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Aaron Patzer: Timing Is Everything

Mint.com creator Aaron Patzer contends that banks still don't really understand what customers want -- which is why he's leading the personal financial management revolution.

Fears about disintermediation -- whether it involves untraditional competitors, emerging delivery models or new regulation -- have often caused banks to resist or underestimate financial innovations. That explains the tentative response many institutions have had to the boom in personal financial management (PFM) solutions that has occurred over the past several years. But according to Aaron Patzer, it's just not in bankers' collective DNA to confront the issues that inspired him in 2005 to create Mint.com, probably the most successful of the PFM plays.

Patzer, who became VP and general manager of the personal finance group at Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit following its 2009 $170 million acquisition of Mint, says consumers are looking for better and more automated ways to understand and manage their personal finances, but that this has little to do with building a stronger relationship with a bank. "People don't want to be stuck just with one bank," he says. "Banks are in the mind-set of, 'We need to get increased share of wallet,'" developing their branches, ATMs and other channels "in a way that people get locked into the system," he adds. But consumers want almost the exact opposite, Patzer argues, noting that this is what PFM addresses. "You want to choose the best financial product in each particular area, and then tie it all together," he says. "This was eye opening for banks. It scared them a bit because they feel they're being disintermediated."