Baking the ‘pleasure of progress’ into fintech savings apps


This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 7am for a very important date. A date with Joe, my personal trainer. I’ve been training with Joe for over 5 years. How crazy is that! During that time my fitness and general well being have both increased dramatically. I’ve run a number of half marathons – something I thought I would never do – maintained a consistent weight and, no doubt thanks to the increased number of antibodies floating around my body, hardly ever get sick.

And while I acknowledge personal training is a luxury a lot of people can’t afford, for me personal training is a worthwhile investment into the current and future me. I can only hope the work I put in now will go a long way towards feeling great in my 40s, 50s and beyond. I certainly freak out when I think about being old and immobile.

Regular exercise, like good financial habits, comes down to one thing. Motivation. Experiencing the pleasure of progress is what helps strengthen that motivation. It’s a powerful positive feedback loop to tap into.

For exercise, the pleasure of progress is so readily accessible. You feel it when you climb a flight of stairs and aren’t out of breath. Or when you put your ‘skinny jeans’ on. The ones you know you only fit once you’ve hit a certain weight.

But when you save money for big life goals, the pleasure of progress might only happen once or twice a year, at best. It’s what makes it super hard for many people to stay motivated, relegating them to the yo-yo save and spend diet.

This morning, as I was coming back from my training session, I got thinking about how I wished I had a bank that behaved like my personal trainer. Someone or something by my side that didn’t overwhelm me with budgeting, life plans or crazy in-depth financial goal setting all the time, but just helped nudge me into good financial habits during my day to day life.

It would be great if tomorrow I could go to a bank in Australia and sign up for a savings account that came with a free financial coach chatbot, like Penny. Except this chatbot would also be able to nudge me to save, like Digit. My savings account would keep me updated on my progress with friendly daily text messages. It would even help me find money being unnecessarily spent, so I could redirect it instead into my savings, like Trim. Brilliant.

Then just imagine if this same account could analyse my weekly spend and each Sunday send me a breakdown of where I could shop the following week for the same or similar items, but get them even cheaper! Sort of like PennyCat, but more proactive. In addition, perhaps once a month it could run a savings sprint, whereby if I managed to increase my monthly savings by X percent, I could choose to be rewarded with a gift of my choice or a bonus percentage rate.

Heck, I might even pay for this account, considering the returns I imagine I’d generate.

While they’ve been a great start, online budgeting tools and financial planning apps in their current format have only solved one part of the problem – tracking. Many of them are yet to work out how to deliver the pleasure of progress to their users. Chatbots and AI are going to transform this space. In fact Bond out of the US seems the closest to achieving my savings/wealth generation nirvana. They say they’re coming to Australia. And well, I just can’t wait.

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