In 1Q2019, for a large bank, I conducted in-person interviews with 10 participants regarding their use of personal finance management (PFM) apps and to understand their views around account aggregation.
Business objectives: increase the number of people actively using digital banking, and drive engagement with the bank’s financial wellness tools.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): increase the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction for people using the bank’s tools.
Findings and Recommendations
- A consolidated view of finances and accounts is valuable, particularly around the themes of time savings and convenience. We should pursue this product idea.
- As part of account aggregation, participants want to be able to transact on their linked external accounts. They do perceive some value in a more basic account linking that only shows top-line balances.
- The account aggregation should be as broad as possible. All possible external accounts have a place in the imagined ideal app – either intermixed with internal accounts or separated, based on participant preference.
- Merchandizing of any account aggregation tools should emphasize the bank’s commitments to data security and privacy, as these were important concerns to all participants.
- Participants rely upon timely and accurate account-level and transaction-level information to make in-the-moment financial decisions.
- Anything we build must complement participants’ existing home-grown financial management solutions (paper or spreadsheets) or must be so obviously better that they would switch methods.
- There is a mild negative correlation between participants’ financial stability and their frequency of budgeting: that is, participants who are more financially stable tend to budget less often, while those who are less financially stable tend to budget more often.
We conducted moderated, in-person interviews with (10) participants. Prior to the interviews, we had them answer a few ‘homework’ questions regarding their frequency of online banking and financial management tasks. During the interviews, we asked the participants to talk about their use of PFM apps. We also showed them paper prototypes (mockups) to stimulate conversation.
Prior to the in-person interviews, participants were asked to answer 3 questions via a survey:
- At how many different financial institutions do they have savings and checking accounts?
- How often do they use their primary bank’s website or mobile app?
- How frequently do they perform various activities on any financial website or mobile app?
Participants were asked questions relating to their current banking behaviors and use of PFM apps or feelings of financial stress.
On Day 2, we added a question designed to get participants to think about the big picture of their finances.
All participants were then shown paper prototypes as stimulus, and asked questions around:
- linked external accounts
- tools & insights
- linked accounts
- net worth
In closing, we asked participants how they felt about the concepts we showed them, if they think their bank could deliver something like this, and how their perception of their bank would change if it did.
Detailed Scenario Observations
The account aggregation idea generates overall positive feedback. Time savings and convenience are major themes.
Even the participant who was a detractor due to privacy concerns and trust issues expressed interest in the concept of account aggregation – but he wouldn’t trust a bank or financial institution to consolidate that much information about him.
How would it change your perspective of a bank / would you switch?
- “It would be lovely if (Bank A) could hang out with (Bank B) and talk.”
- “I would want to be a part of that bank. I would definitely want the app.”
- “They’re trying to make my life easier. But I don’t know if I would switch banks.” – overwhelming to change
- It would improve her opinion – “keeping me organized, my time is precious” – “sometimes doing bills at 11 pm at night” – if it would be quicker, that would help out a lot.
- Overall found the mockup “exciting, amazing, helpful”. Would she switch banks? – “depends upon what promotions you’d provide”
As part of account aggregation, participants want to be able to transact on their linked external accounts. They do perceive some value in a more basic account linking that only shows top-line balances.
- She’d expect to be able do same things in linked accounts, that she does separately.
- It would be awesome to not have to go thru 3 different apps – and that’s not even looking at her student loans which are in 4 or 5 different places. “Even just seeing it would be nice” – even if you can’t pay from the app.
- nice to have it all in one spot – would be faster – if it was all included, to transact on the accounts
- “If I could see it all at once, that would be fantastic.”
- View Details button would be great if “I could transfer money from (Bank A) to pay a bill (inside Bank B’s app)”
- would be easier to remember if all in one place
- transactions – in some way it’s nice to have them all in one place
- overall idea is fine for her – she likes to have everything in one place – likes knowing the totals, entire state of financial situation – beats logging into one account, look there; log into another, look there. Even if couldn’t do anything on external accounts, seeing the top line balance does have some value.
Security of their account and personal information is important to all participants. 9 out of 10 participants would trust their primary bank with external account information. The remaining participant lacked trust in any institution, but his concerns were more around how his data would be used (for marketing or promotion) rather than around information security. Merchandizing of any account aggregation tools should emphasize our bank’s commitments to data security.
Participants vary widely in their personal techniques for financial management. Several use paper, including two who put cash inside envelops as a savings method. A few others use spreadsheets. Anything we build must complement participants’ existing home-grown financial management solutions or must be so obviously better that they would switch methods.
Clustering of participants’ responses reveals the following.
- For internal account organization, 5 participants put all accounts on a single screen, and 5 participants created multiple screens for active accounts vs. less-active accounts (savings, long-term retirement).
- When adding external accounts: 6 participants mixed them with their internal accounts, and 3 kept the external accounts on a separate screen. 1 participant rejected the activity for placing external accounts.
- This finding remained consistent when the participants were shown the information organization mockups at the end of the session.
- When a moderator switched the account organization (from mixed to separate or vice versa), participants were not terribly upset and stated that the ‘opposite’ organization would still be usable. However, they did prefer to have things organized their own way.
- When adding tools, insights, and messages: 4 participants preferred them intermixed with their accounts; 4 participants preferred them on their own screen; and 2 participants put some with accounts and some on their own screen.
There is a mild negative correlation between participants’ financial stability and their frequency of budgeting: that is, participants who are more financially stable tend to budget less often, while those who are less financially stable tend to budget more often (sometimes daily). 10 participants are too few to make any strong statements about the significance of this pattern; more data could be gathered via another research method, if appropriate.