Future of Investing
How SoFi is personalizing its mobile experience
- SoFi is evolving its mobile app into a one-stop shop for events, career services and personal finance advice
- Bringing "social" elements into the app is a way to drive up interactions, an approach that incumbent institutions have been reluctant to embrace
SoFi, which has been known to add "social" elements to its financial products, is personalizing its digital customer experience by fusing event planning, career services and personal finance insights inside its mobile app. SoFi is joining a group of financial institutions that are letting customers aggregate accounts to get a full financial picture -- even if they're not with the same institution, with recent examples including Citi and HSBC. Advice, SoFi's digital financial insights and advice tool, will roll out later this year, along with the SoFi Money mobile banking services. Through the bundle of product offerings, the company is turning its app into a full-stack financial control center. The objective is to meet the needs of millennial SoFi customers who prefer to organize multiple aspects of their lives digitally, including having an overview of their financial situation at their fingertips. SoFi is building out its app to become more of a personalized financial hub beyond a tool to check loan or investment accounts. It will soon roll out capabilities to book offline career coaching appointments and access automated financial advice based on insights from all financial accounts. Customers can currently reach out to other customers who attended the same events and book calls with financial planners through the app. In the company's recent shareholder letter, CEO Anthony Noto wrote that for the rest of the year, the company will "increasingly be integrating membership" into its products. "Overall, if you look at our journey, we're moving from what was historically a transactional relationship with customers into more of a relationship-based on day-to-day interaction with members," said the company's svp of product management, Meron Colbeci. "You're going to start seeing the website and the app evolving to reflect that." Interactions with the company regarding events have already moved within the app, Colbeci said. Since March, customers have been able to reach out to customers who attended the same event through the app and enter into a chat. While the company said it's not a social network (the previous plan to create a dating app was shelved last year), customers can add career details, interests and a photo. The company plans to grow that feature and will add capabilities to book calls with career counselors. It will also explore avenues to offer in-app content -- articles that appear on SoFi's site -- when they apply to a customer's financial situation. Despite SoFi's emphasis on offline financial advice and career counseling, Advice will use account data to offer personal finance insights and trends, along with advice tailored to the client's needs. As it grows its digital offerings, the company is adding services to meet the needs of a fast-growing customer cohort. SoFi currently has 500,000 customers -- up 200,000 from last year. Since the company can't have hundreds of thousands of financial planners on staff and many younger customers prefer to get digital rather than human advice, the in-app insights and advice will help meet the expectations of that population, Colbeci said. Account aggregation and personal finance insights are becoming a must-have for banks and credit unions, said Brian Reilly, a digital marketing strategist at BankBound, a Philadelphia-based financial marketing consultancy. Bringing SoFi's social element into the app is a distinctive way of encouraging customer interactions with it, he added. "The advice and aggregation of different [bank account] products is going to be pretty commoditized as personal finance management gets integrated with bank software providers," he said. "The idea is to keep people engaged with the app -- the ability to connect with other customers through events is something that's pretty unique, and it's an approach that local banks would be hesitant to do."