Some will describe Intuit’s decision Thursday to sell Quicken as the end of an era. The reality is the era of desktop do-it-yourself accounting software tapped out long ago. Fewer than 22 million U.S. consumers use desktop personal finance software like Quicken. I thought about charting Javelin’s longitudinal data on the usage, but it’s easier to instruct you to just draw a flat line.
The more pertinent question is who will inherit Quicken’s crown now that we’re in a mobile-first, manage-my-money-on-the-go era. It should be banks and credit unions. In journalism, reporters follow the money. In the world of personal finance, you should follow the data about the money. No player is in better position than financial institutions to gather, present, interpret, and make recommendations based on a consumer’s financial data. But while FIs dawdle, Javelin is tracking evidence that the fintech universe is exploding with players such as Mint, Mint Bills, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Personal Capital that aim to help consumers with a piece of their complex financial lives. But make no mistake: None of these upstarts is on course to go into history as the next big thing since Quicken.
When Scott Cook and Tom Proulx founded Intuit in 1983, Quicken was a breakthrough product. It capitalized on the explosion of personal computers. It freed consumers to collect, manipulate, and own their financial data. It was the ideal time for a do-it-yourself product for monitoring transactions, budgeting, tracking investments, keeping watch on net worth, and prepping for the annual visit with a tax adviser.
Much has changed in the past 30 years, however. The medium is now the smartphone. Consumers are demanding real-time information. Transaction data and financial status reports are readily available online. And the big market opportunity is to serve consumers who aren’t convinced they need personal finance tools because they describe their financial lives as simple. That’s a sign that they are existing in a paycheck-to-paycheck definition of managing money.
This short-sighted thinking blinds them to the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know about the raft of financial decisions that they could confront more wisely if they had better tools at their disposal. The needs of this era are fundamentally different – and growth-oriented Intuit is jettisoning Quicken because it recognizes that fact. The question is whether banks and credit unions will take advantage of the opportunity by constructing digital banking that guides customers every single day of their lifetime financial journey.