When Free Personal Finance Apps Fail: What Mint Users and HR Leaders Should Do Next
Larry Robinson, Chief Product Officer
The market at large hasn’t quite figured out how to help people solve their financial wellness. The impending New Year’s Day demise of Intuit’s popular “free” Mint personal finance app illustrates this fact. With record inflation, and a rough and tumble global economy, people need significant help and support. As an HR leader looking to help your employees, you simply can’t rely on many of the existing personal finance tools available - especially the free ones!
If Mint’s death knell took you by surprise, you may not realize that your financial wellness and well-being initiatives could take a hit as your employees suffer in their ability to plan, budget, make sound financial decisions, and engage with the full range of benefits the company already offers. It is time for HR to unify efforts around compensation, retirement, supporting personal goals and more, and give employees a tool that has the quality and stability to have a meaningful positive impact on driving long term financial well-being.
Today, fortunately, alternatives exist that are not only more helpful to employees, but can also help the companies they work for to achieve significant improvements to business metrics that result from employee financial wellness.
I have been the Chief Product Officer at BrightPlan for the last seven years and have seen this market evolve. The holistic financial wellness solution we have built at BrightPlan addresses the needs of employers, HR and the employees they serve. It is aware of an employee’s personal financial situation and goals, and the entire range of benefits their company provides, delivering targeted financial education and advice through both, a third-party audited application ensuring no inappropriate products are sold, and Certified Financial PlannersTM who can help each employee achieve their life goals. In addition, it allows CHROs and their teams to gain access to anonymized and aggregated employee data that can be viewed by demographics, life stage, location and more, and help quantify the business impact of offering a holistic financial wellness benefit that contributes to employee wellness.
Now let’s dive into some common problems of many “free financial apps,” and I’ll offer some suggestions for helping your employees move beyond tools like Mint and towards a much more 360-degree, holistic financial wellness approach.
Problem #1: Not paying for your personal finance app- are you the product?
The problem with “free” apps like Mint is that at their core, they were designed and engineered more for the benefit of advertisers hawking credit cards, loans, and other financial products, rather than users’ overall financial wellness. As the saying goes, when it comes to free financial apps, “If you aren’t paying for the product, you probably are the product.”
This problem really arises from their business model, which requires ad revenue for their success. That’s why so many free financial apps and platforms are often geared more toward the success of their advertisers rather than the needs of consumers.
Other free financial apps are geared toward the sale and use of a particular investment or fund, and provide just enough functionality to lure consumers to buy the product or service they’re really selling.
Problem #2: Free apps don’t provide enough functionality to achieve holistic financial wellness.
Free apps usually become popular because they solve just a few problems well and for zero up-front cost to consumers. However, they often don’t handle all the basic financial functions that their users need to do financial planning, budgeting, saving, investing, and basic asset management.
But beyond this failing, there’s a larger problem: Most of your employees’ lives and needs are far more complex than most one-off apps can handle. They’re designed for an “average” person who doesn’t exist—one who doesn’t have student loan debt, who doesn’t have college savings plans for their kids, who doesn’t have to consider tradeoffs between different healthcare plans their employer might offer, who doesn’t have to figure out their company’s retirement savings plan options, and who doesn’t have sick family members or relatives with special needs. A holistic financial wellness offering should provide the ability to plan for and balance all these competing priorities. Such a complete planning approach lowers financial stress and increases confidence and peace of mind.
What employers and their employees need is a holistic financial wellness solution that asks the right questions, knows what benefits the user has access to through their employer, guides employees to provide relevant information about their needs, and can recommend best next steps to take and draft plans to help them achieve financial success.
Problem #3: These apps don’t give HR and benefits teams what they need for successful employee wellness initiatives.
Anyone who attended the 2023 HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas knows that employee wellness is top-of-mind for almost all HR and benefits leaders. Many companies are paying top dollar for a wide array of benefits, such as HSAs, wellness reimbursements, healthcare plans, tuition assistance and student debt relief, employee assistance initiatives, and retirement plans, in an effort to reduce employee stress and help them “bring their best selves to work.” The goal is to improve productivity and retention, reduce recruitment costs, and achieve higher employee morale.
But many HR professionals lack statistical data to either internally sell such programs to senior executives in the first place, or to quantify their success and justify continued usage once the programs are established. And without hard data, even the best wellness and benefits plans might end up being just as end-of-lifed as Mint.
A Total-Benefits-Aware Financial App Can Make Wellness Investments Pay Off
Fortunately, BrightPlan offers an alternative for companies who want to help their employees find a holistic financial wellness offering that is fully aware of their personal financial circumstances and goals, and can help employees make better financial decisions that take into account all of their relevant employer-provided benefits.
We work with employers to reap the business benefits of financially healthy employees. Our financial wellness application provides 24/7 access globally, supported by our local advisor network. We don’t sell any financial products (or data) and adhere to the highest standards of financial advice. We keep data secure, and we provide insights based on employee needs to HR teams, allowing for more informed benefits decision-making. The solution is a game-changer for how HR leaders understand and serve their workforce.
The Takeaway from the Mint Demise
So what should the end-of-life of Mint signal for you? First, that free financial apps are optimized for a business model of selling advertising or products and provide limited capabilities to help your employees achieve financial well-being. Second, that BrightPlan is a holistic financial wellness offering that provides a comprehensive library of education, full goals based financial planning, spending and budgeting, complete financial account aggregation and tracking, and investment advice all supported by Certified Financial PlannersTM. And third, that this is an opportunity for employers to step up and offer a better alternative to their employees—one that helps employees achieve their life goals, and enables businesses to achieve their business objectives by offering benefits and wellness programs that have a real impact.