The world of finance and banking can often seem confusing and inaccessible, even to the most clued-up customer. Add to that a vast, bewildering array of new fintech companies and challenger banks and it's virtually impossible to know whether you're getting a good deal or not.
However, one recently-launched startup called Bud promises to cut through the noise.
Its app provides one place where you can manage all your finances (be it a current account, credit card or savings account), which it calls its 'universal banking platform'.
Bud also plans to launch a 'marketplace' where you can compare different available products before choosing one, a feature it expects to launch in the coming weeks, cofounder and CEO Edward Maslaveckas tells Techworld.
This will include 'intelligent assistant' technology which will tailor recommendations based on your answers to questions.
"The closest current competitor would probably be Moneysupermarket. But this will have a couple of hundred fintech companies when it's built. It's huge. Also the system will understand your banking and finance data, helping to take out guesswork and point you in exactly the right direction," he says.
Bud launched in September 2015 and released its app in July 2016. The company has been self-funded to this point but plans to raise its first round of capital in February 2017. The eight-strong team, led by two cofounders, has recently been joined by fintech veteran David Brear as non-executive director and is set to expand further next year.
It's still early days for Bud, with 2,000 users testing its app in beta. "We've not really pushed it massively yet. At the moment it's mainly just making the platform work for people. We've had lots of great, useful feedback," Maslaveckas says.
Bud is part of the Financial Conduct Authority's regulatory sandbox (which lets companies test innovative new financial products in a live environment), the innovative aspect here being algorithmic matching to match people and financial products.
"You don't get that level of personalisation with a comparison site or a human. It's very difficult to understand all the products out there. That's a task technology is better at, and it means you can be served in a more intelligent, personalised way," Maslaveckas explains.
The app itself is currently available online on desktop and on iOS devices. It has a simple, intuitive interface and the process of integrating bank accounts is painless.
It uses two-factor authentication and can currently connect with American Express, Barclays, First Direct, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Natwest or RBS accounts (with more to join over the next two years). There will also be fintech companies like Nutmeg, Azimo, PensionBee and bigger players like Western Union available eventually.
The section of the app that is available at the moment – the 'universal banking platform' – is still quite basic. Testing an account on it, the 'insights' section categorises spending overwhelmingly as 'general' (then 'food and drink', 'transport', and 'personal finance'), which doesn't actually provide much of what you could dub insight. However, as Bud have been keen to emphasise, it's still early on in the app's development and only a small proportion of the eventual functionality is available.
Beyond the new 'marketplace' feature, Bud plans to deploy new functionality such as ways to allocate whether spending is a business or personal expense, plus functions for joint accounts.
"We will add in lots of little tools. Each of those are an opportunity to optimise your financial world a little bit. We will be agnostic to platforms and providers, figuring out what people want and don't want. It's very individual which is what we want," Maslaveckas says.
However he does admit "the challenges from a tech perspective are quite high. Optimising individuals and building assistants is tough".
Maslaveckas tells an anecdote about finding a letter from his mum's bank manager sent to her to congratulate her when she got married.
"We have lost that personal touch with banking. We're trying to get that back. It's an app that works with all the providers, but it's also mine, my tool which advises me," he says.
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