PFM Pioneer: Stanford Federal Credit Union Goes First With Geezeo
Stanford Federal Credit Union will use CreditUnion HQ from Geezeo, a Hartford, Conn., outfit which already has about 100,000 consumers now using its PFM through its Web site at www.geezeo.com, according to co-founder Shawn Ward.
The Geezeo PFM version combines account aggregation (using the CashEdge engine), budgeting, goal setting and tracking, community forums, cross marketing and educational content.
CreditUnion HQ is a white-label version of that solution, Ward said, which means it can be branded by SFCU, or any other credit union, to match the client's online look and feel as well. It goes a step further, Ward added.
"You spawn a separate page when you go to a PFM now, and it really feels like it most of the time because it's not really integrated with the online banking pages. We went to great lengths to make this feel like a really integrated experience," he said.
"We've customized the headers, the colors, the footers, and we've made it so that you can seamlessly go back and forth between the PFM and the traditional online banking functionality," Ward said.
"I think that's critically important to the comfort level of the product and for its adoption," he said.
Ward said his company worked closely with its first institutional client to achieve that effect and found in Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford-which launched its first online banking service in 1994-a willing participant in tech innovation and a credit union that really wanted to do what it could on its own.
In fact, a desire to keep using its own in-house online banking platform while deepening its foray into personal finance management and social networking combined to land Stanford FCU at Geezeo's front door in the first place, according to the credit union's vice president of e-commerce, Ali Shafai.
SFCU already offers aggregation to its members, using a solution that originated with the former Teknowledge Corp., whose technology was sold to Intuit Inc. in 2005. The maker of Quicken has since acquired online banking vendor Digital Insight, of course, and is now offering its own PFM called FinanceWorks.
"Intuit has told us that they are going to sunset the Teknowledge product as we know it today and repackage it with Digital Insight and FinanceWorks. We have quite a customized online banking platform of our own, and we didn't wish to move away from it, so the announcement from Intuit kind of forced our decision," Shafai said.
He added, "There are a lot of players out there doing PFM right now, and as a consumer, I tried a lot of them-Wesabe, Geezeo, Quicken Online, the list goes on and on. We really liked the white-label aspect of this, something nobody else was doing at the time that I was aware of."
Shafai said SFCU plans to begin rolling out the Geezeo functionality this fall, introducing in phases such features as budgeting and planning tools, financial decisioning articles, alerts available through everything from e-mail to RSS and text messages, and, of course, aggregation.
"Our members' entire financial picture will be right there on one page, no matter which other credit unions or other financial institutions they do business with," he said.
It also will help keep members from straying, unlike some of the other major PFM providers, Geezeo's Ward said, such as Mint, "which has a goal of almost commoditizing a credit union or bank relationship by trying to put people into different financial products from different institutions. That can be a real threat to a credit union or a bank."
Meanwhile, social networking, among members and with subject experts, also will be in the package, in a nice, confined setting "where we can moderate how people interact with each other and with us as they share their financial experiences," Shafai said.
Shafai, who describes himself as "a big fan of Twitter," said SFCU has seen a growing need a robust social networking presence as the 47,000-member CU approached and then passed the billion-dollar mark.
But he also said he sees its limitations so far.
"We've seen what some other credit unions have done as far as incorporating online banking tools, for instance, with Facebook. It's been a pretty costly endeavor with rather dismal results in terms of gains realized for investment made," the SFCU e-commerce executive said.
"There hasn't been the excitement or usage from those pages that I think they'd like to see," he said. "I think this is something we're definitely going to try to address as we move into this whole social networking phenomenon."
Ward at Geezeo said his company also considers the social networking aspect of its platform to be "incredibly important" as he and his partner, co-founder Peter Glyman, make their second foray into taking a financial consumer product to the institutional market.
Their GainsKeeper solution for individual stock traders grew to five million end users before it was eventually sold to Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, Ward said, and he feels the PFM market has just as much potential, despite the presence of so many participants.
"Stanford is our first signed deal, but we are in late-stage discussions with four or five others and overall have been working about 35 credit unions so far," he said.
"I look at it from this point of view: There are 16,000 banks and credit unions out there and less than a hundred of them are using an integrated PFM solution," Ward said. "That's really a large untapped market."