The overall benefits of offering a personal financial management solution have been well debated. What is less debated is that consumers are interested in having PFM options.
Javelin Strategy & Research recently evaluated the state of PFM and found that nearly one in two U.S. consumers want a single view of their finances in one place. More than half of those surveyed said they would be most likely to use a PFM tool offered through their bank or credit union.
PFM demand has been driven by an evolving industry landscape that places more emphasis on self-service and remote delivery channels. No longer is PFM viewed as simply a budgeting tool, but instead a way for members to truly get a grasp of their finances and a way for credit unions to solidify current member relationships. With financial institutions losing account holders at an average of 8% a year, this becomes pretty important.
However, not all PFM tools are created equal. Here are five essential features to look for in a PFM.
Unique Mobile User Experience
Account holders don’t just expect an engaging and interactive user experience, they demand it. Now, they demand it on their smartphone, tablet and desktop. In a world where mobile app use is overtaking traditional Internet channels, everything is expected to cater to a mobile device. This is especially true for PFM. User experience depends on a member’s ability to manage their finances at anytime, and from anywhere.
However, just offering a mobile option is not enough. To maximize mobile PFM, a mobile device must provide an interactive, easy-to-navigate user interface that gives members the same great experience they receive on a desktop. If not, account holders will either lose motivation or find someone else who provides the mobile experience they want.
Of the 17 specific PFM features evaluated in the Javelin study, “viewing all account balances in one place” was the feature most requested by respondents. Accurate account portrayal in one location is especially important today. FICO reports that consumers have an average of 13 credit obligations, not including checking and savings accounts. With so many accounts to manage, aggregation is becoming a financial necessity, not just a convenience.
The key to successful account aggregation is instantaneous synching. With members expecting immediate access to information, it’s important to offer a PFM solution that quickly and securely syncs all financial account information across each channel.
There is power in knowing where your money is going. Account holders need to know what they spend, where they spend and when they spend. Your PFM should offer spending history in real time and be presented in a way that engages members to stay on top of their transactions.
By providing a place for members to meaningfully interact with their finances on a daily basis, the credit union positions itself as a partner in the member’s pursuit of their financial goals. A responsible spending account holder will also have added capital to invest in the institution.
Needless to say, people are generally not excited about budgeting. However, it’s been stated that more than 80% of Americans consistently spend more than they make. Not surprisingly, a recent National Financial Literacy Survey states that 56% of households don’t have a budget at all. Though a good PFM plan offers far more than simple budgeting capabilities, successful financial management depends on responsible and thought-out planning.
To motivate members to budget wisely, PFM needs to be creative. Pie charts and bar graphs are boring, and don’t clearly portray budget status. Find a PFM that offers engaging and eye-catching ways for members to tackle budgeting. If the process is enjoyable they will begin viewing budgeting not as a hassle, but as a financial quest, introducing an element of gamification.
The average American is approximately $47,000 in debt. To put that in perspective, it is more than the average American makes in a year. With discouraging numbers like this, PFM tools that simply present overall net worth serve as a depressing kick in the gut to its user. Instead, your PFM should help account holders manage debt and set debt reduction goals.
Choose a PFM with features that help members understand their debt, including: what is owed, how long it will take to pay off and how much principal vs. interest is being paid. Your PFM should also help members make personalized debt reduction goals based on actual spending habits and present net-worth in small, manageable increments. By doing so, dedicated PFM users will be motivated by week-to-week improvement on their road to positively changing their overall financial outlook.