Telling The PFM Story

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In a recent Financial Brand article titled Online Banking 2.0: Getting Visual, Brett King is quoted as saying:

“FIs still have a long way to go. Visualizations and basic budgeting tools are only one small step forward. It’s going to take more than a few fancy pie charts, a drag and drop goal function, and seeing account usage on a timeline to pimp out internet banking. While a pie chart is potentially an effective tool to show me some of that, and might even be central in some scenarios, there is a lot of other relevant information that might be prioritized.”

My take: Totally agree. FIs need to tell their customers a PFM story.


Here’s the problem few bankers seem to want to realize: Many people hate numbers, aren’t comfortable with numbers, and/or don’t want to spend their time trying to make sense of numbers.

This is one of the major reasons that PFM usage is so low (another being the fact that many of us just aren’t interested in doing budgets, categorizing our expenses, or graphing our financial lives to death).

Want to increase the usage of PFM — and it’s value to customers? Tell a PFM story.

Tell each PFM user the “story” of their spending, savings, investment performance, etc. each month. In WORDS, not numbers.


How are you going to do that?

A company called Narrative Science just might be able to help. The company claims to “transform data into stories and insight.” From what I’ve seen, it just might be able to do that with PFM data.


For any particular customer, the depth and detail of the narrative will depend on the level of data provided. But if a bank customer gets a personalized “statement of performance” each month — and gets value from it — it might create an incentive to interact more frequently with the PFM platform.


What I would like to see Narrative Science develop (and for PFM providers to do, as well) is tell “data stories” in the form of infographics. 

Let’s face it: With the exception of the highly-intelligent people who read this blog, most people out there are too damn lazy to read a lot of text. 

An infographic — a good one, that is — isn’t just a series of graphs and charts. It’s a story, a narrative, that makes heavy use of visual ways to display data. 

But the missing ingredient to PFM isn’t graphs and charts — it’s the story. 

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