PFM; Account Aggregation

Robo Advisors

New Competitors

Key Finding from the SYNERGISTICS Report:

Results reveal current usage of Robo advisors is reported by just a narrow slice of consumers, with usage slightly higher among younger consumers.

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines consumer reaction to a variety of online financial management services including PFM, online tools, account aggregation, and robo advisors.  The threat of new competitors in the market is also assessed.

National Internet Survey – 992 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates


August 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How do consumers assess their financial situation – encompassing aspects such as analyzing expenses, tracking assets and liabilities, and measuring investment performance?  What methods are used – including software, personal financial management sites, provider websites, or other applications?
  • What types of online financial planning tools are used or seen as valuable by consumers – including bill or payment alerts, investment planning, loan calculators, budget planners, retirement planning, and tax planning?
  • How widely has account aggregation been adopted?  Is there an opportunity for further adoption? What benefits and drawbacks do consumers see in account aggregation?
  • Is account aggregation a tool for strengthening main provider relationships – or is there a threat from third parties?  What types of providers are currently used by consumers for this service?  Does having a longstanding relationship give a provider a competitive advantage in this market?
  • What is the current level of familiarity and experience with robo advisors?  Are users placing significant portions of their assets with these organizations?  Are they satisfied with the investment returns they are receiving?
  • How wide is the potential for expanded adoption of robo advisors?  Does an option for human contact broaden the appeal?  What are the perceived advantages and disadvantages of this service?
  • What is the profile of current users of online planning tools, account aggregation, and robo advisors in terms of demographic and behavioral variables?  Are potential adopters similar or different?

Research Issues

  • Online financial management and advisory services comprise an exciting area of innovation in financial services. The ongoing development of services, applications, and access channels makes this area something of a moving target. Personal financial management (PFM) encompasses an array of online money management, tracking, information, and planning tools.  Many parties – depository institutions, investment providers, financial planners, and third-party providers – have become heavily involved in PFM in recent years.  At their most advanced, some PFM services utilize account aggregation to import data from multiple providers and offer analytical capabilities to provide a total view of a consumer’s financial position.  Ideally, these tools, in conjunction with online banking and bill payment, may add “stickiness” to a relationship.
  • A more recent, and potentially disruptive, development is that of automated or robo investing services. These services utilize computer models or algorithms to recommend investment allocations and choices based on factors such as a customer’s investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon.  Some even make actual investment transactions and reallocate balances on an ongoing, automated basis.  Both traditional and non-traditional players are active in this area.
  • As online financial management and advisory services evolve, it may become essential for providers to incorporate these options into their customer relationship strategies.  It is very important to understand the customer perspective in terms of the degree of information, advice and recommendations, and transaction capability desired from such services. [A87]


Changing Attitudes and Expectations

Decision Making Process; Advisory Services

Channel Optimization

Key Finding from a Previous SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2013 study, Generational Marketing Strategies: Gen Y, Gen X, & Baby Boomers, found that Millennials were more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to be using mobile banking.  How has this picture changed over the past several years.

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Highlights of the Study

This study will assist providers in developing financial services products, programs, and marketing strategies to target each of these important market segments: Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

National Internet Survey – The survey will include 1,000 Internet interviews comprised of a minimum of 300 in each of the following age ranges: Millennials ages 18-35, Gen X ages 36-51, and Baby Boomers ages 52-70.

Key Dates

July 22, 2016 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

July 22, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

October 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How is financial behavior and activity different – or similar – among Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer households? Does usage of and demand for accounts and services vary by segment?
  • How do selection factors and criteria for choosing a financial provider differ among generational segments? Which segments are attracted to alternative or non-traditional providers?
  • How do the generational segments differ in terms of payment habits and preferences? What is the activity profile for various payment methods – including checks, debit cards, credit cards, and prepaid cards.  What are the preferred payment mechanisms for e-commerce?
  • Which financial goals or objectives have the highest priority among the generational segments? Are traditional goals – such as buying a home or saving for a child’s education – being supplanted by other issues or concerns?  What financial education topics have the widest appeal to each generation?
  • How do the generational segments differ in channel behavior when shopping for financial products – both in terms of obtaining information or advice and applying for an account or service? How much impact does social media have on the account acquisition process?
  • How do the generational segments differ in their comfort level and usage of innovative technologies for financial services? Is online access by PC becoming “mainstream” across all groups?  What is the relative potential for mobile innovations such as RDC, P2P payments, and mobile payments?  To which segments do wearables have the most appeal?
  • Aside from the obvious age segmentation, what traits, behaviors, and attitudinal variables are useful for designing generational marketing strategies and tactics?

Research Issues

  • Most financial services providers recognize the importance of having strategies for marketing to the three population segments that currently dominate the financial services marketplace – Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Each of these groups has a unique set of generational experiences that may influence their approach to financial services and make their behavior unique.
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are currently ages 52 to 70 and the older members of this group are now entering retirement.  Many Baby Boomers may be redefining what is meant by retirement as a result of recent economic turmoil. Generation X members are currently ages 36 to 51 and have entered mid-life characterized by expanded financial services needs.  Generation Y – also known as Millennials – are currently ages 14 to 35.  This group is in the life building stage and at the beginning of their financial life cycle.
  • This new survey examines their usage of financial services and various types of providers.  It assesses how the decision making process may differ among the groups including their usage of professional advisors. The channel usage of each group will also be examined. SYNERGISITCS will identify how best to connect with and market to each group.  It is essential for providers to have an understanding of each of these groups in developing and refining their generational marketing strategies and programs. [F246]


Financial identity theft and fraud has grown significantly over the past decade, according to a recent survey by SYNERGISTICS Research entitled, Evaluating Security and Privacy Issues for Financial Services.  Overall, more than half of internet households in the 2016 survey have experienced fraud or identity theft.  This represents a significant increase over levels seen in 2014 and 2006.  In terms of the type of fraud, the largest proportion – about three in ten – say someone used their credit or debit card account number for unauthorized purchases online or by telephone.  About one-fifth indicate someone used their lost/stolen credit or debit card for unauthorized purchases.  One-tenth or fewer mention other violations such as misuse of their online or email accounts, misuse of another financial account such as a checking account or loan, use of their personal information to open new financial accounts, and usage of personal information obtained via social media for fraudulent activities.

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Genie M. Driskill, COO of SYNERGISTICS, stated, “The numerous high profile security breaches reported in the media over the past decade have heightened consumers’ awareness and concern with financial security and privacy.  Our data confirms that ID theft and fraud is on the rise and consumers are justifiably concerned.  Incidence of fraud has increased an astounding 71% since 2006.  This only serves to underscore the urgency for providers in addressing this ongoing assault on consumers’ financial lives.  Staying ahead of fraudsters and hackers is the ongoing challenge for providers who need to communicate and demonstrate the depth of their commitment to protecting their customers’ financial information.  Organizations that address these issues will have a competitive advantage while those who neglect them will suffer the consequences.”

These are among the findings from SYNERGISTICS study, Evaluating Security and Privacy Issues for Financial Services, featuring online interviews with 992 consumers age 18 or older.  This study evaluates consumer experience with security and privacy issues related to financial accounts and services.  Consumer reaction to education and communication programs, security measures, and privacy policies is also assessed.