder just at the right moment might stop them from taking the wrong path.
Provided by the banks themselves, a modern PFM app could also allow banks themselves to reward customers who turn bad habits into good. Customers who have earnt specific badges, for example, could be rewarded with lower interest rates on loans – simply because they have demonstrated financial responsibility.
How are you helping your customers to keep their finances fit?