Delivering a Digital PFM Solution: One Bank’s Journey

Rick Claypoole from Cadence Bank shares his insights on the decision to offer a Personal Financial Management (PFM) solution, and provides recommendations on how to build, introduce and market digital money management to consumers.

In the past, Personal Financial Management (PFM) has been delivered as an ‘add on’ service, providing consumers with budgeting tools to organize and manage their money. While many solutions did a good job of categorization of expenses and some even provided great visual representations of activity, the solutions fell short of expectations from a customer experience perspective.

Today, consumers expect a digital money management solution that is personalized, integrated, engaging and intuitive. Done well, digital money management should be part of a larger suite of online and mobile banking services that will make a positive impact on a consumer’s financial life as well as a financial institution’s bottom line.

A successful solution should ultimately provide a way for banks and credit unions to win new customers and build better relationships with existing customers … by better understanding consumer needs and proactively making informed recommendations.

Deciding to offer a PFM solution is a major commitment with potentially lucrative rewards.

This is one bank’s journey.

How long have you offered a PFM solution and what went into your decision?


Rick Claypoole, Director, Retail Product Management and Marketing at Cadence Bank

Rick Claypoole: We went live with a PFM solution just over a year ago, starting with an employee pilot a little bit before that. I got to the bank in 2011 and as part of trying to build a different kind of bank and a scalable platform for growth, one of the things that I was looking to do was to offer Personal Financial Management.

When we considered a PFM solution – and the way that it helps clients look at the problems they’re trying to solve – the solution was in alignment with the way we think serving clients at our bank. When I started looking for providers, I talked with seven and decided to select MoneyDesktop because their vision for the product was similar to ours.

While several of the providers saw PFM as a doorway, not the endpoint, about how people need to think about their money, we liked the elegance of our partner’s design. I’m a very big believer that in the consumer space, experience trumps functionality and form matters more than functionality. It had the kind of ‘wow’ experience we wanted. That said, other banks and credit unions may come to a different vendor decision based on their unique vision and needs.

Read More: Next Gen PFM: Contextual Money Management

As PFM has transitioned and evolved as a budgeting tool, how did Cadence build a business case for it?

“We are not thinking of PFM as the endpoint, but instead, we are thinking about it as a way to begin a conversation about a client’s money.”

Rick Claypoole: Looking back at early PFM solutions, the only consumers who would really use those tools were the hardcore budgeters — those who really wanted to track everything. And, while the early solutions were pretty cool for those users who wanted to do a lot, they were not very user friendly. And, in reality, almost nobody wants to do a budget, so the potential market for the solution was limited. It’s a chore, it’s laborious, and it’s not fun.

Alternatively, when a client enrolls with our system at Cadence (which is provided by MX, previously known as MoneyDesktop), they’re about 120 seconds away from having budgets set up, based on their prior spending. We preload the product as part of the new account opening, loading the Cadence bank relationships into the PFM solution. The system quickly builds budgets based on past spending if the consumer wants to go down that route. Taking away all that friction — taking away all that work — makes it very easy for people who just don’t really know that much about money and don’t really want to know that much about money. Yet, our solution makes clients significantly smarter about their money, and in a significantly simpler way.

So from the business case perspective, it goes from what would have been traditional (lower) penetration rates of who were hardcore users, and opened up a new universe of people that will participate in a fully integrated PFM solution. During this process, we are not thinking of PFM as the endpoint, but instead, we are thinking about it as a way to begin a conversation about a client’s money – the money they have with Cadence or the money they might have somewhere else.

We use the visual tools to really stimulate and create a different type of conversation than we’ve been having traditionally. That makes good business sense.

How do you market your PFM solution to your customers?

Rick Claypoole: The first thing we did, before marketing the solution to the public, is we started with an employee pilot to get early internal engagement and to make sure that our front line teams were literate with what our PFM solution was. They’re just like the people they serve, and therefore, reflect the clients that they’re serving. So, getting out front line to use the product, getting them to be excited about the product, and getting them to talk about the product, was a big part of the foundation of our marketing process.

Once our teams had ‘bought into’ the benefits of the PFM solution, we white labeled the product for the public and named it Cadence Total Money. Then, we embedded it into our set of digital solutions that we call Fluent. Fluent, ultimately, is our entire consumer portal. We’re building middleware that’s connecting all our various supply chain folks and then porting them into our customized user experience that we’re designing on our own. The umbrella brand for all of that is what we call Fluent.


So, when we launched Fluent, we had Cadence Total Money included which is our PFM solution, we had FlashDeposit, which is our smartphone remote check capture solution, and we added some additional mobile banking functionality into the overarching solution. Ultimately, everything will move into there – our entire solution set – bill pay capabilities, check history, transfers, nicknames … anything a client would want to do in the digital space will be able to be done in this suite of services we brand as Fluent.


Once it was named and ready for market, we did a number of very traditional marketing tactics. The key was keeping the message very simple, making the value proposition very obvious, and being very consistent in terms of the frequency with which we delivered the message around the ease of banking. We wanted clients to embrace the understanding they could develop about their money if they banked at Cadence.

So, ultimately, the message was that our PFM solution is one of those tools that can make you more intelligent and make you more fluent about your money.

Read More: Banks Need To Redefine Personal Financial Management/PFM

Can you share anything about your success?

Rick Claypoole: While I can’t give any hard numbers, I would say our enrollments, our active users, and our users who have added a non-Cadence relationship or account to their PFM profile with us, is very consistent with where we thought the results would be. We feel pretty good so far.

MX has recently introduced the ability to provide your PFM solution to non-customers. Does this option have merit from your perspective?

Rick Claypoole: While we’re not a WideNet client today, it’s something we’re very seriously considering. It’s a really interesting approach that could break down friction, building brands in the mind of a prospect who otherwise may not want to give you the time of day. To be able to deliver a PFM solution before a consumer becomes a client seems much more effective than an unsolicited piece of direct mail. The notion of actually delivering a solution rather than just promising a solution is very appealing.

What recommendations would you give to organizations considering offering money management solutions to their customers?

“PFM should be a very elegant solution that makes it very easy for clients to get smart about their financial lives.”

Rick Claypoole: First of all, I think organizations need to think about the problem they are trying to solve. If you went out there and said, “We’ve got a great tool to help you do budgeting,” all you’re really asking for is for people to ignore you. If you go out and tell people, “We want to help you get smart about your money so you can find ways to save $20 a week, or make your dollar go farther, and it’s really not going to be that challenging for you to do so,” … you’re much more likely to get a captive audience.

So, while these money management products are great solutions, you have to select solution provider that shares your vision and offer a product in the proper context and in the proper tone. And, when you offer a money management solution to customers, don’t make people think they have to do something hard. It has to be, and is, potentially a very elegant solution that makes it very easy for clients to get smart about their financial lives.

One of the adages that we often use for our clients is: ‘Money is a tool for life.’ So, what we want our bankers at Cadence to understand is, what type of life do our clients want, and how do we help them use our money management tools to get them the life they want? Our Total Money solution has been a great tool to help our clients understand that money’s a tool for life … and this is how it’s been working for you.

What’s been most critical to your success with PFM?

Rick Claypoole: First and foremost, it’s getting front-end employee engagement. You’re in trouble if you don’t have that, and you’ve really hampered your probability of success. I think the other key to our success is the way that we wrapped the solution into our Fluent suite of services. I don’t want to have a lot of siloed product conversations – I really want to have a bundled solution approach, where the money management solution is effectively a sub-brand which allows Fluent to take on a life of its own.

This bundling of solutions allows us to talk about multiple services at one time, but as part of a packaged suite of services. We’re having a conversation where, more often than not, the value add that we’re bringing to clients is very simple, and very tactile … vibrant if you will … making it much more attractive.

For the client, they’re not enrolling in PFM so they can see bubble budgets. They are getting access to an entire suite of services that will allow them to do things where they want, when they want, on their time schedule.


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