Personal finance, no surprise, is top of mind as individuals and households grapple with soaring interest rates, skyrocketing inflation, and losses in the bond and equity markets.
As Quicken CEO Eric Dunn told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, banks have fallen short of the mark when it comes to giving consumers a holistic view of their finances and long-term money management. And that’s created the need for a new breed of standalone personal finance apps to give them a streamlined view they can access anywhere from the cloud.
Leaning Into the Cloud – and an Evolution
Quicken has been a household name in personal finance software for decades, but Dunn said the company has more recently “leaned into the cloud” with its Simplifi service. Launched in 2020, Simplifi helps consumers track accounts and set savings and spending goals as they seek to improve their financial health.
Simplifi, in fact, might be likened to a more modernized, cloud-based, version of the Quicken flagship financial products, expanding the company’s total addressable markets. Its target audience consists of people who want to do more than simply pull data together — they want to have insights and long-term analysis at their fingertips. That insight, he said, can be underpinned through Quicken’s connections to a slew of data sources, from credit card firms to more than 15,000 billers.
While banks’ brokerage apps may be fine for the most basic visibility into financial activities, he said, “We’re a notch up from that.” And he maintained that Quicken users, who tend to be happy and satisfied with their desktop-based experience, are less than likely to “switch” to mobile-centric Simplifi.
As he told Webster, “We target people with a bit of complexity in their financial lives. … It’s proved to be a durable market for decades. And it will be a durable market for decades to come.”
Dunn’s own time with Quicken stretches back to the 1980s, when he had initially been with the title’s original creator, Intuit. Eventually, he made the leap into venture capital and returned to Intuit in 2010, running the small business payments operation from 2012 to 2015.
Modernization and Then Scale
After 2015, as he recounted, Intuit narrowed its focus, to tax and small-business software, and sold Quicken. Dunn raised his hand, so to speak, to become CEO — and through the various investment vehicles and product redesigns, he has brought experience to bear modernizing personal finance apps and scaling them, too.
“There was some work to do,” he said of the initial modernization efforts at Quicken, “as some of the products were a bit dog-eared, and perhaps a little neglected.”
Before Quicken could move to the cloud, he recounted, the company had to rebuild its back-end infrastructure and remove its Intuit dependencies.
Quicken, he said, might look like desktop software, but it depends on a variety of services that live in the cloud that are not necessarily visible to end users. Cloud-based functionality has enabled various apps and programs to sync, he said, where email and web browsers and various operating systems can seamlessly talk to one another. That interoperability has underpinned a redesign and reboot of Quicken mobile app.
The Pain Points
Forging a new market for Quicken will pay dividends, Dunn predicted.
“The banks have not done a great job in integrating data from multiple sources,” Dunn remarked.
There’s still a bit of friction in the mix even as open banking takes root. Simply put, consumers are interested in sharing their financial data, but banks are still loath to grant third parties access to that account-level information.
Dunn likened it to when Intuit, Microsoft and CheckFree launched the OFX standard that allowed personal financial management software programs to connect directly to banks. But in the wake of that launch, companies that did not have access to OFX started deploying screen scraping providers, which opened up avenues for hacking attacks.
Thus, through the last 10 years, he said, “the connectivity systems have been under stress — and what you’ll see is banks will throttle connections — they’ll throw in multifactor dedication challenges when customers try to connect to their accounts.”
That pullback on access is especially frustrating to consumers and to providers like Quicken, he said, who want to have access to account information in order to provide a range of services and products.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he said, through the Financial Data Exchange (FDX), which exists as a standard protocol between providers, financial institutions and aggregators. He noted to Webster that Quicken is, just this month, changing the connectivity for two of its major financial institutions, Chase and Bank of America, from a blend of OFX and web automation to FDX.
“The customers are not challenged with [multifactor authentication] and get good quality data connectivity,” he said, “which for the banks is secure and manageable.”
Success has depended, he said, and will depend, on developing a more modern interface for consumers. “We’ve solved for customers who were looking for web- and mobile-based access to their financial data,” Dunn said.
Looking ahead, in the bid to find new ways to grow in at least the double-digit percentage points, there are a number of options at hand. An IPO might beckon, or there may be a another sale to another private equity firm in the wings.
In response to Webster’s observation that personal finance is a hot market, with several players as companies compete for capital (and, upon listing, for investors’ favor), Dunn noted that “Quicken is no stranger to competition. We fought Microsoft for 17 years … and we don’t expect to get a free ride as the only game in town.”
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