Friday, February 20, 2009

Would You Want Your Financial Info Broadcast On Facebook?

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Australian mega-bank ANZ has combined finance with web 2.0. They’ve partnered with US-based SmartyPig to develop a widget that can display your savings goals and track your progress towards the goal, then display it on your MySpace or Facebook page. And they developed this why?

Before I drop my two cents in, here’s the specs:

  • Developed to reach Gen-Y
  • App displays your financial goals/progress on Facebook for your friends to see
  • SmartyPig was founded with the goal of trying to thwart Gen-Y’s “spend now” attitude
  • Users can choose to save cash plus interest or convert money into a gift card (for some reason I feel like this contradicts the prior bullet)
  • ANZ claims the goal is to teach financial responsibility and promote savings, rather than sustain a reliance to credit (again, appears to contradict the above bullet)

I commend ANZ for making an attempt to embrace the direction that both technology and communication are heading. And they’re correct, Generation Y communicates differently than other generations, and saves money differently – in that they really don’t. I honestly do not know too many individuals my age that are saving, and are instead choosing to life for today. So I want to make it extremely clear, that any effort to change the savings habits of Gen-Y is excellent.

However, I think this is a classic case where a company attempts to align themselves with a younger generation by utilizing a technology that does not fit with its product offering.

Mint.com works – it’s not social networking, but it’s a service that tracks and categorizes your personal expenses so that consumers are aware of their spending habits. Best of all, you can utilize mint.com from a convenient, FREE, iPhone app. The reason it works, is because it utilizes technology Gen-Y embraces, it’s free, and it easy to use. More importantly, it keeps your expenses private.

ANZ’s new app does not work. Yes, Echo Boomers use social networking. Yes, Echo Boomers bank. But this does not mean that A + B = C. “This therefore that” logic does not apply in this situation. As an Echo Boomer, I want to use Facebook, but that does not mean that I want all of my “friends” to know my current financial situation. Especially, since a lot of my “friends” really aren’t friends – they’re people I’ve met at parties, met while backpacking Europe, or met at a conference. And in a few situations, I confirmed their friend request out of feeling obligated to do so. Yes, most are my friends, but a good portion are just contacts – and in no way do I want my far reaching contacts to have access to my financials.

Excellent effort; well intentioned; poorly thought through.

Can any of you think of other examples of products/services/apps that were targeted at Gen-Y that totally missed the boat?

-Josh Groth

1 comment:

Cooie said...

Josh,

Thanks for the post. My name is Michael Ferrari and I'm one of the co-founders of SmartyPig. Saw your post come across my alerts. I spend a great deal of my time each and every day listening to customer feedback, thoughts and suggestions. And jump in whenever I can.

I started SmartyPig as a way to help people save money for specific goals in their life. Be it a down payment on a house or apartment, an emergency fund, a Wii, a MacBook Pro or a family vacation. And in doing so I thought it would be great to let people make these goals "public" allowing friends and family to contribute. And in making them "public" give users the opportunity to share their gals on their social networking site of choice (if they choose) like Facebook, MySpace, their personal blog or their desktop. Our widget platform is built on the Clearspring technology http://www.clearspring.com/. In doing so, it provides an opportunity to let others know what you are saving and allows friends and family the chance to contribute to your interest-bearing goals. Don't want that "sweater" for your birthday, perfect, please contribute to my "Trip to Honduras" goal instead.

Again, the social side of SmartyPig is optional. Our goal is to help change the mindset of "buy now, pay later". And in doing so, should you choose, SmartyPig has some great features to help you get the word out to friends and family be it moral support or financial support.

Some quick stats:
66% of our customers in the U.S. are under the age of 35
1 out of every 3 goals created on SmartyPig are public

You can see my public SmartyPig page on the US site here:
http://www.smartypig.com/friends-goals
Just type in my email address:
mferrari(at)smartypig(dot)com

Or find me on Facebook and you can see how the widget works, too.

Be on the lookout for our mobile site soon as well as integration with sites like Yodlee, Mint, Wesabe, and Geezeo... We've actually blogged about it on our US site here, but we are really excited about rolling these new features out:
http://blog.smartypig.com/read/new-features-on-smartypig

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts. Really appreciate it.

Mike Ferrari, SmartyPig co-founder
@mferrari

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