When we first launched Bittiq we wanted to create a solution that could leverage open banking to help people get more control over personal finance. In fact, in the Netherlands, almost 50% of people feel they’re not in control over personal finance according to Nibud. As a result we launched our first solution: an app focused on automated expense tracking and subscription management. After one year from the launch we realised that this initial solution is only the start. This blogpost will describe what we discovered along the way.

 

Learning from our previous experience and looking forward at open banking

The roots of Bittiq lie in the idea to leverage open banking to deliver better solutions to the customers. We partner up with the existing financial institutions helping them gain access to something they tend to lack: direct customer knowledge.

From this point of view open banking opens an enormous range of possibilities. As previously outlined in a blog post, by democratising access to data and enhancing competition in the financial sector, open banking has great potential to revolutionise the offer to the end consumer.

In the first version of our software, we explored what possibilities open banking offers in terms of data and help for the end consumer. The solution we built was based on the direct input of 300+ users.

Our most prominent learning has been that customers (justly) attribute a large value to their banking data and would only share them with an external party in exchange of a great service that solves a real problem. It’s exactly this need for prime quality services that our software aims at satisfying.

Also we have identified that the real problem with personal finance is time: people struggle to find the right balance between time for personal finance and time to dedicate to their families or to the things they love. This has been the first solution offered by Bittiq: an automated app to track users’ expenses. Users are highly positive and highly engaged. However, when asked about their relation with personal finance, 57% of respondents indicated that they use Bittiq also in combination with other tools.

 

When inquired about the reason for using multiple tools, they indicated that a good categorisation system and the overview of past expenses is for them only one side of the coin. The other part is to understand how their future spending relates to their current financial situation.

For this reason, many customers use ‘looking forward’ functions when their banking app offers them. In the Netherlands, in particular the ‘kijk vooruit’ function of ING Bank and Rabobank.

We then decided to extend our research and discover how these features are used and what benefits they provide to users.

 

Tracking past expenses to look ahead in the future

We wanted to listen to the stories of customers directly from their mouths. So we invited some of them to our office and spent hours on the phone. What they told us is that expense tracking tools are relevant in relationship to foreseeing expenses in the future. Based on different tools such as the Bittiq app, their banking app and Excel, they allocate their budget and mentally plan ahead.

An overview of past expenses it’s a way to calculate (mentally or on paper) how much money should go into different kind of expenses, e.g. groceries vs. dinner out vs. savings.

On top of that, it is important to know what fixed expenses are coming up. People indicated they do a mental calculation, deducting the fixed expenses from their monthly account balance to know how much they can still spend. Interestingly, a majority of interviewees who use current solutions like ‘kijk vooruit’ indicated they find them insufficient for providing this insight. What we have heard most often is “it’s just a list of expenses but it does not give me the right insights”. It seems that these tools go in the right direction, but it seems that these tools do not match the insights customers try to get.

As a result, even with the ‘kijk vooruit’, people reported unexpected expenses coming in, insufficient balances and constant rebalancing between accounts..

 


Taking the stress out of personal finance

We concluded that there is a majority of the population puts effort into reducing the stress connected to an unexpected expense, constant withdrawal from their savings or – worse – lacking balance on certain accounts .

Since the current expense tracking tools and ‘looking ahead’ functions seem to miss the mark, we decided to develop a new solution that gives users the insight they need. We called it ‘vrije ruimte’ or ‘free money to spend’ and it will be released from June 2019. In this blogpost we explain what it is and what is its value for users.

Giving users an overview of how much is still free to spend is one of the possibilities created by open banking. If financial institutions and fintechs can help customers with solutions like these, they would deliver real value. Something that helps solve real problems. The solutions created by Bittiq leverage open banking but they’re not about finance, they’re about taking the stress out of customers’ life.