Brookfield, Wis. – Take an online banking application, deliver it on a youth-oriented platform like Facebook, mix in a little viral marketing, and suddenly you have the possibility of a financial software juggernaut.
Since the inception of online banking more than a decade ago, online banks have struggled to keep pace with web-based innovations, according to Michelle Price, technology editor for the London-based magazine, and one of 12 contest judges. In particular, online banking has yet to leverage the so-called Web 2.0 software tools and services, which is what made MyMoney’s marriage to Facebook so unique.
The Banker’s technology awards celebrate innovation in all areas of banking technology, and it was MyMoney’s connection to Facebook, the online social networking channel, that they found innovative.
“I believe now, more than ever, it is vital for banks to think about ways to build out their online functionality with such tools, and to revise the model by which they will offer banking services in the online realm,” Price wrote in an e-mail.
With MyMoney, consumers can access banking services right from their Facebook profile, with multiple layers of security, including Facebook’s own SSL encryption, protecting their personal information and accounts. The Facebook platform enables companies and developers to build applications for the Facebook website, where its 100 million users can interact with them. For MyMoney, the target market is Gen Y consumers, a coveted demographic for credit unions.
There is nothing extraordinary about the first release of MyMoney, which allows users to view account balances and history, and transfer funds. Price indicated that MyMoney was built using the existing tools like the Facebook development platform, Visual Studio 2005, Windows Communications Server 2008, and SQL Server 2000. As such, she wrote that it did not harness cutting- or bleeding-edge technologies.
“It did, however, use established technologies in an inventive way,” she noted. “This was more striking to the judges, as The Banker Technology Awards seeks to reward the business process and results of the technology, rather than the actual technology per se.”
MyMoney was developed by Fiserv Galaxy, a business line of the Milwaukee-based Fiserv, a Fortune 500 provider of information technology services to the financial industry.
“Nobody had really taken a look at, `How do I service Gen Ys and Gen Xs through the delivery channel of Facebook,’” said Jay Slavin, senior vice president for Galaxy.
MyMoney also leverages the viral marketing opportunities presented by Facebook. When the application is added to a user’s Facebook profile, the user’s friends are notified and given the opportunity to add it to their profiles. In addition, Facebook users can sign up to be a “fan” of the application, enabling them to offer what amounts to an online testimonial to MyMoney.
It’s the kind of market reach that only the Internet can make possible. “It’s in Facebook, and that allows you to be in front of over 100 million people that are using Facebook,” Slavin said, “as well as viral marketing, which is something new in the financial arena in terms of how to use that successfully to market your products or services.”
MyMoney, which is only available to Galaxy clients, is used by about 40 credit unions, and roughly 1,700 Facebook users have signed up for it so far. With more promotion planned, Galaxy expects those numbers to grow significantly.
Subsequent releases of MyMoney will focus on attracting, retaining, and enriching the bank or credit union member experience, perhaps including an interactive educational component on personal finance.
According to Slavin, there are a number of new features on the table, and one or two will be demonstrated in mid October at the Finovate 2008 Conference Demo, a demonstration of financial applications. It was at the 2007 Finovate conference where Mortgagebot, a Mequon-based online lending service, was among the companies winning Best of Show.
Price believes that banking services will have to become flexible and meet the expectations of customers whose eyeballs are increasingly trained on social networks, which is why MyMoney on Facebook is such a revelation. “It demonstrated forward-thinking views on the future of web-based banking services, embracing an alternative channel that has been a proven success,” noted Price.
To Paul Gibler, principal consultant for the Madison-based ConnectingDots, the MyMoney-Facebook marriage is a rare example of leveraging today’s technology when so much focus is on developing the next generation.
“I think sometimes there are opportunities to take what we’re doing, or use technology that we already have and put it into new channels, and I think MyMoney on Facebook is a great example of how to do that,” Gibler said. “Certainly, if you look at some of the things like the widgets that people are developing, that might be new technology but a lot of it is taking things that are done elsewhere and turning it into a tool that can be used.”