September 11, 2013

Mobile devices and social media help family and friends keep in touch even when separated by long distances, and a number of new solutions at Finovate aim to keep them similarly connected financially through those channels.

Yodlee introduced a new collaborative financial management app called TANDEM that helps families and social groups manage their different accounts and financial obligations together.

“We believe your financial relationships should be as easy to manage as your social relationships,” Anil Arora, the company’s CEO and president, said while demoing the mobile app.

TANDEM allows users to create financial circles with their friends and other relationships from their phone contacts and social media connections, and customize the level of account access and sharing for each contact. Users can then make bill payments or send money to kids in college or for elderly parents, and even set up alerts for their bills and accounts. The app also includes a chat function and the ability to see communications associated with a contact’s account.

Instabank, a Russian-based operation offering a mobile-only bank account, also leans heavily on making personal finances more social. Instead of having a bank account number, users are identified by their Facebook profile, which makes it easier to pay Facebook friends. Facebook contacts can also use the service to split a bill with each other.

[See Related: MasterCard Uses Social Media to Rebrand Its Mobile Wallet Through Real-Time Monitoring]

Users can also manage their payments and bank accounts similarly to how they manage their social media profiles, with the ability to add comments, photos and Foursquare locations to a transaction, said Roman Potemkin, Instabank’s CEO. All transactions with Instabank are shown in an “activity stream” that resembles a Facebook timeline. And users can also use geo-location to find other nearby Instabank users and make payments to them.

Another presenter, Akimbo Financial, offers a prepaid card with the added incentive that each user can create up to 5 sub-cards for their family or employees and easily manage all of the cards from one place. Part of the growth in prepaid cards in recent years is the result of banked customers using prepaid for budgeting purposes such as giving their kids an allowance each week, Houston Frost, Akimbo’s president, CEO, and co-founder, noted.

Each Akimbo user receives a Visa prepaid card, and can link bank accounts with the holders of their sub-cards and set up recurring payments to them, or to any other Akimbo user. And they can pick up their funds anywhere Visa debit is accepted or at an ATM.

Personal finance isn’t so personal anymore as consumers’ financial lives are more attached to their social connections, like their roommate who they share rent and utilities bills with, or their sibling with whom they jointly manage their elderly parent’s finances. Formerly most of these transactions between friends and family would be done with cash or checks. The mobile device and social media have provided channels to do those transactions electronically. These collaborative, social payments and financial management tools, if adopted, could provide a big push in eliminating cash and checks from everyday transactions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Camhi is a graduate of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, where he focused on international reporting and interned at the Hindustan Times in Delhi, ...