Brett King

When PFM is no longer enough…

In Customer Experience, Internet Banking, Offer Management, Retail Banking on February 8, 2011 at 13:13

At Finovate Europe last week we saw a lot of what I would generally classify as “me too” PFM efforts. While there were a few stand out examples, such as Meniga and Linxo, I don’t think these platforms are robust enough for where we are going. This says a lot I know, because most banks are still not at this basic stage of having PFM deployed and I’m already talking about what comes next, but if you’re a bank about to invest in PFM – then think about whether it goes far enough.

The fact that there is a lot of activity in the PFM space shows that the time is very quickly coming for some sort of customer relationship footprint aggregation/mobilization. But, it’s going to take more than a few fancy pie charts, a drag and drop goal function, and seeing your account usage on a timeline to pimp out my Internet banking.

The information deluge and filtering

One of the challenges I see moving forward is that a pie chart of your portfolio, or a pie chart of spend patterns, or a fancy presentation of your account statement is only going part of the way. Increasingly I need to be able to filter information quickly and understand the context and relevance of that information to me at a glance. While a pie chart is potentially an effective tool to show me some of that, and might even be central in some scenarios, there is a lot of other relevant information that might be prioritized.

Mint Screenshot

There's always a pie chart in there somewhere...

The following information, for example, is not going to be important everyday, but at certain times, it could be quite useful:

  1. You just got paid your salary
  2. Your mortgage account doesn’t have enough money in it for the next payment
  3. Your phone bill is due tomorrow but you haven’t set up a payment
  4. The $25k you have deposited in a savings account should be deployed in a CD or other instrument to be getting better interest
  5. Your wife just maxed out her credit card (ok, I’m told that she’s allowed to do that…)
  6. A retailer you visited 3 times in the last 3 weeks will give you a 15% discount if you use your bank visa card this month
  7. Houses in your neighborhood have just been revalued upwards
  8. Your anniversary is a week away, and here is a special offer for a romantic night away

Then there is statistical information that is useful:

  1. Spending habits that are good/bad
  2. Progress towards a goal
  3. More efficient use of your money
  4. Spending mix
  5. Portfolio rebalancing based on Risk Profile
  6. Available balance on your credit card
  7. Loan refinancing options

This is a lot of information to show on a pie chart or a single screen, so either the bank will cram this information into a ‘dashboard’, or just not show it at all. The capability to filter this information and give direct, relevant feedback to the customer is essentially missing in most banks today.

Seriously, the key to transforming the relationship of the client of today is firstly to demonstrate your value as a bank in the relationship, and second, to anticipate the client’s needs. At the moment, Internet Banking as a platform probably does neither of those well. PFM is a step in the right direction, but it has a way to go, purely because of the volume of information we’ll need processed and the need for relevance.

Digital Relationship as the new metric

Today I received an email from my relationship manager asking me if I would be happy to recommend her. It went something like this (sanitized to protect the bank):

You may have recently received a letter inviting you to ‘Share your Experience’, and I want to take this opportunity to further highlight the features and benefits of this programme. If you know someone, a friend, family member or colleague who would benefit from having a <bank> relationship, I would really appreciate your referral. By introducing someone to <bank>, you open the door for them to the same high level of attention, international services and financial opportunities that you currently enjoy as a <bank> client.
Email Note from my Relationship Manager

I actually have no problem recommending my RM (Relationship Manager) because she has done an excellent job. But there are a few issues I take with the above communication.

Firstly they sent me a letter…seriously?

Secondly, the assumption is that I perceive their service as they do, i.e. “the same high level of attention”, especially given the fact that their digital presence is significantly sub-par.

I’m logging in to Internet banking, and would be logging into mobile banking (if they had it), something like 5-10 times a week. The average customer is doing something similar each month. I visit their ATMs 2-3 times a week, and I visit their branch about twice a year, if I have no other choice.

So their best place to build a relationship with me is online, but they honestly don’t understand that based on their current platform. That relationship will be built through connecting with me through understanding me, and personalizing the dashboard that interfaces me to the bank.

Data visualization is a great start

Infographics are a great benchmark for customer data visualization

Unless you’ve been living under a digital rock these last couple of years, you may have noticed the very interesting trend to represent data and statistical information in a form called Infographics. These graphical representation of data are an excellent method of taking complex graphs, statistics, and information and filtering it for general consumption. Banks, and others, can learn a thing or two about filtering and data visualization from this trend.

Another great approach is that of the iPad app flipboard which aggregates streams of information in an easy to consume format. Could you provide a more interesting way to display account and credit card usage information, perhaps linked back to offers from specific retailers too?

The last step will be all about management. This is the ability to respond to a trigger, an event or a critical piece of information and proactively suggest a response to the customer that builds trust and the service relationship.

Get these right and you’ll have a relationship dashboard that connects you to the customer in a way that no bank does today…

  1. So it sounds like the next stage for PFM is more intelligence. I’d certainly appreciate some app saying, “Hey, based on your historical spending levels, it appears like you might not have enough money to cover your [monthly bill] which will be due in 10 days.”

    With respect to contextual offers, I personally don’t want my bank involved in my life at that level. A coupon for a store I shop at frequently is one thing. My bank trying to help me with my anniversary plans is a bit of a stretch — outside my comfort zone.

    Regarding the referral invitation, I’d say that kind of request should only be made of customers who have already expressed approval and/or gratitude. “Hey Brett, I know how much you like [insert thing Brett liked here]. Do you know anyone else who might appreciate that too?” I agree a phone call would be more impressive (and effective), but there’s nothing wrong with an email request provided its still personal.

    • Jeff,

      I think you missed the point. This is not about the specific offers, but about learning about the customer and helping the customer define the relationship in respect to what information he/she sees, and how ongoing communications should be handled.

      You may or may not want specific messages, but wouldn’t you want to define the parameters of that relationship? Or are you happy enough to leave it up to the bank to guess when and how they should communicate with you? Additionally, with all of that information, how does it get filtered and displayed so that it doesn’t just look like content, but has some context.


  2. Okay, my bank can give me the option to tell them that the details of my personal life are none of their flipping business, and suggestions from them accordingly will not be appreciated.

    I’m sorry, even though I live a very digital life, I still consider myself a private person. The list of people with whom I discuss things like my wedding anniversary plans/options totals no more than 4-5. My bank will probably never be included on that list.

    • Jeff,

      Fair enough. I agree there are varying levels of engagement. I think the key though is understanding where/when the product offers value and being there contextually.

      My biggest criticism of banks is they send out lots of messages and wait for me to come to them. I want the bank working for me, not the other way around…

      Thanks for stopping by


  3. I’m still wondering why you (and most other analysts, for that matter) are not pushing for PFM to serve as a platform for helping bank customers plan for their financial future, rather than manage their past/present. Almost all of the talk around PFM is focused on how it helps customers “data mine” their own transaction data. But for most people, this kind of work isn’t going to yield specific steps for making smart money moves or help them define/quantify their financial goals, especially long-term. All the transaction data mining in the world won’t help you with basics of good financial management (e.g., life insurance, emergency fund, estimated cost of future goals) if you 1) don’t know what they are; and 2) don’t know how much they should cost. People don’t need banks to give them better offers to buy stuff–they need their help in improving their chances of reaching their financial goals. This is the really big opportunity for PFM, b/c this is why consumers dabble in this whole money thing anyway!

  4. I agree Bryan, PFM should make the next (first) step to PFP. Give the customer the tools to understand their financial situation and the knowledge of what is mortgage, pensions, live events and insurance’s about. All those PFM transaction are a perfect customersupport to invent te compleet financial situation. Figlo (dutch company) claims to invent automatically about 50% of the customers financial “have” and make the translation PFM to PFP this way. Their PFP tooling can give customers a great financial insight. Brett what is your oppinion?

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