Friday, 21 January 2011

Will Money Dashboard change the way people save in the UK?

This week saw the launch of a new UK based personal finance (PF) site. Money Dashboard moves squarely in to the territory, not quite conquered by Wesabe and definitely vacated by Kublax after its demise in early 2010.

Operating in the same way and utilising the same backend technology as the hugely successful US PF solution,, Money Dashboard's CEO, Gavin Littlejohn is hoping that providing customers with the ability to aggregate their current, savings, credit card, loan and other accounts into one place, and displaying it through an easy to understand online dashboard, will allow them to analyse their financial health holistically and make the appropriate investment decisions for themselves. “Here in the UK, there is very little access to financial advice. Most people don’t know their bank managers, and few people have access to a financial adviser,” says Littlejohn. has been quick to point out some of the potential security risks of the site, but as a read only environment, the risk of fraud is minimal. In fact went on to state 'In five or ten years, this could be so common that all today's security whines and gripes look like childish folly'. They then make the bold claim that this could be a glimpse of the future of UK banking. Certainly account aggregation services recently launched by First Direct and Egg suggest that there are some very real concerns about the impact of online PF sites. If the US and Canada based's 4m customers are anything to go by the concerns would appear valid.

Money Dashboard is in an interesting space. Solutions similar to the service have either come and gone, or not quite taken off yet in the UK, however with solid angel investment backing totalling $3m, there is plenty of scope to have a good pitch at success. When it comes down to it though, success could all rest on Mint's future global expansion plans. If those plans are imminent and the UK is a target, Money Dashboard could struggle.

Friday, 14 January 2011

How financial services brands are using Quora

Something happened over Christmas. A hitherto quiet little start-up social network, that had gained a little traction in H2 2010, suddenly exploded into life. In the first week of 2011 every second tweet and all the headline technology articles seemed to be about Quora.

So what is Quora? It's slightly more complex than your average social network, but has been described as a combination of Twitter, Linked In Answers and Yahoo Answers. You can find out a little more here or here. Essentially the promise is, that it will build communities around core specialities, meaning that if you are looking for an opinion or just a straightforward answer to a question - about anything - those questions can be addressed by 'experts' as opposed to an amorphous mass with a passing interest in the subject. So far, so good.

However, as Vikki Chowney pointed out this week the low volume of users and sheer volume of content that is being posted is leaving an awful lot unanswered, or alternatively there can be a similar echo chamber feel that can sometimes come from spending too much time on Twitter, and as a result the service maybe just requires a watching brief at present.

Interestingly though where brands are engaging in this new network the content is becoming very rich and there are a couple of financial services brands that have thrown themselves in to it. Bank Simple has really embraced it with open arms, with a strong presence and engagement in some tough and complex questions around its place in the market and its offering. Similarly has engaged with the site tackling challenging questions head on.

Both of these engagements hint at the possibilities of effectively tackling extremely challenging customer issues online in a way that possibly couldn't in some other online forums. The site therefore holds a new potential for more direct online reputation management.

Quora is undoubtedly more transparent than the vast majority of social sites and therefore arguably, quality and consideration of answers is higher than some of the throw away comments that can occur in other online destinations. Whether it's successful or not is the million (actually, probably billion) dollar question, but it certainly seems one of the strongest new social network contenders for some time.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The gamification of Financial Services

In recent months financial services brands have increasingly been turning to gaming experiences as a way of engaging their audiences with fun online brand experiences.

Last October Barclays launched 56 Sage Street a role playing game aimed at educating users about how to make and then safeguard money through hard work and the avoidance of scamming.

Similarly in the US, Bank of America developed the Morris Code specifically aimed at educating college students around managing their finances. Largely video-based it aims to deliver the content in a fun and engaging way and interestingly buries the Bank of America brand as far away as it possibly can.

This week a US start up Payoff launched their personal financial planning service as a game experience. Picking up on some of the features of Facebook and Foursquare, it allows users to set financial goals such as paying off a loan, which in turn can earn them badges which can then be turned into real cash rewards. It has effectively taken some of the classic features of Social Networking and activated them in real terms.

The increase in the use of gaming as well as video as a marketing platform really is a mirror to what consumers actually spend their time doing on the net and how they most enjoy consuming content. Good marketing has always relied on providing an extension of an experience that makes the audience feel good, which is why we should expect to see a lot more gaming-type approaches throughout 2011.