Rocket Money is a fintech company that offers an all-in-one personal finance app that allows its users to find and cancel subscriptions, cancel recurring changes, track their expenses, and manage all their finances in a single app. The app also helps users to lower their bills, manage their savings, and track and understand their credit score.
Wagestream is a company that offers a mobile app that allows employees to access their paychecks and benefits information on their phones. The app also allows employees to set-up automated savings, choose how and when they get paid, and get visibility on their spending.
SingSaver is a Singapore-based personal finance comparison platform. The platform helps consumers save time and money in making decisions related to financial products like loans, insurance, and credit cards.
Venmo, a mobile payment app, is partnering with Mastercard to offer a Venmo Credit Card. The card will work like any other credit card but will allow users to pay with Venmo either in-store or online.
Mission Lane is a US-based fintech startup that aims to help Americans get access to financial tools they need like debit and credit cards. The company offers a debit card with no minimum balance, a credit builder loan, and a mobile app for managing gig work and tracking their income.
MyPayNow is an Australian financial services company that offers a platform for on-demand pay. The app allows employees to access up to a quarter of their pay early, each pay cycle. The platform also uses AI to perform quick and seamless assessment with no employer contact.
Neo Financial is a Canadian financial technology company that provides online and mobile financial products and services. Its mobile app that allows users to track their expenses, manage their finances, invest, save, or borrow money.
Trend Highlight – New Banking Built on Old Tools
Fundamental needs don't change much, but interfaces do. As writing moved from Microsoft Word to in-browser apps, the spell-check chrome extension Grammarly capitalized on this change of interface and built a $1B+ business.
Similarly, the fundamental problems of personal finance haven't changed: don't run out of money, do save for important purchases. But today, one of the most widely used interfaces for tending to different tasks is Google Sheets.
It turns out that Google Sheets is used for a wide variety of non-spreadsheet task: searching Google for use Google Sheets to returns comments on sites like Reddit and Twitter involving project management, budgeting, investing, and even shopping for groceries or watering plants.
With its adaptable featureset and universal accessibility, Google Sheets has become a sort of "digital duct tape" - a common phenomenon, as exemplified by email inboxes that serve as to-do lists and spreadsheets that function as databases.
Tiller, a personal finance tool, competes with companies like Mint by letting users simply connect their bank account to Google Sheets and do all their financial planning and organization using a familiar interface.
Then there's a clever SEO strategy used by software tool companies similar to Tiller. Google sometimes ranks pages on the Google.com domain especially high because of the reputation as a trusted domain. Software tool company Smartsheets takes advantage of this and has made various Google Sheets templates that rank high in Google search for terms like "google sheets budget template", but with many of the spreadsheet's cells filled with links back to their site.
Tiller's pricing model fits their product: they offer a free one-month trial, then a $79 annual subscription. The free trial is an opportunity for Tiller to raise the user's sunk cost by getting them to spend time customizing the product. Since a personal finance product saves the user money over time, Tiller has pricing power once they've demonstrated that it works.
Trend Highlight – A New Way of Reaching Finance-Oriented Consumers
Truebill, a personal finance tool, has sidestepped the traditional strategies its competitors use when acquiring new users who are searching on Google. Instead of ranking for meta terms like "personal finance", they focus on ranking for specific problems people have like cancelling subscriptions.
Half of Truebill's traffic comes from search and, of that, over 80% comes from searches like "how to cancel Instacart" and "how to cancel Equinox". As many businesses migrate to a subscription-based model, consumer's bank statements are increasingly full of monthly payments. Truebill is a classic personal finance management tool, like Mint, but with a twist: for cable, phone, and security bills, they negotiate with the service provider to get a better rate, and then split the difference with users.
Some businesses strategically target users looking up, via search, how to cancel their service. This way they can control the pipeline and attempt to downgrade rather than outright cancel. For example, Hulu runs ads on the search term "how to cancel Hulu" in an attempt to own this cancelation journey and, ultimately, to get the user to stay. Conversely, brands like Spotify and BarkBox do not rank #1 for their respective "how to cancel" queries and are therefore missing out on a retention opportunity. By sliding into the search results for these queries, Truebill is able to sidestep a highly competitive and more expensive avenue for user acquisition used by its competitors.
These sorts of opportunities exist for nearly every industry.
Instead of ranking for "lead generation", tools that do exactly that will sometimes rank for name+company+email with a dynamic landing page for each of the leads in their database. And with the robocall blocking app RoboKiller, nearly 90% of the site's 1M monthly visits come from search, but searches for "RoboKiller" only account for 0.5%—in fact, the vast majority originate from people trying to identify the phone number that just called them. This works because the company has generated around 1 million landing pages for individual phone numbers—one for each number that people commonly search after getting a robocall.
Trend Highlight – The Rise of Credit Builder Cards
The credit builder card is a consumer finance hack: it's not really a credit card, and its target audience doesn't use credit cards. According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, 22% of the adult population doesn't have any meaningful credit history. And everyone who gets a credit card needs a first credit card. Enter the Credit Builder Card. One company actually uses the "Credit Builder Card" branding for their product. This company offers secured cards requiring a $200 deposit, available without a credit check. The card has a $200 credit limit—so while it's technically a credit card, in practice it's a pre-loaded debit card that reports to credit bureaus like a credit card.
Like many entry-level financial products, the point is to cheaply acquire users in some underserved niche, and then hope that some of them will upgrade to more lucrative products. CreditBuilderCard.com is a white-label provider for these cards, and partners with companies that help consumers rebuild credit. Meanwhile, personal finance lead-gen sites like NerdWallet and Credit Karma aggressively market their cards to first-time credit card users.
The credit builder card is designed to help users raise their FICO score and qualify for traditional cards, which are much more lucrative for issuers and processors. This card illustrates how important credit access is, in two ways: first, that almost every adult needs a credit score—for a mortgage, an apartment lease, a car loan, even an employer background check. So a credit card that exists entirely to give the user a FICO score is actually a useful product.
It also shows how ubiquitous credit is. Most Americans use credit cards, and most cardholders already have multiple cards: TransUnion estimated in 2017 that the average cardholder had 2.7 credit cards. Marketing a credit card to someone who already has two or three is tough; it's established that they use the product (good), but the competition to market to them, and then get them to actually spend on the card, is fierce. At that point, the best way to sell someone an additional card might be to track down the people who haven't used one at all.
Trend Highlight – Cash Envelopes
Sometimes friction in a product is a feature, not a bug.
Payment technologies are designed around reducing the friction in payments—from credit cards to Paypal to contactless, each step makes both the spending decision and the payment process simpler. But for some people, this leads to spending more than they'd like to. For many, counting down with debit cards leads to much better spending behavior than counting up with credit cards.
An increasingly popular solution to this problem is the "cash envelopes" strategy: setting a budget, then withdrawing enough cash to pay for it, and putting cash in an envelope that corresponds to the spending category. This is part of a broader category of friction-as-a-feature products, among products like screen time monitors that stop users when they’ve spent too long staring.
Meanwhile, Amazon listings for cash envelopes, budget binders, and related products are soaring. And like many self-improvement related searches, interest in cash envelopes peaks during New Years Resolution season, in early January.
The cash envelope approach is partly a mental hack as giving up physical cash feels like losing something, so consumers think twice about spending it. It's a response to the fact that credit cards and other payments are designed to feel almost like free money; some cash envelope users say that moving money from one envelope to another feels like borrowing, even though it just means spending money they've already earned.
One surprising reason cash envelopes are more popular is that even though cash is getting less common, it's also becoming less of a bad deal. In the early 1980s, short-term certificates of deposit could yield up to 18%, meaning that holding cash instead of keeping money in a bank account was an expensive proposition. Now, with bank accounts generally offering under 1% returns, the cost of foregone interest is a rounding error—while the cost of overspending is all too real. Budgeting has been on a multi-decade upswing in the US, as the decline of defined-benefit pension plans and the rise of self-managed retirement plans puts more control in the hands of individual savers, but also forces them to make hard decisions if they're going to achieve financial freedom.
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