Years ago, a number of companies hoped that by offering to simplify financial record-keeping and collect your financial information in one place, consumers would find it easier than trying to keep track of all of the numbers, codes and IDs they have to contend with in the real world. The concept fizzled, primarily because there was resistance to giving one website all the information—putting all your nest eggs, so to speak, in one basket. Now, some companies are hoping to revive the concept, this time with the lure of education, advertising and sponsorship.
Although the basic idea remains, the new aggregation model uses sponsored links—recommendations based on an analysis of consumer data and financial information—all geared to educating consumers about the availability of financial products and services. Just as search engines accumulate information about browsing—to prioritize and serve advertising believed to be of higher value to the individual—these new sites use the same model to recommend financial services. If you use a credit card to purchase airline tickets, the site might recommend or display an advertisement for an affinity credit card tied to an air carrier or one which offers points for your purchases. Use an overdraft line of credit for your checking account? You might see an advertisement or recommendation to consider a home equity line of credit to potentially lower your tax bill while you borrow.
While advertising-supported revenue models may have greater appeal from an economic viewpoint and may attract financial institution sponsors and advertisers, these sites still have to overcome consumer discomfort with making all— or a significant portion—of their nonpublic financial information available at a single point of aggregation. With the identity theft, data breach and privacy issues front and center in the past few years, one has to wonder if the power of advertising can overcome that anxiety.