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Should You Install Mint@Yourbank?

By Jim Bruene on April 4, 2013 11:12 AM | Comments

image Yesterday, Intuit announced a Mint-branded PFM that banks can install within their secure online banking sites (press release). Several pilots are beginning shortly, but widespread availability is expected towards year-end.

The service will contain similar functionality as Mint offers directly today. However, FI end users will not see third-party offers, unless the bank decides to run them. See the mockup below for what Mint will look like running within a retail bank.

Many of Intuit's 1,100 online banking clients (500 of which use Intuit's FinanceWorks PFM) will jump at the chance to integrate Mint. Non-customers will be considerably more wary. See the pros and cons below. 

I was briefed by Intuit's Mint folks Tuesday, so I've had 36 hours to ponder the implications (see note 1). As Aite's Ron Shevlin blogged yesterday, the move comes as no surprise to anyone. But now that the moment has arrived, banks and credit unions must decide if they want to cede PFM branding over to Mint. There is no right answer, but here are a few pros and cons to ponder: ________________________________________________________________________________
Pros:

  • Mint is THE brand name in PFM. In fact, it's probably the best known name in all of personal finance, not counting big financial institutions and payment brands. When I tell friends and family what we do at Finovate, I usually get blank stares until I say that we have companies like Mint on stage demoing their new products. Then they get it; everyone seems to have heard of Mint. So it will be easier to educate the market by simply saying, "we offer Mint built right in to your online banking."
  • Current Mint users can import their history and aggregated accounts right into your bank's secure site with the click of the button. With 12 million registered users (note 1), that means that about 10% of your customers base has already set up an account there and could be off and running MUCH faster than using your home-grown service.
  • Tax integration: While some may view this as a con, the links between Mint and sister product TurboTax, provide a nice solution for banks to push during tax season. 
  • Attractive UI: While the other players (notably Money Desktop) have caught up, if not surpassed, Mint on the UI front, it still provides a UI that is head and shoulders above the typical banking site.
  • Early mover advantage: If you are the first in your market with Mint integration, it could provide a meaningful competitive advantage while you have that space to yourself. And the advantage could remain if you are thought of as "that bank with Mint" for the next few years.
  • Jump-start mobile money management: Few banks have anything beyond basic balance/transaction info in mobile banking. Whereas Mint is now acquiring almost half its customers in the mobile channel.
  • Your customers already use it: A typical bank has 10% of its customer base registered with Mint (though the active user base is much smaller). Those customers are being served competing offers whenever they login to Mint.com. Those offers are replaced with your marketing messages when using Mint@YourBank

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Cons:

  • It's an added expense, potentially a significant one: Intuit declined to get into specifics of the cost, but they said there are per user per month charges. If I were Intuit, I'd start the costs low, and raise it aggressively over time as customers were locked into the platform.
  • Control goes to Intuit: Right now, financial institutions are in the drivers seat. Mint is popular and growing, but it's unlikely to achieve true mass-market status without better integration into financial institutions. And if it becomes the industry standard, then banks may have less power in future negotiations.
  • Brand confusion: Adding another brand to the mix (i.e., one that competes with your FI brand) is always a tough call. And if other banks offer the same Mint-branded PFM, have you lost the potential for competitive advantage? Furthermore, does driving your customer into Mint actually make you more vulnerable if Intuit or someone else releases a "conversion kit" to move all your account to Mint.com or another bank's Mint service. And will customers even bother to move from Mint.com to Mint@Yourbank?  

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Bottom line: It's a great move for Intuit. They extend their distribution, potentially dramatically, and better monetize Mint (note 2). And it gives Intuit a platform to develop additional services to sell to client banks. 

Should financial institutions jump on board? Assuming you can overlook control issues, it will boil down to the usual outsourcing issues (cost, support, integration, etc.). So, if Mint@YourBank looks economically feasible, it's worth putting on your short list. The automatic conversion from Mint.com is a huge benefit. The known brand should make customer/employee education easier. And if you move fast, you can leverage the Mint brand to position yourself as the "personal finance" leader in your market.

But if you want to control your own destiny, avoid conflicting branding, and potentially lower costs (note 3), you may be happier with other solutions. 

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In this Intuit-provided mockup, Mint appear on main navigation and in two primary sections within online banking (3 April 2013)

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Clicking "Mint" on main nav bar leads to this familiar spending screen

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Secondary navigation leads to all the usual Mint functionality, for instance "Budgets" shown here

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Notes:
1. For me, Mint has come full circle. I still remember nervous Mint founder, Aaron Patzer, at our first Finovate in 2007 (demo video). He was riding high after his win at the inaugural TechCrunch40 (now Disrupt) two weeks earlier, but he was afraid he'd be caste out by the banking audience he was attempting to disrupt. His fears proved unfounded as the audience voted Mint Best of Show. Now, his former company is making a bold bet that those very banks will now promote the Mint brand to their customers. 
2. According to an estimate by Steven D Jones at Dow Jones (no relation I presume), Mint brought in less than $3 million during Intuit's fiscal second quarter. However, that does not include substantial cross sales of TurboTax and QuickBooks, which together are a $4 billion annual business.  
3. I'm making the assumption that as the premium name in the business, Mint will eventually cost more than other solutions. That may or may not happen, as Intuit is large enough to subsidize the service for at long as it sees fit.
4. Intuit will be demoing at FinovateSpring in May.
5. For more on balance forecasting and other advanced PFM features, see our Online Banking Report: PFM 4.0 (June 2012; subscription).

Comments

Mint Launches Mac App: Mint QuickView

By Jim Bruene on July 17, 2012 3:56 PM | Comments (1)

imageI've been a big fan of apps ever since I first pressed the weather button on the iPhone in 2007. After 12 years of http://www.blahblah.com/blah.htm, it was refreshing to just press a button and get the necessary information quickly, perfectly rendered and distraction free.

So I like Mint's latest move, putting a similar user experience onto the desktop (see note 1) with an app for the Mac (link) that provides a quick overview of balances, transactions and alerts (see email announcement below).

Once installed, Mac users simply click on the Mint icon on the top and/or bottom of their desktop, and it immediately opens to a display of the latest balance-and-transaction info. Like iPhone apps, the icon also shows the number of unread alerts on the badge (see first screenshot). 

Other novel features:

  • A search bar along the top of the transaction search
  • Optional password protection: You can choose to look at your data without logging in (after the first time)
  • Timed password protection: Users can select how long they can look at the data before the password prompt is shown  

I've used it for only a few minutes, but it looks like it will become my primary method of accessing Mint. Unless you need to run a report, it has most of what you need available immediately, shaving 30 to 40 seconds or more off the time to retrieve info from the full website version.  

image Bottom line: Mint is the first PFM or banking app to hit the Mac store, beating all the major financial brands to the punch. And it's been rewarded with "featured app" status which has propelled it to the very top of the Free Apps ranking in the Mac App Store (see inset above).

Because it raises the bar in the delivery of banking info, we are bestowing it with our fourth OBR Best of the Web award for 2012 (see note 2). 

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Mint QuickView app pops up after clicking on icon along the top

Mint QuickView uses dropdown from top icon on Mac


Transaction search from top line

Mint QuickView features prominent transaction search


Net income view

Mint QuickView


Email from Mint announcing Mac QuickView
(16 July 2012)

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Notes:
1. We wrote about moving online banking info to the PC desktop in our Online Banking Report in 2002 (subscription).
2. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online- or mobile-banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. If anyone knows of other financial institutions offering a similar feature, let us know and we'll update the post. In total, 86 companies have won the award including Mint in 2007. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.

Comments (1)

Out of the Inbox: Mint.com Pitches Capital One Credit Card in Triggered Email Alert

By Jim Bruene on June 14, 2012 4:04 PM | Comments

imagePrecise, content-sensitive advertising is extremely powerful. It's what made Google a giant. 

In financial services, the biggest advertising-driven success (after BankRate and Google), at least in terms of market cap, is Mint.com. Its revenue stream is entirely made up of targeted offers to customers who aggregate banking transactions on its site.

The company wisely uses email to deliver some of the advertising pitches. As we've discussed before, Mint is of the few financial companies directly monetizing triggered alerts.

We were impressed by the latest effort received Tuesday (see below). Having noticed that our Chase business card was used internationally, incurring a $14 transaction surcharge, they wisely pitched us a Capital One no-foreign-transaction-fee card.

Interestingly, we already have not one, but two of those Cap One cards (personal and biz) and they are both aggregated at Mint. So I'm not sure if this alert is more of a reminder to use our Cap One charge when traversing the world or that Mint doesn't check current product usage when cross selling (or they don't care). If Mint is only paid on performance (eg. by new accounts generated), then it doesn't matter to Cap One that they are marketing to an existing customer.

Bottom line: The example demonstrates the marketing value of hosting the aggregated accounts.

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Mint triggered alert (12 June 2012)
Note: The advertisement is two-fold. The banner with "apply now" is the most eye-catching, but also easier to ignore. There is also a text call to action above it, that looks more like alert copy. It says: "Stop paying extra to use your credit card overseas. Get a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees."

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Comments

Change Sciences Names PNC Virtual Wallet Best Bank PFM with Mint.com a Close Second

By Jim Bruene on March 27, 2012 5:51 PM | Comments

image Researcher Change Sciences has been doing outstanding work in financial user experience for more than a decade. In the last year alone, they've published deep dives in online, mobile, social media, mortgage, small business, investing, and account opening. The company counts most of the major players as customers; typical reports cost $5,000.

Its latest, published this week, contains a much-needed look at the UI of personal financial manager (PFM) services offered through major banks.

The winner? PNC Bank, which not only took top honors for its Virtual Wallet, but also claimed the number-three spot for Wealth Insight, a service geared to high-net-worth clients, launched last September. Both PNC PFMs were designed in conjunction with IDEO.

Mint.com came in a close second followed by the biggest surprise of the survey Bank Simple, which tied with USAA as the second-highest scoring bank. 

For more info, download the research fact sheet.

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Overall PFM Ranking
points on Change Sciences scorecard

PFM ranking from Change Sciences
Source: Change Sciences, March 2012

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Notes:
1. Image from Italian band PFM <pfmpfm.it>
2. For our take on PFMs, see our May 2010 Online Banking Report.

Comments

Mobile Banking Increases Need for Read-Only Account Access

By Jim Bruene on March 9, 2012 12:28 PM | Comments (2)

image It had been a while since I'd logged in to Mint.com from my iPhone and I had forgotten just how easy it is. The online PFM pioneer has boiled the process down to the bare minimum (assuming you've enabled "passcodes," see note 1).

Logging in takes just four numerical "keystrokes." You don't even have to press a login or done button (inset). As soon as you press the last digit, you are automatically logged in.

As an added bonus, PIN authentication is handled on the phone instead of the server, so you get an immediate error message if you type in the wrong one.It's a great user experience, though I wish Mint still supported the stay-logged-in option, which is fine when accessing a "read only" data file (note 2).

This brings me to my main point (finally!). Banks need a "read-only" account access option (note 3). Than means no account numbers are shown. No check images are accessible. No personal info is available. And of course, you can't perform any transactions (note 4). And the read-only password should be different than the "normal" one.

The read-only option would make customers feel more secure about banking online, especially from:

  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets
  • Wifi hotspots
  • Hotel rooms
  • Friend's house
  • Public terminals
  • Home (if you don't trust your own network)
  • PFM or third-party programs (note 3)

With read-only services, bank security folk can ease up on unwieldy password requirements for mobile access. And it might even prevent a crook or two from gaining full account access due.

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Notes:
1. The four-digit PIN option is for users that have enabled passcodes for login from the Settings area in the Mint.com app. Otherwise, users must enter their full Mint username and password.  
2. While it's a privacy concern, read-only account access with no login should be an option for a PFM. Of course, you must make it absolutely clear to users the danger of non-password protected data.
3. ING Direct offers read-only access to PFM programs
4. Funds transfers among existing accounts or even to existing billers could be OK, but it muddies the waters a bit from the perspective of the user.

Comments (2)

Mint.com Helps Users Keep Track of What's Ahead with New Bill Timeline & Reminders

By Jim Bruene on August 25, 2011 7:31 PM | Comments

imageIt's hard to believe that Mint turns four next month. It made its financial industry debut at our first Finovate conference (demo here, Oct. 2, 2007) after having launched to the general public a few weeks earlier.

With 5 million registered users, and public ownership (Intuit), it's now "the establishment" that dozens of startups look to unseat.

Mint made a large stride forward this week with the addition of a bill-due-date timeline to its Overview page, the page that users land on after login (see inset and first screenshot below).

The company also expanded its text and email bill-due-date reminder system. A wizard launched from a promotion on Mint's main page (screenshot 2, 3) prompts users to establish reminders for regular household bills.

Bottom line: Mint's billing timeline is a good example of the forward-looking approach that's much needed in online and mobile banking.

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A timeline of upcoming bills has been added to the Mint.com's main Overview page (25 Aug. 2011)

A timeline of upcoming bills has been added to the Mint.com Overview page

Mint promotes the new feature with a huge interactive banner on the main  Overview page

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In this pop-up box, Mint gathers together likely bills and asks if you want a reminder

In this popup box, Mint gathers together likely bills and asks if you want a reminder

A timeline of upcoming bills has been added to the main overview page

A timeline of upcoming bills has been added to the Mint.com Overview page

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Note: For more on online personal financial management (OFM), see Online Banking Report (published May 2010).

Comments

ING Direct Advertises on Mint.com Email Alerts

By Jim Bruene on February 23, 2011 10:06 PM | Comments

image ING Direct (USA) has been a prominent sponsor within Mint's online PFM. However, this is the first time I've noticed the bank advertising via email alert. And specifically, the direct bank is pitching its fee-free Electric Orange Checking account on the bottom of an email alert about a fee on my U.S. checking account. Excellent timing! 

It's unusual to see an ad on a Mint.com alert. I spot-checked a dozen or so during the past two months, and this is the only one with any direct marketing. But if it works, I'm sure we'll see more of it. Context-sensitive advertising is what the Web has been built on.

Mint.com email "fee charged" alert (16 Feb. 2011)

Mint.com email alert that a fee was charged to my U.S. Bank business checking account

ING Direct landing page focusing on lower fees (link)

ING Direct landing page focusing on lower fees

Comments

Finovate Alumni News from Expensify, FiLife, Mint, and Prosper

By Andrew Dolbeck on March 26, 2010 4:17 PM | Comments

Following are summaries of the articles posted recently on our Finovate blog. More alumni news is available on our Finovate Twitter feed.

Expensify: One Year Anniversary

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Online expense-report generator Expensify marked the first anniversary of its product being live and available to a mass audience on March 10. Some notable accomplishments for the year:

For more on Expensify and its accomplishments, read the full post here.

FiLife and Mint Remain on Top of Finovate Alumni Traffic Chart

Each month we survey the U.S. Web traffic data for Finovate alumni websites. In our second survey, FiLife and Mint kept the top spots, with 1.5 million and 1.1 million unique visitors respectively. FiLife also showed the highest year-over-year growth, gaining more than 1.3 million visitors.

TradeKing took the prize for month-over-month growth, gaining an additional 69,000 visitors in February for a total of 78,800 -- nearly eight times as many unique visitors than the month before.

And the highest growth for a site not in operation a year ago belongs to Credit Karma's private-label site for Sears' Sears Credit Score which reached 139,000 visitors in less than six months of operation (full post here).


Mint Holds iPad Sweepstakes on Facebook

clip_image004Mint was the first company we'd seen capitalize on the recent iPad publicity by giving one away to Facebook followers.

To enter the sweeps, users first register as fans of Mint's Facebook site, an action that is usually visible to the user's Facebook friends, further increasing Mint's visibility on the social network. The contest also allowed entrants to name the person who referred them, with the referrer also winning an iPad (full post here).

Prosper Launches Talk Taboo Site

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Prosper launched a new social website called Talk Taboo where users can share stories about their finances.

The site includes a simple interface for users to post stories, a page displaying the stories, and a debt-consolidation guide. The landing page contains a link to Prosper, inviting consumers to consolidate their debts with a Prosper loan (full post here).

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Mint.com Traffic Soars Under Intuit Ownership

By Jim Bruene on February 17, 2010 8:53 AM | Comments (4)

image I don't know if it has anything to do with the publicity Mint received in recent months following its acquisition by Intuit or the promotional links from Quicken's website, but the online PFM juggernaut just blew the roof off its monthly traffic. According to Compete, in January, Mint had 1.7 million unique visitors, 600,000 more than a year earlier.

To provide a little context, not counting the Dec. to April tax-time traffic spike at Intuit, Mint's traffic is now slightly HIGHER than that of its parent company (see chart #1 below). That gives you a little understanding of why Intuit coughed up $170 million for the startup.

Another way to look at it: Mint now has as much traffic as the tenth largest U.S. retail bank, BB&T (see chart #2).

The interesting question for 2010: Now that Mint is part of the establishment, what startup will rise up to challenge it? Or will the banks, back on a path to profitability, fill the need going forward? 

Chart 1: Mint's traffic is now similar to Intuit's non-tax-time traffic

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Source: Compete (link)

Chart 2: Mint now has about the same number of visitors as the tenth largest U.S. retail bank, BB&T
Note: Mint is blue line below

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Source: Compete (link)

Note: For more information on the PFM space, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features.

Comments (4)

A Look at Mint's Twitter Aggregation Site: Money Tweets

By Jim Bruene on January 8, 2010 10:30 AM | Comments (2)

image Leave it to Mint to make 140 characters of personal finance chatter sexy. Yesterday, I noticed a link to a new feature called Money Tweets tucked away at the bottom of an account-alert (see inset below; note 1). The site launched in November (press release), but I was all wrapped up in P2P payments at the time (note 2) and never looked at it.

imageMint's effort is the best use I've seen of Twitter as a content-creation tool (see screenshot #1, below; note 3). And once established, the site basically runs on autopilot, making it a cost-effective way to bring fresh, real-time content to your customers. 

Money Tweets has five content areas:

  • Aggregated tweets from 20+ writers on five subject areas: savings, investing, budgeting, loans, and retirement
  • Tweets about Mint using Twitter search
  • Tweets from Mint using its Twitter stream
  • Tweets from anyone answering the company's Question of the Day such as today's topic, "Is now the time to buy a house?" (upper right in screenshot below)
  • Tweets from anyone using keywords taken from personal finance trending topics

Bottom line: Aggregation of the tweets from personal finance experts (with extra credit for adding your own voice to the stream) is a promising tactic for your online marketing plan. But most (all?) financial institutions will want to steer clear of streaming unmoderated tweets from anyone mentioning your company's name. That's going to cause way too many internal headaches as it attracts spam and customer complaints. 

Main page at Mint's Money Tweets (link, 8 Jan. 2010)

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Notes:
1. As an aside, Mint's superb graphic design extends even to its email alerts, which look like a sticky note on the screen.
2. For more on the P2P payments market, see our latest Online Banking Report, published earlier this week, Making the Case for Person-to-Person Payments
3. For more on using Twitter, see our May report, Connecting to Customers with Twitter.

Comments (2)
Categories: Intuit, Mint, Twitter

Intuit's New Quicken Site Sprouts Some Mint

By Jim Bruene on December 10, 2009 10:30 AM | Comments

image If anyone still wondered how serious Intuit is about incorporating the Mint brand into its portfolio after its $170 million acquisition, take a look at the latest version of the Quicken sales site. Mint is prominently featured (see first screenshot below), especially if you scroll one "ad spot" over (second screenshot).

I also found Mint mentioned at PayTrust, Intuit's bill management site (third screenshot). There's even a small plug on the Quicken Online login page (fourth screenshot).

However, on Mint's site the co-branding is not reciprocated. Quicken is not mentioned at all and Intuit is relegated to 8-point type at the bottom of the page (fourth screenshot).

The latest traffic figures from Compete support the theory that Intuit is de-emphasizing Quicken Online in favor of Mint. Traffic to <quicken.intuit.com> fell 50% in November to about 400,000, while Mint held steady at about 3x that, 1.2 million unique visitors.

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Source: Compete, 10 Dec 2009 (link)

Quicken homepage on default choice, Quicken 2010 (link; 9 Dec. 2009, 11 PM)

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Quicken homepage with Mint.com selected from scrolling choices
Note: Yellow highlight is mine

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Intuit PayTrust homepage (link)

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Quicken Online login page (link)

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Mint homepage
Intuit mentioned twice at bottom of page (yellow highlight is mine). 

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Note: For more information on the PFM space, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features.

Comments

Is Mint Worth $170 Million?

By Jim Bruene on September 14, 2009 4:24 PM | Comments (2)

image The rumors broke yesterday and the confirmation came today. Intuit is buying two-time Finovate Best of Show winner, Mint for $170 million (see note 1). Few people are surprised by this move or the price. Mint's latest VC investors had just invested at a $140 million valuation a few weeks ago, so $170 mil is in line with that. It's also a 5x return to the total VC investment of $32 million, so everyone associated with Mint has to be pretty happy, especially in an environment where most assets have fallen by double digits in the past two years.

image The bigger question is whether the startup is worth $170 million? To Intuit, I think the answer is definitely yes (see below).

Intuit shareholders were indifferent with no real movement in share price today (see inset) on lower-than-normal trading volume (note 2). Because of the deal, Intuit lowered per-share net income estimates by 2 cents ($6.5 million loss) for FY 2010, and says there will be no material impact after that.

Apparently, Intuit will keep the Mint brand, at least for now. Mint CEO Aaron Patzer will be general manager of Intuit's personal finance products, both online AND desktop.

I'm no M&A expert, but here's why $170 million sounds reasonable to me:

  • At Intuit's current multiple (20x), Mint needs to generate approximately $10 million in annual profits to break even for shareholders. With 1+ million users at Mint, that's $10 per user per year, less than a buck a month.
  • While Mint isn't likely making that type of profit today, the combination of lower costs from Intuit back-end systems and additional revenues from upselling Intuit services (TurboTax, Cuckoos, and others), should elevate Mint to a $10 million-plus business unit relatively quickly.
  • Intuit needs an entree to the young-and-frugal segment, and Mint can be the starting point with users migrating to Quicken Online (which can be returned to a fee-based, advertising-free service), TurboTax, and/or QuickBooks over time.
  • Plus there's a bunch of intangibles that are difficult to quantify until you see how Intuit handles the Mint.com user base. Even though there's the usual grousing from Mint users today, in reality, Intuit's trustworthy brand name should be able to retain current users and grow the base.

Here's how I break down the purchase price:

$5 to $10 mil >>> Assets: Code, IP, employees, etc.
$10 to $20 mil >> Brand: Name, URL, traffic, awards, etc.
$100+ mil >>>>> Customers (1,000,000 at $100 each)
$25 to $50 mil >> Option value

Notes:
1. Mint won the audience voting for Best of Show at both our 2007 and 2008 Finovate conferences. If you want to see and meet the next Mint, we have a few dozen tickets left for Finovate 2009 on 29 Sep (purchase tickets here).
2. Last week, shares fell $0.40 or 1.4%.

Comments (2)

Xero, Mint, Northwestern Mutual Win Webby Awards in Financial Categories

By Jim Bruene on May 5, 2009 8:28 PM | Comments (1)

image The winners of the annual Webby awards were announced today. There were three financial services categories with Mint, Xero, NW Mutual taking top honors.

Financial services category
mint_logo Mint won the main Webby and the People's Choice beating BillShrink, Lending Club, Portfolio.com and Wikinvest.

Banking/bill pay category
image Xero, a New Zealand-based online accounting service (screenshot below), won the main Webby and the People's Choice in the category Banking/Bill Pay beating Billeo, Rudder and Schoneleij, a text-based payment service from Rabobank.

Insurance
image NWMutual's Let Your Worries Go microsite won the main Webby and Allstate's Garage won the People's Choice beating Blue Shield of California's Uncovered microsite, Pemco's We're a Lot Like You microsite and Compare the Meerkat, a microsite from Compare the Market.

Webby winner Xero's attractive account interface and iPhone app 
(5 May 2009)

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Comments (1)
Categories: Award winners, Mint

Apple iPhone Print Advertisements Feature Personal Finance Apps

By Jim Bruene on April 16, 2009 5:06 PM | Comments

image_thumb8Apple must be one of the more lucrative advertisers these days at the Wall Street Journal. Apple has bought the back page more times than I can count to show off the iPhone and more-importantly, the diversity of applications available (see inset, note 1).

Lately, Apple has run "theme" ads showing applications related to a single category. Last week (Thurs, 9 April), the back of the A section showed personal finance apps (see left column below). Yesterday, the apps all supported small business and ran on the back of Marketplace (B) section (see right column below).

The only app to make both lists: personal finance superstar, Mint, which even scored top billing in the personal finance page, occupying the upper-left corner, where it's blurb would likely score the highest readership. 

The Apple website also has themed app guides. The managing money page (see screenshot below) features again features Mint, which gets the biggest graphic, Bank of America, who's app was featured in dozens of Apple ads in 2008 and earlier this year, Bloomberg, Gas Cubby, iXpenseIt, Save Benjis, and Home Finder.

Bottom line: Financial institutions should think about how to add similar money management functionality to their mobile and online offers. As Aite's Ron Shevlin pointed out in a comment here last week (emphasis added):

.....(the FinovateStartup participants) you talk about are helping people manage their financial lives, while the banks are [still] focused on helping people manage their financial accounts.

Big difference.

Table: iPhone apps listed in recent WSJ ads (clockwise from upper left)

Personal Finance Theme Small Business Theme
Helping you stretch your budget, one app at a time. Helping you run your small business, one app at a time.
Date: 9 April 2009 Date: 15 April 2009
Mint.com (PFM) Credit card terminal
Gas Cubby (mileage tracker) Print & share (document management)
Spotasaurus (parking finder) FedEx Mobile
RepairPal (mechanic finder) Jott (voice recording/transcription)
AllRecipes.com (recipe finder) iXpenseIt (expense report mgmt)
GoodGuide (product finder) Jobs - Time Tracking
WootWatch (cheap gadgets) Analytics App (website analytics)
Save Benjis (shopping comparison) LinkedIn
RN Dining (rewards dining) LogMeIn (remote computer access)
Find an Apartment YellowPages.com
Cellfire (mobile coupons) Mint.com
Barista (how to guide) Quicksheet (spreadsheet)
Wi-Fi finder Air Sharing (file manager)
CompareMe (price calculator) Nomina (name/trademark search)
Loan Shark (loan tool) SimpleMind Xpress (brainstorming)
Small Spend (mini PFM) Keynote Remote (presentation tool)

Apple's Money Management page on its Website (link, 16 Apr 2009)

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Notes:
1. My apologies for the image quality, taken via iPhone naturally.
2. For more info, see our latest Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

Comments

Will the Online Personal Finance Specialists Survive?

By Jim Bruene on March 5, 2009 7:19 PM | Comments (2)

image I love personal financial management websites. Not so much for the reality, actually I hate tracking expenses, but for the promise. The illusion of having everything under control, never overdrafting, never missing a payment, and with perfectly-shaded multi-color pie charts just a click away (inset from Mint). 

But I've always thought that once banks and credit unions added basic PFM functions to their online banking services (see note 1), it's game-over for most independent PFM sites. They would have to either license their platform to financial institutions, sell out, or close their doors.

Now I'm not so sure.

Mint did something recently that made me reconsider. It was really pretty simple when you think about it. Yet as far as I know, no bank, card issuer, or even credit union has ever taken this on. 

The Mountain View, CA-based startup scanned their members' credit card statements to identify bogus charges from a known scam. And the company plans to make the resulting fraud alert service a standard part of its offering.  

From American Banker (23 Jan 2009):

Mint Software Inc. is planning to roll out a tool that will automatically scan its 800,000 users' accounts for potentially bogus charges....Aaron Patzer, Mint's founder and chief executive, said the idea for the new product came after his company heard of a scam involving Adele Services of Melville, N.Y., a bogus merchant that was making 25-cent charges to millions of consumer accounts. The news was widely reported, and Mint decided to check its users' accounts its to see if any had been affected; it found 800 that were.

Score 1 for the upstarts.

Bottom line: If the online PFM purveyors harness technology to take better care of banking customers than the banks themselves, especially with practical, money-saving ways such as Wesabe's Cutback Tool (below), the newcomers have a bright future indeed.

image

Note: For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features for Online Banking.

Comments (2)

Mint, Quicken Online Release Registered-User Totals

By Jim Bruene on February 20, 2009 8:26 PM | Comments (1)

mint_logoWe've regularly cited third-party estimates of website traffic to Mint and other PFMs. More often that not, we'll get a comment or email taking us to task for using such inexact and/or irrelevant data. But we believe that website traffic, even a rough approximation, is a leading indicator of success.  image

Luckily, we now have better metrics for the two online leaders. In response to what appears to be a truth-in-advertising query from Intuit's general counsel (see note 1), Mint disclosed its registered-user count (note 2), which has been growing at an average of 17% per month in Q4 2008 and so far in this year. 

As of yesterday, Mint had 934,000 users, double third quarter's end-count. That's 3,400 new registered users per day (seven days a week), almost 25,000 per week. The company should pass one million before St. Patrick's day.

While this growth in registered users is impressive, what's truly astonishing is that 70% of the registered users, 680,000 so far, have entered at least one bank or credit card username/password in order to automatically download transactions into Mint.

In response to Mint's disclosure, Quicken Online reported its 650,000 registered users, currently growing at a 45,000-per-week clip. If that continues, they'll pass one million before the April tax deadline.

It looks like there's quite a battle shaping up between the two leading online personal finance specialists. And don't overlook the banks. Both Bank of America (2.5 mil as of April 2008) and Wells Fargo (1 mil as of Nov 2008) have more online personal finance users at this point.

What it means: Account aggregation, left for dead a few years ago, is making a fearsome comeback. The three biggest players, Bank of America, Mint, and Quicken Online, now have more than 4 million registered users, approximately 4% of all U.S. banking households (note 3).

Table: Mint Registered Users by Month

Month-End Registered Users* Monthly
Gain
Month/Month
% Gain
Aug 2008 404,000 -- --
Sep 2008 458,000 54,000 13%
Oct 2008 544,000 96,000 21%
Nov 2008 606,000 62,000 11%
Dec 2008 720,000 114,000 19%
Jan 2009** 864,000** 144,000** 20%**
Feb 2009*** 934,000*** --- ---
Avg gain/mo -- 94,000 17%

Source: Mint, Feb. 2009
*Registered users are anyone who has signed up with email address
** Through Jan 25 (per Mint letter, 28 Jan)
***Through Feb 19 (per
TechCrunch post, 19 Feb)

Notes:
1. Intuit's letter to Mint here.
2. Mint's response here.
3. Yodlee provides the aggregation engine for both Bank of America and Mint.
4. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Account Aggregation and Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features

Comments (1)

Online Personal Finance Traffic Soars; Mint Passes One Million Unique Visitors

By Jim Bruene on February 9, 2009 8:52 PM | Comments (2)

imageJanuary is always a great month for personal finance. Consumers working off holiday spending binges and/or attempting to live up to New Years resolutions naturally find their way to personal financial management sites. It's especially pronounced this year as consumers try to better understand their spending and manage for the downturn.

So it's not surprising to see that traffic grew by 300,000 unique visitors in January (+20%) compared to December. Total traffic was up 4.5-fold at sites open for a year or more (see Table 1). Including the class of 2008, total traffic was 2.0 million, a five-fold increase from a year ago.

Highlights:

  • Mint had another great month, increasing site visitors by about 200,000, a five-fold increase in the past year. Mint's gain in January was more than that total traffic of all nine 2008 newcomers combined. Mint had a 60% market share of the total of 1.8 million visitors in the category, about the same as December.  image
  • Geezeo continued its wicked pace, growing 30% during the month, and posting a 12-fold increase over a year ago.
  • Quicken Online, which launched in January 2008, more than doubled visitors to 150,000 compared to December. However, traffic at Quicken is hard to compare to other sites due to the massive traffic at its parent site: for example, <quicken.intuit.com> received 1.2 million visitors and <intuit.com> website had more than 10 million. 
  • image Wesabe was the only site, of those open for a year or more, that turned in a traffic decline, falling more than 30% in the month. However, keep in mind the Compete estimates are derived from an online panel and are not always accurate, especially for sites in the low six-figures or less. The company said that it had record page views in January. That includes both U.S. traffic, measured by Compete, and international visitors.
  • BudgetTracker also turned in amazing results, nearly doubling its traffic to an imageestimated 27,000 visitors.
  • Of the 2008 startups (see Table 2), Thrive was the only one showing strong growth, increasing 50% over the previous month. On Friday the company was acquired by Lending Tree for an undisclosed amount.

Table 1: Traffic at online PFMs launched more than one year ago

  Jan 2009 Dec 2008 Jan 2008 YOY Chg
Mint 1.1 mil 890,000 200,000 5.2x
Geezeo 220,000 170,000 18,000 12x
Yodlee 120,000 100,000 84,000 44%
Finicity/Mvelopes 100,000 71,000 91,000 10%
Wesabe 89,000 140,000 56,000 60%
BudgetTracker 27,000 14,000 15,000 86%
Buxfer 22,000 15,000 13,000 78%
PearBudget 12,000 7,600 4,200 3x
ClearCheckbook
BudgetPulse
11,000
8,200
9,100
4,300
4,600
2,200
2.3x
3.6x
Total 1.7 mil 1.4 mil 490,000 4.5x

Table 2: Traffic at the online PFM class of 2008

  Jan 2009 Dec 2008 Month Chg
Quicken Online 150,000 53,000 1.8x
PNC Virtual Wallet 41,000 45,000 (9%)
Rudder 39,000 61,000 (35%)
Thrive 21,000 14,000 52%
Scred 2,600 630 4x
Expensr 2,500 3,700 (32%)
RateSurfer 2,100 3,600 (41%)
Expensify 1,400 600 2.5x
Banzai 1,300 1,500 (15%)
GreenSherpa 400 ina --
iThryv 210 2,100 (90%)
Total 260,000 185,000 41%

Source: Compete, 7 Feb. 2009; estimates of monthly unique visitors from the United States

*The percent changes were calculated from the underlying data set and due to rounding of the monthly traffic figures; the percentages may look slightly off

Note: For more information on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features and Online Banking Report on Social Personal Finance.

Comments (2)

Chase Bank, Mint Top the Charts with New iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on December 22, 2008 10:17 AM | Comments (1)

imageimage No one knows for sure how Apple compiles the list of its top-selling iPhone apps, but it's related to how many are sold during the past few hours. I've seen speculation that the measurement period is 2 hours (see note 1).

But there is no doubt about the benefits of rising to the top. The winner receives prime exposure in the iTunes Store and on the iPhone itself (see screenshots below).

I've checked the Finance category rankings dozens of times since the store opened in July, and the top app had always been Bloomberg with Bank of America usually the runnerup.

But Friday, a new top seller emerged in the Free list in the Finance category (note 2), Chase Mobile  while Bloomberg and BofA were each knocked down a spot to numbers 2 and 3. The Chase app was released just one week ago (12 Dec). But by Saturday morning (20 Dec), Chase had already been replaced at the top by online personal finance startup Mint, which released its iPhone app Monday (15 Dec), but it didn't show up in the iTunes store until 1 AM Friday.  Mint stayed at the top all weekend and is still number one now (10 AM Pacific, 22 Dec).

imageIn the screenshot below and right, you can see the free publicity derived from holding the top spot. Also, note that you should put your name into the application. Bank of America, ranked number 3, neglected to include its name in the title, so it loses some branding value. Although, they would have to use BofA to fit into the space.  

Chase App (link to iphone App)
The Chase app itself is attractive and is similar to Bank of America's with a login button to the website and an ATM/branch-finder utility. As of this evening, 64 reviews have been posted with an average 3.5-star rating out of five, slightly better than the 3-star rating of Bank of America's iPhone app with similar features.

Mint App (link to iPhone app)
As expected from a company that is carefully using design to help distinguish it from the pack, Mint's new app is great looking. Across all aggregated accounts, the mobile app shows account balances, transactions, and progress towards budget goals. A nifty alerts icon on the bottom provides a convenient way for users to keep tabs on important info on the go.

Another difference from most banking apps: Mint lets users choose whether they want password protection enabled after their initial login. If you choose to log out, then the app erases all data in memory, and you must log back in next time. If you choose not to log out, then your data remains visible until the next visit with no login required (note 4). This is a great convenience, but something that may not be allowed at regulated financial institutions.

Some users have reported trouble with the app on older phones. On my first-generation iPhone running version 2.1 software, the Mint app wouldn't download. But once I upgraded the iPhone software to version 2.2, it downloaded flawlessly and all functions worked perfectly. In Mint's forum, some users were reporting problems with the Budget feature, but it seems to work fine for me (forum thread) (note 3).

Top Apps in the finance category of iTunes' App Store
(7 PM Pacific, 19 Dec 2008) 

image

 Top free finance apps list displayed on iPhone:
          at 7 PM Pacific, Fri. Dec. 19                               at  2 PM Pacific, Sat. Dec. 20  image        image

Chase Mobile iPhone app                    Mint iPhone app main screen
main screen
(19 Dec 2009)                          (19 Dec 2009)

image       image

Notes:
1. That 2-hour window could be about right. When I made this screenshot, the new Mint app was at number 10; two hours later (9 PM) it had risen to number 5 (see screenshot above). By 9 AM Saturday morning (20 Dec) it had risen to number 1.

2. The App Store divides the top apps into two categories, free and paid. The top 20 free apps are listed on the right side and the top 20 paid apps are listed on the left. The apps in the middle are listed by newest first.

3. These operating system incompatibilities, a real problem in pre-1995 online banking services, had largely been left behind when banks embraced the Web in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, mobile banking will add to your tech-support costs. 

4. Mint also reminds users that they can choose to lock their entire iPhone for extra security.

5. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking

Comments (1)

Online Personal Finance Traffic More than Doubles; PNC Virtual Wallet Grabs Second Place

By Jim Bruene on October 23, 2008 6:53 PM | Comments (3)

image As I was drilling into the latest Compete traffic numbers for the annual Online Banking Report planning issue, I noticed a significant uptick in traffic to online personal finance specialists, almost across the board.

Sept. traffic revealed a total of 1.2 million unique visitors (note 1) compared to less than 400,000 a year ago. Not surprisingly, consumers appear to be taking a closer look at their finances. 

The big three newcomers last year: Mint, Wesabe, and Geezeo saw combined traffic increase by 450,000 users, a nearly three-fold increase from 2007. Geezeo was the star percentage-wise, growing more than six-fold. But Mint accounted for three-fourths of the net gain across the existing players with 330,000 more visitors (see Table 1 below):

Also, two newcomers made a big splash last month:

  • PNC Virtual Wallet launched in July (coverage here) by PNC Bank, which trailed only Mint last month with nearly 140,000 unique visitors (see 2 below).
  • Rudder (a relaunch of Spendview) drew 50,000 visitors last month after its launch at DEMOfall in early Sept.

Granted, the PNC Virtual Wallet benefits enormously from the 2 million monthly visitors to parent PNC.com and PNCBank.com. Yet, it's still an impressive total and is encouraging for banks and credit unions considering similar efforts.

Table 1: Online PFMs launched more than 1 year ago

  Sep 2008 Sep 2007 Gain '08 vs. '07 Multiple
Mint 530,000 200,000 330,000 2.7 x
Geezeo 72,000 11,000 61,000 6.5 x
Wesabe 89,000 33,000 56,000 2.7 x
Yodlee 97,000 50,000 47,000 1.9 x
Finicity/Mvelopes 91,000 73,000 18,000 1.2 x
Buxfer 9,000 3,500 5,500 2.5 x
PearBudget 6,300 2,100 4,200 3.0 x
ClearCheckbook 6,200 2,800 3,400 2.2 x
BudgetTracker 12,000 12,000 0 Flat
  Total 910,000 380,000 530,000 2.4x

Table 2: The online PFM class of 2008

  Sep 2008 Sep 2007 Gain
PNC Virtual Wallet 140,000 0 140,000
Rudder 50,000 2,000 (1) 48,000
Expensify 9,600 0 9,600
GreenSherpa 6,300 0 6,300
RateSurfer 4,400 0 4,400
Thrive 3,500 0 3,500
Expensr 2,900 0 2,900
Banzai 2,700 0 2,700
iThryv 2,000 0 2,000
  Total 220,000 2,000 220,000
       
Grand Total 1.2 million 380,000 750,000

 Notes:

1. Sum of the monthly unique visitors from all PFM companies, visitors that went to more than one PFM provider are not eliminated from the total, so there is double counting in the totals. Data source is Compete, pulled 21 Oct 2008.

2. Rudder was previously Spendview, but we consider them to be essentially a new company.

Comments (3)

CheckFree, Credit Karma, Mint and MoneyAisle Win Finovate Best of Show Awards

By Jim Bruene on October 15, 2008 11:44 PM | Comments (2)

image As conference host, I haven't quite recovered from the whirlwind of activity yesterday. I'll post a final conference wrapup tomorrow, but I wanted to get in a quick update with the Finovate 2008 Best of Show winners. 

We had planned to award it to the top three, but there were four companies in a virtual tie at the top (note 1), so we named four winners this year.

In alphabetic order, the winners:

  • image CheckFree which demonstrated its new online banking platform packed with new features
  • image Credit Karma which showed several new features including a tool allowing "what-if" calculations with your credit file
  • imageMint which announced its move out of beta and demo'd several new investment management functions
  • imageNeosaej which showed its unique MoneyAisle real-time, reverse-deposit auction service

Congratulations to these four companies and to everyone else who made the day so interesting.

About the voting
All attendees not affiliated with the presenters rated each demo on a scale of one to six. The ballots were turned in at the end of the final demo session. Approximately 70% of eligible voters turned in complete ballots.

Note:
The companies didn't finish with the same average scores, but rounding to the nearest tenth created a four-way tie.

Comments (2)

Finovate 2008 Mint

By Jim Bruene on October 14, 2008 11:39 AM | Comments

image Mint CEO & Founder Aaron Patzer will be presenting next. 

Online personal finance provider Mint launched a year ago and won a Best of Show award at our first Finovate conference in 2007.

What's new
Mint moves out of beta today, with 500,000 users. Their sign-up rate has more than doubled in the past 3 weeks.

Today they launched new investment tracking functionality that allows Mint users to track their accounts at more than 1000 investment companies, mutual funds, and retirement services.

A unique aspect of its investment tracking is the ability to see the value of the account vs. the cost basis.

Mint has an IRA Rollover Advisor where they are partnering with Fidelity, Scottrade, E*Trade, and Schwab.

Results: 10% of users have changed investment behavior and 50% of users have changed their spending behavior by using Mint.

Comments

Mint Site Traffic Grows by 60,000 in July

By Jim Bruene on August 7, 2008 4:48 PM | Comments (1)


According to Compete, website traffic to personal-finance startup Mint increased to 460,000 in July compared to 400,000 the month before, for a 13% increase. Site traffic has quadrupled since December, gaining 350,000 unique monthly visitors.

Comments (1)

Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg Loves Mint, Hates Financial Email

By Jim Bruene on May 1, 2008 2:49 PM | Comments (1)

imageIt was online banking week in Walt Mossberg's popular Wall Street Journal technology columns. Yesterday in The Mossberg Solution, authored by 20-something Katherine Boehret and edited by Mossberg, Mint's personal finance service received a half-page article so complimentary I had to look twice to make sure it wasn't an advertisement. Boehret couldn't find a single thing wrong with the service, although she did wish for bill payment capability so she could do all her banking with Mint. I'm sure she'll have her wish granted relatively soon.

image In today's Personal Technology column entitled, How to Avoid Cons that Can Lead to Identify Theft, Mossberg himself dropped a bomb which will impact bank-marketing efforts for years to come. His first of seven tips for safe computing:

Never, ever click on a link embedded in an email (from your) financial institution....

That's harsh, but it's also understandable why he'd take that stand. Mossberg strives to make technology issues understandable to non-techie readers. However, it would have been better to add, "unless your bank adds account-specific personalization to the messages so you know for sure where they originated." 

Action items
Many financial institutions, including Citibank and Bank of America, have long used personalization to distinguish legitimate messages from phishing attempts. Financial institutions with good personalized messaging should consider a public outreach program to counter the negative perception from the Mossberg column. It also might be a good time to remind front-line employees how to respond to customer concerns about phishing emails.

For more information, see our Online Banking Report on Marketing Security

Comments (1)

Bank of America Reports 2.5 Million Users of My Portfolio, its Online Personal Finance Tool

By Jim Bruene on April 21, 2008 6:27 PM | Comments (1)

image Two months ago we published a table (here) showing active users at the leading online personal finance startups. Below is the table, updated with March traffic and the addition of one more player: Bank of America.

The bank, which offers a full-featured online personal finance management solution called My Portfolio, powered by Yodlee, has 2.5 million active users, according to BofA exec Marina Moore (note 3). That's an impressive 10% of the bank's online user base, and about 6x the total user base of all the online startups combined (note 4). 

Company Users (1) % of Total March Traffic(2) Jan Traffic(2) Chg
Bank of America 2.5 million 86% -- -- --
Mint 180,000 6% 160,000 150,000 7%
Wesabe 100,000 3% 28,000 41,000 (32%)
Buxfer 80,000 3% 8,400 9,200 (9%)
Geezeo 20,000+ 0.7% 8,400 14,000 (40%)
NetWorthIQ 13,000 0.5% 10,000 11,000 (10%)
BillMonk 10,000+ 0.3% 1,700 1,000 +70%
Expensr Five figs 0.3%+ 2,000 1,700 +18%
Total 2.9 million 100%      

For more information:

Notes/Sources:

1. Users: per BusinessWeek Online, Feb 2008, figures are reported by the companies and may include inactive users; Mint has been updated to 180,000 from 130,00 based on new figures reported in the Bank Technology News article published in April 2008

2. Traffic: per Compete estimates of website traffic for March 2008, retrieved April 21, 2008. Compete estimates traffic from its online data and can be off by a factor of two or three-fold for smaller websites.

3. As reported in a Bank Technology News article published in April 2008.

4. This table does not reflect all the players, such as Intuit's new Quicken Online, just the ones highlighted in the BusinessWeek article.

Comments (1)

400,000 Users at Online Personal Finance Startups

By Jim Bruene on February 22, 2008 10:16 AM | Comments (3)

link to BusinessWeek article In a Feb. 11 BusinessWeek Online feature (here), reporter John Tozzi listed the self-reported user bases at seven new entrants in online personal finance. The roundup led with an anecdote about Wesabe CEO Jason Knight answering phone calls from users (see inset).

The seven companies listed below are only a subset of the online personal finance space. The list does not include users at Quicken Online, Yodlee, Mvelopes, and another two dozen smaller players. Nor does it include users at financial institutions that support online personal financial management such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Key Bank, River City Bank and others.

Company   Users Traffic
Mint* 135,000 150,000
Wesabe* 100,000 41,000
Buxfer*   80,000   9,200
Geezeo   20,000+ 14,000
NetWorthIQ   13,000 11,000
BillMonk   10,000+   1,000
Expensr* Five figures   1,700
Total 370,000+ 230,000

Sources: Users per BusinessWeek Online, Feb 2008, figures are reported by the companies and may include inactive users; Traffic: Compete, Inc, estimated unique visitors for January 2008

*Will be presenting at our FINOVATE Startup conference April 29, 2008

For more information:

  • Previous NetBanker coverage here
  • Online Banking Report #131/132: Personal Finance Features for Online Banking
  • Online Banking Report #142/143: Social Personal Finance
Comments (3)

Quicken Draws a Line in the Sand, Places $36/yr Value on Online Personal Finance

By Jim Bruene on January 10, 2008 12:10 PM | Comments (4)

link to Quicken Online The two dozen online competitors of Intuit's Quicken can breathe a sigh of relief today. The 800-lb guerilla has done them a favor, levying a monthly fee for its new online-only option, Quicken Online (press release here). While the $2.99/mo fee, after a free month, is reasonable, it's much different than FREE. Look for the websites of the competition to trumpet the $35.88 annual savings very soon.  

Intuit could easily have offered its online option free of charge. While that would cannibalize its packaged version, the overall impact to its bottom line would have been insignificant (note 2). And a free Quicken would have made it much harder for Mint, Wesabe, Geezeo, Buxfer and others to gain a footing (note 1).

My guess is that Intuit doesn't feel too threatened by the startups, yet. The security issue is extremely difficult for a new company to overcome. Intuit is one of the few tech companies with a brand that has trust levels on par with a financial institution. Millions already entrust their entire tax return, which has far more personal info than an online bank account, with the company. 

Intuit will allow the startups to build a following, then acquire the promising ones and convert their users to Quicken Online. All for less than the cash it would have foregone by offering Quicken Online free.  

We'll compare and contrast Quicken Online with the startups in an upcoming Online Banking Report (previous reports here and here).

Quicken Online hompage 9 Jan 2008

 

Notes:

1. A few hours before Quicken Online went live, Mint issued a press release trumpeting its 100,000 registered users. That's an impressive number for a company that went live in September (previous coverage here). However, assuming 20% to 25% of those are active, there are still more than 500 times as many Quicken desktop users. 

2. Intuit's fiscal 2007 pre-tax profit was $670 million. 

Comments (4)

Mint, Prosper, Zillow, and Kiva are Crunchie Finalists

By Jim Bruene on January 2, 2008 3:43 PM | Comments (2)

Four online finance companies are finalists in the Crunchies, an awards program sponsored by three major tech blogs: TechCrunch, GigaOM, Read/WriteWeb, and VentureBeat.

  • Mint is one of five finalists in Most Likely to Succeed (here)
  • Prosper is one of five in Best (new) Business Model (here)
  • Zillow is one of five in the Best Consumer Startup (here) and Best Overall (here)
  • Kiva is one of five in Most Likely to Make the World a Better Place (here)

Winners will be determined by a tally of votes at the site between Dec. 21 and Jan 10.

Comments (2)
Categories: Mint, Prosper, Zillow

Mint Lands More Press Coverage

By Jim Bruene on October 23, 2007 10:08 AM | Comments

Mint has certainly caught the attention of the nation's press. Over the weekend, I watched CEO Aaron Patzer interviewed on San Francisco's channel 5 (video here). Today, the Wall Street Journal ran a Q&A with Patzer in the Lee Gomes Talking Tech column under the headline, Financial Software Moves to the Web (p. B3, see note 1). The WSJ article itself is a throwback to the late 1990s, talking about the advantages of Web-based apps vs. desktop apps. 

The Mint press coverage reminds me of the 2000/2001 period when Yodlee and Vertical One burst on the scene with "account aggregation" services. Mint wisely steers clear of that out-of-fashion term and focuses on the benefits it provides, namely saving users from themselves by pointing out the sometimes substantial money to be earned putting spare cash to work in a higher-yield account.  

We will continue to watch Mint closely, not because its services are unique: Yodlee, Wesabe, Jwaala, Geezeo, Digital Insight (Intuit) and many others provide essentially the same thing. But Mint is the hot new kid on the block and seems to have struck a nerve, at least with the early-adopter financial junkies, which includes the personal finance press. It will be interesting to see how the company builds on its momentum and what implications, if any, its early success has on the broader banking marketplace.  

Note:

1. Thanks, Mom, for the WSJ tip. And no, the "developers conference" mentioned in the article was not our FINOVATE, it was TechCrunch 40 held two weeks earlier. Mint won awards at both.  

Comments

Using Mint (part 1): First Impressions

By Jim Bruene on October 19, 2007 2:06 PM | Comments (2)

link to mint.comEver since receiving a private beta-invite a month ago, I've been meaning to run new personal finance site Mint through its paces. Then, after it won Best of Show at TechCrunch40 and our FINOVATE conference, I really wanted to see if the product could possibly live up to the expectations created while watching CEO Aaron Patzer give a demo (see previous coverage here, see note 1 below).  

But it takes time to really analyze a website, and I hadn't got around to it until today, when I was inspired by Ron Lieber and his team at the new Dow Jones/IAC site FiLife (press release here) as they reported on their individual results using the Mint's online personal finance tools (see coverage here).

I will file a series of reports as I use the program over the coming weeks. Today, we begin with the first impressions.

First Impressions
Homepage: One thing you notice when you visit Mint.com is that it looks nothing like a banking site (see first screenshot below). That can be good or bad. It's good because it sets the site apart from a normal financial services site. But that can also be a problem because the first, second, and third things users care about at a new financial site is whether it's secure or not. And a bankish "look and feel" can increase consumer trust.

But Mint does an admirable job walking the fine line of creating an engaging look while still reassuring visitors that it fiercely protects their data and privacy. The three large benefit statements in the middle create interest in the product, while the bank logos and the TRUSTe at the bottom provide visual clues that Mint is a serious player.

And the graphic design, leveraging the clever "Mint" name, combined with the light green color scheme, create an inviting site that should do well converting lookers into registered users (active users is another matter, more on that later).

Copy is concise, just 60 words above the fold (see note 2), and completely benefit oriented. Learn more button allows users to drill deeper, and you can't miss the call to action, Sign Up Now in the middle of the page.

Features page: Navigating to the feature page is simple, either click on the "Learn More" blue button in the middle of the page or use the "Features" tab at the top. The page does a great job laying out the key benefits with good use of headers and concise, bulleted lists supplemented with clear, attractive screen-captures of key points (see second screenshot below). Also note the prominent placement of big-name financial brands, Chase, Discover, and E*Trade, to increase trust.  

While the page does a good job highlighting features, it doesn't provide any interactive way of learning about the tool before signing up. Video and audio help goes a long way in demonstrating the features (see Jwaala/Amplify CU Money Tracker video here).

Mint.edu: A nice touch. Instead of calling it "education" or "blog" or something else no one would ever click on, Mint uses the clever Mint.edu (see third screenshot below). That's a URL that will resonate with its younger members and anyone familiar with higher education domain names. And once at the .edu site, engaging blog entries allow users to dig deeper into what is going on with the company and read about personal finance topics in general. RSS and email subscription options are clearly presented in the right-hand column.

Grade: A+

Mint Homepage (19 Oct 2007)

Mint.com homepage

Mint Features page (also accessible via "Learn More" button on homepage)

Mint.com features page

Mint.edu page (19 Oct 2007)

Mint blog page

Notes:

1. The video of Aaron Patzer's FINOVATE demo will be online within the next week at FINOVATE.com. In the meantime, you can see him on the Channel 5 SF news here.

2. Red line in screenshots 1 and 2 indicates the bottom of the screen using 1024 x 768 display on 13.3-inch laptop screen.

Comments (2)

Mint.com Traffic = $17 billion bank

By Jim Bruene on October 11, 2007 4:30 PM | Comments (3)

Compete's latest data confirms the spike in traffic at three-week old online personal finance startup Mint. The startup created considerable buzz after winning the $50,000 grand prize at TechCrunch in September (see previous coverage here).  

According to Compete, Mint's 200,000 unique visitors in September equaled that of $17-billion Webster Bank, the 64th largest U.S. bank or thrift holding company according to American Banker (Q1 2007). It will be interesting to see if Mint experiences a dramatic traffic decline after the publicity-driven visits slow down.   

Traffic at Mint.com (blue) vs. Webster Bank <websteronline.com> (red)

Mint vs Webster Bank traffic

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Mint Attracts 50,000 Users in First Two Weeks

By Jim Bruene on October 8, 2007 4:22 PM | Comments

New TechCrunch co-editor Erick Schonfeld posted a short article yesterday (here) about Mint winning the Best of Show award at our FINOVATE conference (note 1). That post allowed TechCrunch's 600,000 readers to weigh in again on the pros and cons of Mint's model. During the past 24 hours, it attracted 72 comments, many with security concerns. Mint's CEO Aaron Patzer bravely joined the discussion and posted a half-dozen of the comments himself.

It's interesting to understand the concerns posted by TC readers. Of course, this is not at all a mainstream audience, so we take the complaints with a grain of salt. But it's still indicative of the hurdles a new financial institution, especially an unregulated one, faces when launching a new service.

Schonfeld's post also included the first metrics we've seen from the two-week old company:

  • 50,000 total registered users
  • 35,000 active users (have come at least once since registering)
  • 5,000 power users (use it every day)
  • 5,000 mobile alert users
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Mint, Mortgagebot, and Prosper Win Best of Show at FINOVATE

By Jim Bruene on October 5, 2007 3:10 PM | Comments

Following is a press release we just sent out over the wires. While these three companies received the highest ratings across the 117 ballots, ratings were relatively high across the board, averaging 5.02 on a 7-point scale. Eight other companies received scores within 10% (e.g., 0.5 points) of the lowest-winning score and thirteen companies were within 20% (1 point).
_______________________________________________________________________________

Oct. 5, 2007
For immediate release:

NEW YORK(BUSINESS WIRE)On Tuesday, attendees at the FINOVATE 2007 conference voted on their favorite financial product or service from among the 20 innovations presented. Overall, the DEMOs were extremely well received with an average score of just over 5 points on a 7-point scale. The three winners (in alphabetical order):

  • Mint: A new online personal finance company launched
    two weeks ago (previous coverage here)
  • Mortgagebot’s Mortgage Marvel: A new mortgage marketplace launched Oct. 2 at FINOVATE 2007 (previous coverage here)
  • Prosper: The first U.S. person-to-person lender,
    launched in Feb. 2006 (previous coverage here)

About the Voting
One “Best of Show” ballot was issued to all 230 registered attendees. Representatives from the presenting companies were not eligible to vote. Each of the 20 DEMOs was rated on a 7-point scale with the three highest receiving “FINOVATE Best of Show” awards. About two-thirds of eligible attendees voted.

About the FINOVATE Conference
The FINOVATE conference is the first demo-based conference for the financial, banking and lending technology industries. Held annually in New York City, the conference offers a chance to explore the future of finance in a fast-paced, intimate and unique way. FINOVATE is organized by Online Financial Innovations. For more information, please visit www.finovate.com.

About Online Financial Innovations
Founded in 1995 by former banker Jim Bruene, Online Financial Innovations is a Seattle-based research company. OFI is best known for publishing the Online Banking Report, a regular newsletter featuring in-depth analysis, relevant data, and informed recommendations to financial services executives in 50 countries. For more information and free sample reports, visit Online Banking Report, email info@netbanker.com or call (206) 517-5021. You may also find OFI’s blog on the latest in online finance & banking at NetBanker.com,

Contacts
Online Financial Innovations
Jim Bruene, 206-517-5021
info@netbanker.com

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Categories: Finovate, Mint, Prosper

Mint's Coming-Out Party at TechCrunch 40

By Jim Bruene on September 18, 2007 3:12 PM | Comments (2)

Update (8 PM Pacific): Earlier this evening, Mint was named Best Presenting Company at TechCrunch 40 (see here) and took home the $50,000 grand prize. A good first day in the life of the startup!    

Congratulations to Mint on being one of just two financial services startups to win a spot at TechCrunch 40, the tech-startup con-fab in San Francisco that concludes this afternoon. More than 700 companies applied for the presentation slots, and just 40 were chosen. The other financial company was Cake Financial which competes with Zecco, Covestor, and Social Picks, in the "social investing" space, i.e., companies that help users track their investment portfolios and share them with others.

Mint presented in the "Productivity & Web Apps" category this morning and received high marks, scoring a 4.0 out of a possible 5.0 from 67 voters. During the first seven sessions (35 companies), only three have scored higher than 4.0. Mint also received favorable comments from the expert panel comprised of Guy Kawasaki, Esther Dyson, Roelof Botha, and Mike Arrington (blog post here).

For those of you attending our FINOVATE conference Oct. 2 in NYC, you'll have a chance to see a live demo from Mint CEO Aaron Patzer. If you can't wait until then, Mint opened its personal finance app to the public today with a public beta version. Let us know what you think.

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Online Personal Finance Heats Up: Part 1

By Jim Bruene on September 5, 2007 3:26 PM | Comments (2)

The race to become the next Quicken of online finance is heating up this fall with several launches expected before year-end (note 1). At our upcoming new products conference, FINOVATE 2007, you will be treated to live demos of five leading personal finance apps. Three are newcomers: Geezeo, Jwaala, Mint, and two are industry veterans launching new online versions, Digital Insight (Intuit) and Yodlee. Here are brief profiles of two newcomers. We'll look at the other three in part two on Friday.

Jwaala
Jwaala, out of Austin, Tex., made a splash in March when it debuted on Amplify Credit Union's site, winning our OBR Best of the Web award in the process (see post here). The specific feature to win recognition (see note 1) was the personalized RSS feeds available to MoneyTracker users. The natural language search is also a significant improvement over typical expense manager search functions.

Jwaala, which was a finalist in the TechCrunch 20 start-up conference, has also built a simple Google-like, text-based ad server into its MoneyTracker interface. It allows CU and bank marketers to run relevant marketing and educational messages next to transaction data and query results (see screenshot #1 below). Amplify CU, which is an investor in Jwaala, has given the service considerable marketing play with several links on its homepage (see screenshot below) and a series of instructional/marketing videos accessible from the MoneyTracker landing page (here).

Mint
Mountain View, Calif.-based Mint is still in limited private beta, so we can't say much about its online personal finance manager. However, the company says this about itself:

Mint is building a free, simple, and secure personal finance web-app. Designed to be effortless, Mint consolidates your financial life in one place. Easily see how much you have, how much you owe, and where your money goes. Advanced alerts notify you before you bounce a check or forget to pay a bill. Patent pending algorithms even show you personalized ways to save and make more money. If your finances could use organization without effort, Mint is for you.

After putting our name on its mailing list several months ago, we finally received an invitation to its private beta Saturday. I am about to sign up, but since I will be sworn to secrecy, I wanted to finish this post first, so that I wouldn't have to worry about accidentally revealing a feature. As we mentioned in our previous post (here), you can learn quite a bit about the product and the company's outlook by reading the active Mint blog (see screenshot #3 below) which has published 102 articles in its 6-month history, an amazing amount of content for a company that hasn't yet launched its product.

Notes:
1. For more information, consult two recent reports from Online Banking Report: Online Personal Finance and Social Personal Finance.

2. OBR Best of the Web awards are given out occasionally for features that raise the bar in online financial services. It is NOT necessarily an endorsement of the company or its full product.

Exhibits 

Screenshot 1: Jwaala interface showing personalized "marketing bar" (4 Sept 2007)

 

Screenshot 2: Amplify CU homepage with links to Money Tracker (5 Sep 2007)

Amplify CU homepage 5 Sep 2007

Note: Amplify makes great use of video to sell the benefits. Check out the video tour of its "cafe style" branch (on the Amplify homepage here, click on the "play video" button to the right of the branch photo).

Screenshot #3: Mint blog main page (5 Sept 2007)

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Mint.com Set to Freshen the Personal Finance Space*

By Jim Bruene on May 23, 2007 1:31 PM | Comments (3)

It's dangerous to hype a startup while they are still in stealth mode. After all, given the average life expectancy of a Web-based startup, this blog post could outlive Mountain View, CA-based Mint.com (see note 2). 

But just knowing that the company snagged $5 million in VC money, which is huge in this space, means they will be interesting to watch, even if they don't catch on. And with that kind of money, Mint has a deeper bench and can be more aggressive than other newly minted personal finance startups such as Buxfer and Wesabe (see previous coverage here).  

Here's what we know so far:

  1. $5 million in funding (confirmed by company Monday)
  2. Planning a full-service personal finance manager with alerts (see posted elevator pitch below)
  3. Adopted a short, real, and catchy name and had the resources to buy the primary .com address (it had been using mymint.com until very recently)
  4. Appear to be hiring aggressively (see here)
  5. Founder Aaron Patzer has been working on the company since late 2005
  6. The company received money from ex-Google sales manager Aydin Senkut and first-round funding from First Round Capital. Other investors include current or former execs from Intuit, Charles Schwab, and Yahoo.
  7. It's active blog now totals 50 articles with many lengthy how-to posts on personal finance and related interests  

Elevator pitch (posted at Mint.com):

Mint is building a free, simple, and secure personal finance web-app. Designed to be effortless, Mint consolidates your financial life in one place. Easily see how much you have, how much you owe, and where you money goes. Advanced alerting notifies you before you bounce a check or forget to pay a bill. Patent pending algorithms even show you personalized ways to save and make more money. If your finances could use organization without effort, or a big improvement without a lot of work, Mint is for you.

NetBanker translation: Mint will use account aggregation tools, much like Quicken, Yodlee, and more recently Buxfer and Wesabe, to load bank and credit card transactions into its web-based personal finance manager. The company will layer in meta-alerts, that will look across all accounts and notify you when balances are low, crooks are pinging your account, and so on.

So far, that's no different than Yodlee's current product in use at Bank of America and many others. But the company's name, as in "minting money," along with this key phrase in the above pitch (emphasis added) makes it clear that is will focus not just on cutting down your Starbuck's bill, but also on how to improve your personal top-line:

(will provide) personalized ways to save and make more money

If you want to keep closer tabs on Mint, you can take its online survey and request to be in the private beta. And you should grab the feed to the company blog. Finally, you can see from its job postings that it is serious about finding top talent to run the company. There are positions open for both VP Marketing and Senior Product Director among others (here).
-----

Notes:

1. *Sorry, for some reason, I needed to be the first to write that headline. From now on, I promise to steer clear of mint-related puns.  

2. This statement is not meant as a criticism of the company, which looks very promising. I have not seen their product yet, nor do I want to since I am currently writing a report on this space and would not want to inadvertently share any of their secrets. The report, Personal Finance & Social Networks, will be posted by the end of the month at Online Banking Report.  

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