In this deep-dive webinar, MX clients shared insights into how digital money management is shaping the way they interact with their account holders. Guest panelists include Rita Sly from ATB Financial, Rob Cummings from Mountain America CU, Rick Claypoole from Cadence Bank, and our CEO Ryan Caldwell.
Here are some highlights:
We offered two different PFMs prior to offering MX, but we never really saw dramatic adoption. ... We went from 5 percent adoption to well over 50 percent adoption by moving to MX.
- Rob Cummings
Seeing people’s facial expressions and the way they interacted with the product confirmed to me that we were on the right path. It's been very positive ever since.
- Rick Claypoole
What I've enjoyed most about working with MX is that they translate their passion and vision not only into an amazing product, which is where I get to delight my customers, but they also get me there far faster than if I were to do it within my enterprise.
- Rita Sly
It was just remarkable when we flipped the switch at the first of this year. Our user population doubled, our adoption percentages almost doubled.
- Rick Claypoole
We introduced the product about six months ago ... and as of right now we're at a 43% adoption in those first 6 months. ... It just worked. It worked in terms of the utility — in terms of aggregation and alerts, etc. And it was intuitive and easy, so our customers picked it up right away. We got tremendously positive feedback from our employee base.
- Rita Sly
MX thinks about the business problems we're trying to solve — that's probably the thing they do for us as well as anything. I do banking for a living. I'm not a technology person ... and so I need people who are really expert in technology to help me think through technology problems, and that's where MX has really helped us.
- Rick Claypoole
MX clearly delivered on their vision and continues to deliver on their vision. They have proven not only that they work well with us, but they also work very well with our mobile provider and our online provider.
And we did indeed get the adoption that we were only dreaming of two years ago. ... As a matter of fact, our adoption of our mobile products overall has actually accelerated significantly in the last year as we've really done more integration with MX and increased our pace of innovation.
- Rob Cummings
The idea of a financial institution being a highly proactive advocate for each and every one of their end users is essentially what MX is all about .
- Ryan Caldwell
To see how MACU achieved over 40% adoption of digital money management in just five months, download the MACU case study.
Below is a simplified Q&A writeup based on the webinar. Sections have been tightened, rearranged, and edited for readability. Enjoy!
What are the high level trends that you see impacting financial institutions?
People's expectations have completely changed. You listen to folks like Brett King and others, and you realize we simply need to stop thinking like a bank and start thinking more like a technology company. … It's about empowering consumers with tools and resources because consumers are ultimately taking a stronger interest in their financial health. Whether that’s being well-researched and informed before talking with their bank or advisor, or whether it's making decisions on their own, ultimately there's that layer where banks are really striving to be a trusted transactional partner. ...
We're seeing the same trends: First, there’s new competition in the space, not just from other financial institutions but from competitors of all types — even Google and Apple and companies we would not traditionally think of in the financial services space. Second, with people being so busy and doing so many things right now, we're seeing a lot of expectation for simplicity and avoiding work — or what members perceive as work. Third, we’re seeing innovation in our space drive away our biggest customer base: Millennials. And so we need to combat that by making sure that we're innovating as rapidly as everyone else. Fourth, self-service is a really big trend. And I mean that not just in terms of how consumers do things for themselves, but also in the way that members are finding out about things. It used to be that if you wanted to find information about a mortgage you would talk to somebody who knows about mortgages. And they would be your trusted advisor. But members today are really looking to discover this on their own. They're using Google as their trusted advisor where they used to use experts in the industry. And so that’s a trend we need to make sure we’re careful to acknowledge and provide the solutions that will actually allow us to retain the business that we used get because they used to come in to talk to our experts, and that's not happening anymore. I definitely see those as the four trends that are shaping what we're trying to do right now.
Every year it seems increasingly more challenging to acquire customers — particularly quality customers — and put the emphasis on what you're doing in terms of retention. It’s harder to make sure you're providing the type of info customers will stay for because if you're not doing that you're going to lose them and they're impossible to get back at that point in time. The revenue profile, the quality consumer prospect, the pool of those folks isn't very deep and so if you're not providing the types of services that are in demand, you really have no shot whatsoever.
In the past, customer service was based on whether there was a person you could talk to. But the modern paradigm has shifted significantly. In the modern paradigm, Millennials want a way to interact digitally. They find they can get more information — more reliable information, richer information — through digital channels. They also find that they can often get the solution faster. Now, if the digital channel goes wrong, they want to know that they can quickly get to a human. They want to make sure that they have that backup, so that's an important aspect to customer service. But for a lot of Millennials, their first method is to take a digital path.
What is the future vision of your financial institution and how does it take those trends into consideration?
I need to build a strong customer base to create a stable funding source to support the commercial activities of the bank, and that's why the solutions that MX provides are an integral part of what we do. ... Financial services are a business built on trust. ... If you don't have credible people to answer those questions, even if it's in the form of digital chat, you're not going to have the trust you need to have successful and enduring relationships.
We are completely owned by our members, and so the vision for our credit union is to help our members reach their financial dreams. That's the only reason that we exist. Everything we do from building branch products to digital products is focused on that. ... Looking at the trends that we're seeing, we have to be able to serve the vast majority of them in a digital way. ... For us, we have to help our members understand their finances. We have to help them understand where they are, and we have to help them understand where they're going. ... What also we're seeing is that our members are looking to self-serve. They're looking to find this information on their own. So we have to help them do that on their own.
You see statements in our ATB story, which is our mission statement, about changing people's lives for the better, using banking to create happiness — how audacious, right? to target happiness? — and all of those things say you need to be values-driven, understand what's important to your customers, and personalize the experience. So gone are the days when we can just put quick calculators out there that stand in isolation. Our statement says, "we're going to be more than a bank," which means we're looking at that more holistic financial health ... We're constantly putting the customer at the center, and the customer will choose their path and their experience. …
What is the vision of MX?
Underlying our vision is a belief in customer and member advocacy. We believe that all modern industries and all future industries will have to be based on advocacy because in the modern economy there's so much choice. No matter what you're buying, no matter what you're ordering, no matter who you're choosing to get services from, there’s an abundance of choice. Maybe 20 years ago, 50 years ago, and definitely 100 years ago, choices were incredibly limited. … If someone wanted an auto loan decades ago they would have to go to their local bank or their local credit union, and they only had a few choices unless they wanted to travel somewhere. These days you can pull out your phone in between walking from the grocery store to the car and search for auto loans and get tens of thousands of search results showing companies who would fight to give you an auto loan.
Because the paradigm has shifted, financial institutions now need to evolve into much more of a modern mindset. They have to act as an advocate for the people they're serving, so consumers will choose to interact with them. Modern paradigms like Google or other modern companies have to constantly be obsessed with the end user, asking, "How am I helping the end user? How am I enriching their life, how am I making it better?" And so you have to anticipate consumer needs at an aggressive pace.
MX was born from and evolved out of the belief that the current solutions for financial solutions aren't able to completely fulfill that vision. We wanted to be a part of empowering financial institutions to help them achieve that. So the idea of a financial institution being a highly proactive advocate for each and every one of their end users is essentially what MX is all about.
How do you see MX fitting into your financial institution and your vision?
Having a partner who is deeply immersed in helping customers with their money is what I need. To have somebody who can be a lens into customer needs is important. What I've enjoyed most about working with MX is that they translate their passion and vision not only into an amazing product, which is where I get to delight my customers, but they also get me there far faster than if I were to do it within my enterprise. If you think less like a bank and more like a technology company you are going to find a partner who is exceptional in the field and leverage their talents. And that's exactly how MX and ATB are partnering together to deliver an amazing experience and ultimately make banking work for our customers.
I remember meeting the MX team and showing the product around my office. Seeing people’s facial expressions and the way they interacted with the product confirmed to me that we were on the right path. It's been very positive ever since.
If I were looking at this from a financial institution's perspective, the thing that is probably the most important aspect of this long term — now short-term, financial institutions should have a deep concern for the end user. But at the end of the day, a financial institution also has to survive. There are a lot of ways a financial institution can take really good care of their end users. For instance, you could make sure that every single end user has a branch within a block of their house — but that's not the wisest way to go about delivering an amazing experience. But there are certain thing you can do that, investment-wise, make a huge impact on the immediate needs of the customer. So they say, "This financial institution is taking care of me."
But long term I don't think a financial institution is going to exist if it doesn't adopt a paradigm of advocacy. That's why I feel so strongly about it.
Another aspect of this is that if you're not aggregating data, if you're not providing a single place for end users to see all their finances in one place, they're going to find somewhere to do that. So aggregation is becoming more and more mature as we've added in things like aggregation routing and multi-tier categorization and data cleansing, the experience of PFM is becoming so much different than it used to be. It used to be cumbersome and wasn't very reliable. But as it's becoming more reliable, users are going to turn more and more to it, and they're going to start to get additional utility out of it that wasn't even envisioned in the original concepts and thoughts around PFM and digital money management. As that occurs, as a financial institution, if you're not ahead of the game, and again, the people who are doing it for the right reasons, as well as are taking care of the end user are doing it earlier than some of the other institutions, but eventually everyone will do this. And those who launch early, the same as with bill pay, the end users will have already set up camp on PFM at their financial institution. And that means they're going to be aggregating outside accounts from their competitors, and so the way that we view it is if a financial institution is late to this game, this is the type of game that being late to can actually cost the financial institution its health five years out and ten years out.
And so there's an immediate impact that you can have by launching it, by having adoption, having users be happy and thrilled and within the next several years you can take that data and be able to migrate in auto loans that you lost or mortgages that you're not even aware that you lost. Long time, if financial institutions don't have a play like this, I don't know if they will able to survive or thrive even four or five years out without having a solution like this.
What experiences have you had with traditional PFM providers previously? Why didn’t they fit into your vision?
We offered two different PFMs prior to offering MX, but we never really saw dramatic adoption. There were certain members who were basically closet accountants, who loved to see the spreadsheets and the registers, and those guys used the old products. It didn't bother them to spend hours every month categorizing their transactions, pouring over it, figuring out their spending habits. ... But for the 95% of our members who aren't mini-accountants, there were some things that really made the difference between MX and the previous versions we have used.
MX has solid quality. All the institutions that are available for the most part are available. The ease and simplicity as well as being able to have over 90% of transactions auto-categorized so members are not having to go back and fix things is critical because members are too busy to spend hours doing finances. They just need it to be done.
The visualizations are also impressive. And for those of you who aren't familiar with the product, yes, bubble budgets are amazing, but bubble budgets are one of ten amazing visualizations that are available in the MX product and that are in the pipeline. I've seen things that are coming from a cashflow standpoint that are just absolutely amazing. At a glance the visualizations help members understand their financial issues.
Probably the number one difference between the two platforms we used prior and MX is that MX truly has a shared vision with Mountain America of where we need to go in the future, of what digital money management needs to be for our members in the future. MX knows how we can truly help them get a better handle on their finances and become better off financially. I think more than anything, knowing that we have a shared vision of the future is what really convinced us to make that move, and of course the results have been amazing. We went from 5 percent adoption to well over 50 percent adoption by moving to MX, and so those are some of the reasons that switching to MX made a huge amount of sense for us.
We had a fragmented deployment for a long period of time, and it's a painful backstory for us. But we were finally able to develop a layer of middleware so we could port all of our various feeds through one private-label experience that we call Fluent by Cadence. We've taken our PFM product and called it Cadence Total Money.
It was just remarkable when we flipped the switch at the first of this year. Our user population doubled, our adoption percentages almost doubled. It speaks to the point that the tighter the integration, the more obvious and intuitive it is for the client. And ultimately it just goes back to the point that's been made several times here, which is that we simplify the experience and make it easier for the client to find it on their own and really enjoy the self-directed experience of understanding where their money is coming and going.
What results have you seen from MX so far? Any great personal success stories to share from your customers or members?
We introduced the product about six months ago, and it was the first PFM product we introduced to our customer-base, and as of right now we're at a 43% adoption in those first 6 months, which is quite substantial. We're quite impressed with that. And I think more importantly it was without any real bump on the customer side. We introduced a substantive change to the online banking experience, but we didn't see any spike in call volumes or troubleshooting, or problem calls. It just worked. It worked in terms of the utility — in terms of aggregation and alerts, etc. And it was intuitive and easy, so our customers picked it up right away. We got tremendously positive feedback from our employee base. We're quite thrilled with how our implementation has gone in these early months. ...
When we created the MX business case and asked if this was the right type of investment and the right time for ATB Financial, it was definitely with an advocacy lens. It was with an idea of being that center point and leading the market on those kinds of helpful tools because ultimately every institution would admit that there's no way you're the center of your customer's financial universe. You're part of it. Starting by acknowledging that and understanding that the way you can be most helpful is to provide services like aggregation.
We're starting to think, because we're doing some digital onboarding on digital product sales work, about even offering competitive products within our environment. Because that still keeps us at the center of the customer experience even if they're not consuming our products and services because ultimately if they're not choosing you as their center for information, for products and services or tools and resources, if you focus solely on product and try and have all the products be yours, you're going to miss out. And it's only by being that first point that they go — if they log into your experience more often than anyone else's — that means they're your customer and you have the opportunity to earn the products they don't have with you, or their next product. But without that, we've got to be questioning our long-term strategic position in the landscape.
What were your concerns when evaluating MX, and how have they been eroded now that you are live with us?
We've been talking to MX for four years and have had a relationship close to three. So we were concerned about the relatively newness of the company. It gives the company a lot of positive energy and a lot of really great things come with it. What doesn't come with it is a lot of deep financial history that you can trust on. We wanted to put it front and center in terms of our value proposition and so we certainly had concerns that they would still be a company a couple of years down the road, and obviously we've come far from that.
The nature of companies like MX is that they tend to have a lot of turnovers in key roles. But we haven't experienced that. The team that I've worked with, many of those faces are the same faces that were there four years, and the faces that are new aren't replacements. They've been able to go and attract top talent from around the country.
MX thinks about the business problems we're trying to solve — that's probably the thing they do for us as well as anything. I do banking for a living. I'm not a technology person. I know my way around it, but I'm not an expert when it comes to technology. And so I need people who are really expert in technology to help me think through technology problems, and that's where MX has really helped us.
Imagine being owned by the Canadian government and then proposing to work with a US provider, and all the regulatory concerns about all data storage outside of the country. That was probably our biggest concern in considering MX. And ultimately it paled in comparison to the benefit we would knew that we would get by working with a partner like MX that delivers an amazing quality of products both in terms of customer experience and what it looks like, but also the utility, the reliability and all of those components. In terms of the newness or freshness of MX, we put that on both sides. We get that a newer company needs to grow and experience growing pains, and at the same time that was a definite bonus for us because we know that they have fresh eyes and they've had their first few rounds of brilliant innovation and yet we know there's more to come and we're already seeing it in some of the products they're talking to us about now that are in development and are moving through. So the pace that they can work at, all of that really outweighed — and our customers see that as well. We've had, I'm not going to say none, but I can probably count them on a single hand, the number of customers who experienced MX and said, "My concerns about US data storage outweigh the value the product is giving me." And so I know that it's definitely the right call to partner with MX as opposed to the options we had within the Canadian landscape.
I would say there were three concerns that we had: 1) Could they deliver on their vision? 2) Would they be able to work jointly with us? 3) Would this all actually work? Would we really get the adoption that would justify the investment and deliver the member value?
And now, two years later, MX clearly delivered on their vision and continues to deliver on their vision. They have proven not only that they work well with us, but they also work very well with our mobile provider and our online provider. And we did indeed get the adoption that we were only dreaming of two years ago. We have seen that member value delivered.
As a matter of fact, our adoption of our mobile products overall has actually accelerated significantly in the last year as we've really done more integration with MX and increased our pace of innovation. Our adoption of all our products on mobile channels has accelerated much faster than it was going and even beyond membership growth rate.
And just alluding to the point of financial stability, if you didn't know we recently announced our series A. We raised $30 million with USAA as well as other partners. So that was huge news for us, and we're very excited about that. Just to wrap up, we're going to talk about how we've been so effective and the marketing efforts we've done.
What success have you had on the marketing front?
We're still in the early days in terms of the benefit side, but we have a theory because we're seeing increased login, increased engagement, increased aggregation, and we know that will ultimately lead to product penetration. We're going to keep a close eye on that and do some financial retrospectives and correlation and all that kind of stuff. But certainly the early indications are that we're getting tremendous value, and so we're thrilled. When we introduced this product, we challenged our marketing team to have that same innovative philosophy and so we asked them to bridge what we would call them a traditional introduction such as advanced messaging, branch-based messaging, on hold messaging, and even some direct mail. And then we stepped into what we would call the experimental realm. We created a pub game app. The whole philosophy around our product and how we've branded it is to help customers find balance in their life. And so the pub game challenges people to drop pub items onto a scale and keep it balanced while on their smartphone. They launch the experience from posters that are in pubs throughout Alberta. We asked, "Where's our target audience, and how do we reach them in a fun and creative way?" The team also organized a live-stream event where we engaged financial bloggers where we engaged financial bloggers. We loosely called it a Apple style event. It helped us get awareness where people are digitally. The team has really taken up the challenge of, How do you introduce a really creative product like this in a creative way. So we tried to break some boundaries and see things in a different lens, and it's really worked out well for us.
How has MX helped institutions drive engagement and adoption?
That's a continual battle for us. Even with the success we've had, which is far and above what we've seen in the industry before, we're trying to come up with new ways to enable a financial institution to reach out to current customers and members and be able to win more business back, business that they already have with other financial institutions. But also with net-new customers who have never interacted or had a relationship with a financial institution. And so we've come up with concepts like WideNet that enable a financial institution to reach out to brand new users and immediately have that user get to know them and have a positive experience with the technology that they have and then be able to solidify and build on that relationship from there.
You can't simply throw a product out there with average aggregation quality — where every once in a while a feed breaks and you just expect the customer to put up with it and they log in and half of their transactions are uncategorized so when they look at a spending graph it's not really representative of where the spending really is — so you've now given them a chore. You have to think about the emotions of it. When a customer logs into your interface, when they walk into your branch, when they experience your brand, our feeling is that you need them to be a little bit wowed every time. You want them to think, "This is a financial institution that cares about my life, that wants to make it better."
If you add PFM and it doesn't have accurate categorization or reliable aggregation, when users log in, instead of seeing all of their finances beautifully in front of them, they're frustrated. But if you do have an accurate and reliable platform, you've saved them the work of having to think about and stress about their finances. Maybe they have to categorize one transaction here and there, but then they actually don't mind it because they just do that bit of work and get that good feeling of being on top of their finances. But there's a big difference between one or two categorizations and fifty categorizations.
And so if they can feel that the financial institution is concerned with them being informed, is concerned with them being able to understand where they're going in life, how long until they pay off their debt, is their net worth trending up or down, or where are their goals in life and how long it will be until they can actually achieve those goals. Then that end user knows that this is an institution that cares about me, and they'll start investing more time. They won't just adopt it; they'll actually engage with it again and again. They'll also aggregate other accounts.
What you'll find is maybe at first they'll just aggregate their auto account, but for some reason at a dealership they got an auto loan with a large financial institution or something like that. So maybe at first they just add that, but as they get utility out of the product — and, again, it has to have the right interface and it has to be useful for them — then they start to say, "oh that's right, I have an eTrade account and I have a mortgage and a HSA account and a 401(k)." And so they slowly start to add more and more accounts.
And so they slowly start to add more and more accounts. And we've seen not just higher adoption; we've seen higher engagement and higher outside accounts added by, in most cases, several factors by what previous PFM providers have seen in this space.
So the whole point of this, the whole drive of this, the interface we obsess about isn't just to make a cool-looking interface. It has a direct benefit to the actual financial institution. And we feel like getting into the mission of how we view the space and the world. The people at MX view the world in a certain way. We have a philosophy about how things should be, and we believe in the aspect of karma. That if a financial institution is putting the people they serve first, the first step of creating a great interface should be part of the core mission, but there is an awesome benefit that follows soon after of all this financial data being dumped onto their platform. And it not only gives you more time to interact with the end user, but it also enables you to see what business you're losing. So you can actually look at how an auto loan goes to somebody else. You can say, "Is that an auto loan we can win back?" Or, "Is that a credit card that we can win back?" Or, "Is that a mortgage that we can win back?"
And so that's why we've seen the higher adoption — the interface translates into higher adoption, which translates into a rich amount of data on the platform.
What is the comfort level with the security of your account holders' financial data with MX?
As any financial institution would do, we had our security team do an evaluation of MX and their security practices, and all that was done before any information was shared. And as far as the members’ perspective it's our product and we are representing that their data is secured by all of the same security systems that the rest of their data is secured with. We have not had any member concerns because as far as the members are concerned it is a Mountain America product and it is of course our responsibility to make sure the vendors we use for any private-labeled products adhere to our standards of data security. And our security did in fact find it be the case with MX.
We've never had an issue with security here. Our clients see the product as our own, and this really is a business based on trust. Our clients use our online banking and PFM services in a very similar way. They trust that we're doing what's responsible to do.