Is ‘Social Finance’ Better When It’s Anonymous?

Medean–a P2P financial planner– wants to use the power of social to change consumer behavior—but instead of stacking user financials up against their friends, it’s only tackling demographic factors.

The startup, which showed off its technology in Startup Alley at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference yesterday, works by feeding user data into an algorithm from five demographic categories: the user’s age, gender, location, income, and marital status.

The algorithm then compares those categories to others with similar data.

“The concept is what we like to call peer-to-peer financial planning. So, we’re really trying to decentralize the financial services [sector] by crowdsourcing it,” Erik Skjodt, founder of Medean, told Bank Innovation. “We show you how they compare—how much you’re spending on different categories like housing, how much you’re saving this month—pretty much any financial factor, we’re going to compare you with your peer group.”

Users will then receive a “Medean score,” or a financial score, based on where their financials fit with others of the same demographics. The algorithm will also provide users with their top three financial weaknesses based on this data—right now, Medean has mined data from about 100,000 users for comparison—which is where the behavioral change comes into play.

The service taps into the kind of “social competitiveness” many of us are familiar seeing on social media, according to Skjodt.

Social finance, or integrating aspects of what makes social media so popular into everyday consumer finance, is being explored by more and more startups–apps that prompt users to share their saving/investing progress with friends–with many running into the same barrier: people are not comfortable talking about their money.

It’s such an established cultural behavior that banks like Citi have run marketing campaigns based on it.

Medean’s service, however, is social finance made anonymous—users aren’t matching their financial data against the people in their existing social media networks, just against an aggregate pool of users with similar demographics.

“Our goal really is to change the way in which people view finance,” Skjodt said, adding that since the service is using a consumer’s peer group, rather than past spending (like budgeting apps such as Mint, for instance), it can offer “a more realistic approach” for financial behaviors.

Medean will be launching a mobile app later in the year, according to Skjodt, and is currently operating with about 250 beta users.