With Credit Karma, Intuit to boost personalization

Image via Credit Karma

Intuit, the business and financial software company behind TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint, plans to buy personal finance platform Credit Karma for $7.1 billion, the companies announced this week.

The deal, according to Intuit, will allow Credit Karma to zero in on creating a “financial identity” for customers and allow their data to be used for their benefit, Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi said in a call with investors Tuesday.

For Intuit, the acquisition of Credit Karma provides access to the 13-year-old startup’s 100 million-plus members and their data. The move also eliminates a potential competitor for Intuit, as Credit Karma began offering a free tax-filing service in 2017 that ate market share from Intuit’s TurboTax. The company said it intends to keep Credit Karma operating as a separate brand.

The deal, according to industry analysts, will allow Intuit to differentiate and strengthen its direct-to-consumer personal finance offering, supported by Credit Karma’s data capabilities. Whether that will translate to an evolution in the platform’s personal finance capabilities remains an open question.

“As financial products and services increasingly become commodities, leaders will differentiate by anticipating consumer’s needs and providing excellent experiences,” said Leslie Parrish, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

To this end, Intuit said the company’s core focus with Credit Karma will be on growing personal loan and credit card referrals, but it would also like to grow auto loans, home loans and insurance products. It identified savings, checking and early direct deposit in the “emerging vertical” category.

According to a Morningstar report, the acquisition is “strategically sound,” deriving synergies that could strengthen Intuit’s efforts to cater to customers’ year-round financial needs.

See also: Credit Karma expands personal finance hub with high-yield savings accounts

Intuit’s history with personal finance app Mint, however, has raised questions around whether an improved, integrated personal finance product will be the ultimate result.

“While the short-term gains for each company are clear, there’s a good chance that in the long-term this deal leaves Credit Karma with reduced brand equity and Intuit with $7 billion less, and neither have a ton to show for it,” said Peter Wannemacher, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Meanwhile, Ron Shevlin, research director at Cornerstone Advisors, wrote that Intuit’s track record of integrating personal finance platforms through acquisitions, particularly Digital Insights in 2007 and Mint in 2009, may not advance Credit Karma’s brand proposition.

“Intuit has a poor track record of integrating acquisitions, and making 1+1=3 in the retail banking space,” Shevlin wrote.

As of March 2018, the Credit Karma’s post valuation was $4 billion, according to Pitchbook. Intuit reported Credit Karma’s latest fiscal year revenue at nearly $1 billion, up 20% year over year.

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