Click your stopwatches, because the end of the fast-mover phase of online personal financial management is officially over.
Now come the slow, second-wave adopters — and they spell trouble for any venture still playing the standalone PFM game.
Specially, three established financial services companies — Visa, Wells Fargo, and American Express — have launched their own PFMs over the last several weeks. I have little doubt that more PFMs will come.
The first online PFM of note, Wesabe, launched in 2005; Mint.com opened its site in 2007. From there, it was a slow and steady watch-and-learn for Old School FS. Now, the mega financial services companies are doing their own PFMs, and that will obliterate any uniqueness enjoyed by the current iterations of standalone PFMs. In fact, it is only a matter of time before rank-and-file community banks will need to include PFM functionality in their online banking.
This has been a slow process since the first off-the-shelf, white-label PFM platform for banks launched in 2008. But like that famous tortoise, the banks have come around.
The three companies to start PFMs most recently enjoyed more than 22 million unique visitors per month on the websites. Mint.com gets less than 1.4 million uniques.
I’ve said repeatedly that standalone ventures will have a herculean challenge competing with the kind of traffic numbers of the top banks. And still, the big financial services companies are introducing strong feature sets as part of their PFMs. For example, Visa allows for an integrated SMS payments monitoring feature within banks’ existing online services, such as PNC’s Virtual Wallet. American Express offers the full compliment of tagging to allow consumers to better segment and understand their finances. Wells’s PFM has the colorful look of a Mint.
SCREENSHOTS OF WELLS FARGO’S PFM
All this took about two years. Banks historically are brilliant imitators, and online PFM has been mimicked, too. If this is any indication, we should see mobile banking apps from Old School FS worth using in, say, 2013. Let the long wait begin.