The Customer Effect
‘Open banking on steroids’: Monzo launches task automation with IFTTT
- Monzo is letting its customers automate tasks by linking up with IFTTT
- The IFTTT integration is an example of how Monzo is engaging its customers in product development, particularly digital-savvy younger users
A key objective of financial technology is to move banking from brick-and-mortar locations to something that happens seamlessly in the background of a customer's life. Personal finance apps offer customers insights into their budgeting and spending habits, but U.K.-based digital bank Monzo is taking that a step further by letting its customers design their own rules on how they want to interact with their money. Monzo's tie-up with If This Then That, rolled out in early June, lets customers automate tasks using their financial data through personalized rules. IFTTT is a web and app-based platform to help customers get apps and devices to work together. It lets users set up "if, then" rules; for example, "if I post an Instagram, post it as a native photo on Twitter," or "if I add a new task to an Amazon Alexa to-do list, add it to the iPhone reminders app," and so on. IFTTT's integration with consumer financial data lets them experiment with new use cases for financial data and lets the bank learn more about customer preferences and behavior. IFTTT brings all internet-connected devices together, but for a long time individuals' financial data was "locked up" -- the Monzo integration permits a range of use cases to simplify customers' financial lives, said Monzo engineer Simon Vans-Colina. Vans-Colina said that Monzo launched the service after receiving a large number of number customer suggestions on how they could interact with digital savings envelopes Monzo calls "pots." It wasn't possible for the company to release features based on every suggestion, so it rolled out the IFTTT integration as a novel way of giving customers the opportunity to experiment on their own. Monzo's rollout of personalized rules for money management marks a new phase of personal finance management within banking apps, moving beyond passive insights to active, tangible actions customers can take according to their preferences. With open banking, or financial data sharing with third-party platforms with the customer's permission, a new set of use cases emerge, akin to "open banking on steroids," said Forrester analyst Aurélie L'Hostis. "Banks have not gone very far with personal finance management, and one of the reasons is that the kind of solutions they offered to customers were quite static -- it could be how much money they had, or in some instances they aggregated [accounts] -- they were not actionable for the customers, and in some cases they would get unnerved," she said. To use the service, Monzo customers need to sign up for a free account with IFTTT and connect it with Monzo. From there they can set up rules called "Applets," which are the automated actions based on trigger behaviors. Examples include "when I attach a [digital copy of a] receipt to a transaction, forward it to my expenses provider" or "every Monday, pay me an allowance [of a given amount] from my student loan pot." Monzo lets customers share their task creations on the community forum -- some of whom have created use cases that involve voice-activated digital assistants. Giving customers opportunities to experiment with IFTTT is like a virtual co-creation lab, letting customers act as product developers and offering the bank a new set of insights about them. "Customers can try hundreds of different actions -- for Monzo it's a way to understand what its customers want to do, and a good way to test what they want," l'Hostis said. Monzo plans to grow task automation capabilities to include additional features like taking action based on direct debits, peer-to-peer payments, annotating purchases with notes, and freezing or unfreezing the user's debit card. But while task automation could be embraced by younger, early-adopter customers typical of Monzo's client base, it may not necessarily be appropriate for institutions with an older user cohort that's less comfortable with technology. "With Monzo and other digital or neobanks such as Starling, or Revolut, this feels like an obvious extension of services that their brands can accommodate but this won’t be true of every bank," said Fura Johannesdottir, European creative director at Publicis.Sapient. At this early stage, banks are still experimenting with task automation. Monzo said the rationale for its IFTTT integration is solely to add value to the user experience. Analysts say one possible extension of task automation based on user behavior is integration with retailer loyalty programs and incentives, but any involvement of retailers would need to align with customer behavior, preferences, and the terms would need to be transparent. "An example would be a retailer who participates with the bank platform, and when a consumer is considering a purchase, the bank could automatically offer a loan or open a credit account for the retailer, with a special incentive to make the purchase," said Don Bergal, chief marketing officer at banking technology company Avoka. "Of course, this only works if the whole process can be simple and easy to navigate. Agreements and disclosures have to fit in to the overall customer experience, and it all has to be digital and real-time."