The $11 million Brooklyn Cooperative FCU has received a $300,000 grant from the Center for Financial Services Innovation to help develop the financial institution interface for a social network savings program.
Once successful, the interface promises to make the program technically available to many other credit unions and may allow them to offer it to their members.
The program is called Piggymojo and its designed to both make saving money subject to some of the same impulses that tend to favor spending and to make money a topic of more cooperation than contention for couples.
"We like Piggymojo for a couple of reasons," explained Brooklyn Cooperative CEO Samira Rajan. "First, it brings the powerful social networking dynamic to savings, a place where it really has not been as much before and it also helps make money something couples and families discuss and where they can find common ground."
The credit union also likes Piggymojo because its primary communications media are Twitter or text programs. This puts Piggymojo squarely in the center of a technology that some of the community development credit union’s members are already using, Rajan added.
Piggymojo makes savings a matter for cooperation by urging users to sign up as couples or families and by urging users to designate other friends or family members as cheerleaders for the savings efforts. The program uses the Twitter or text message technology to bring savings into the realm of impulse action, a behavior currently dominated by spending.
For example, a couple might decide to make their savings more cooperative if they decided to stop arguing about money and to instead decide on a savings goal they can both support, a vacation or down payment on a house for example. If the amount they decide to save for vacation over the course of a year is $2,000 and calculate they will need to save roughly $40 per week.
After registering with Piggymojo and giving their mobile phone numbers, they are each able to text the site to reflect their savings activity, such as forgoing an coffee out or walking to something rather than taking a cab and how much money they saved by doing that. The site then adds that amount to their savings total and texts the partner about the savings, spurring them in turn to find a savings opportunity.
For example, Jim is at the movies with his buddies. While his friends are lined up for popcorn and soda, he decides to pass on the treats and sends a text message to Piggymojo. In the Piggymojo format, the message says "$7 no movie treats" Piggymojo then sends Jim’s wife, Della, a message: "Jim just made a good save! ‘$7 no movie treats’. And you? You have $15 left to go."
Della’s phone buzzes with the message from Piggymojo while she is shopping for winter boots. She reads that Jim has saved $7 toward their emergency fund and that she has $15 left to meet her weekly savings goal. She picks a pair of cheaper boots than she had originally planned on and puts the $12 difference toward their shared goal of an emergency fund. She texts Piggymojo: "$12 cheaper boots." Jim immediately receives news of her savings. In this way each save creates momentum.
Currently, this is the extent of Piggymojo's ability. To really fulfill their savings goals, once or twice a week Jim or Della has to log into their individual or joint online banking site and manually move the money from checking into the savings vehicle they are using.
This is a program weakness because the impulse saving is not really an impulse savings if it doesn't happen immediately. And it is the weakness that the CUs work should help overcome, Rajan explained.
Brooklyn Cooperative's grant will help defray the cost of integrating Piggymojo into the credit union’s core processing system so that, in the future, when someone texts their savings to the site, they will also effectively move that amount of money from a checking account to a savings account.
"With this grant we get to take a huge step forward," said Rajan. "Users will be able to link their checking and savings accounts to Piggymojo so that when they make an impulse save the money moves from their checking account into their savings account. Not only does this make an impulse save more satisfying, it makes the savings real: Jim and Della’s emergency fund will grow with each save they make."
"Our goal with the grant was to be able to offer Piggymojo service to our members as well as maybe to use it to introduce more people to the CU. We are very excited about this very cool idea," Rajan said.