Wesabe: A Collaborative, Next Gen Financial Experience

Jan 10, 2008 7:13am
Posted by: Frank Capek

I've spent a lot of time working with a handful of leading financial services organizations on the design of their customer experience.  One of the biggest challenges is that executives at these organizations have a natural tendency to think about the business in terms of the traditional industry boundaries.  In a recent post, I talked about a customer-personae driven experience design approach that starts by considering the broader set of needs that different kinds of customers have... how they make money, how they spend money, how they save and invest, etc...   This post referenced a couple of innovative banks:  Umpqua and AMPLIFY.

Another very interesting example is Wesabe, a social networking platform for people dealing with financial problems that has gotten very significant positive press.

From their website: 

"We want to help you get rid of credit card debt and start saving for college for your kids. We are tired of getting stung by stupid fees from banks and credit cards. We believe pooling information on where we all spend can help you make better financial decisions and ultimately take control of your money to reach financial goals. 

Founded in December 2005, Wesabe is in San Francisco, California. Our easy-to-use, Web-based software gives members a better understanding of how they spend money. The Wesabe community shares tips and advice to help each other make better financial decisions. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to talk to Jason, our ceo."

What I find striking is that an innovative bank could really be offering something like this... designed around the needs of a significant cross-section of customers.   This would involve balancing the tension that might result from proactively helping customers avoid the kind of bank charges that tend to accumulate with customers that are persistently or temporarily living on the edge. 

I sat next to a gentleman on my flight home the other night.  He is a biomedical engineer working for an innovative cardiac device company.  He told me the story of his experience with insufficient funds situations while finishing college a few years earlier.  Obviously the situation has changed... but his memory of how a particular bank "mistreated" him lives on.   Today he's the kind of customer that would be the ideal mass affluent prospect.

Based on our research, there is a significant portion of the population that, due to a combination of their situation or their behavior, have respectable income but little or no financial assets.  These are high potential customers with needs that go beyond the services offered by the traditional bank.  The opportunity for a differentiated, out of the box customer experience design is enormous.

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