- Thomson Reuters
- JPMorgan recently rolled out a mobile bank aimed at young millennials who don’t need branches.
- I tried it out, and some of its features should worry personal finance startups.
When I first heard JPMorgan was building a mobile-first bank aimed at millennials dubbed Finn, I was ready for an eye-rolling experience.
But after downloading the app over the Fourth of July holiday and transferring some cash from my traditional Chase checking account, it’s clear that Chase has built something that should keep fintech firms up at night.
Finn, which is an end-to-end mobile bank, recently rolled out nationwide. In addition to offering bread-and-butter checking and savings account functionality, it also offers services many firms in the personal finance startup space have built their businesses around.
That raises the question: what do fintechs do when big banks decide to step on their turf?
Acorns, the investing startup, became a darling of millennials when it launched its app that allows folks to put aside spare change, and invest that in the markets.
It’s a feature CEO Noah Kerner described to this reporter in 2017 as ” still unique” to the firm. But Finn’s app provides a similar service that’s connected to the bells-and-whistles of a checking and savings account, which Acorns does not provide. Stash, another startup, offers a similar round-up service as well.
While Finn doesn’t allow you to invest in the markets, it does expand on the functionality of Acorns and Stash in a number of interesting ways.
With Finn, users can create specific rules that determine when money will be transferred from checking to savings. One rule, “Work Hard, Save Smarter,” puts aside a set amount of money on pay day. There’s also “the Limit Does Not Exist” which saves a predetermined amount of cash whenever a user spends over a certain amount on a purchase.
To be sure, stock market exposure offers the possibility of much larger returns than a savings account offering an annual percentage yield of a paltry 0.01%, a fraction of what most online banks offer for savings accounts.
Still, such an offering could lure in users who are more interested in a easy place to park their money than outsized returns. And the possibility of Chase adding stock market investing to the app hasn’t been ruled out. Without commenting specifically on how the Autosave feature would mature, Melissa Feldsher, who leads the efforts at Chase on Finn, told Business Insider the firm was keen on “evolving those features.”
Devin Ryan, an analyst at JMP Securities, said the functionality shows that startups aren’t immune from big banks copy-catting and then improving upon services they pioneered.
“The best features that are getting launched today are being replicated in some cases by the incumbents,” Ryan said. “And in some cases the incumbents are launching them on their own.”
At the same time, startups are looking to crack into the banking services offered by a JPMorgan. Notably, Acorns rolled out a debt card. But the hurdles for startups to step on the turf of big banks are higher, according to Jon Stein, CEO of investing startup Betterment.
“How many big financial services brands have broken out in the last three decades? It is very few,” Stein said in a 2017 interview with Business Insider.
Elsewhere, startups have popped up to remedy the short-comings of big banks. Dave, a startup backed by famed billionaire Mark Cuban, aims to help people avoid overdraft fees. It announced a $13 million fundraising round in April after amassing 500,000 users. But Finn users would likely never need to download such a product because the mobile bank doesn’t charge such fees.
There are also startups targeting folks who don’t want to deal with the annoyance of paper checks. Checkbook.io is one such firm that has raised cash in two fundraising rounds, according to Crunchbase. Finn allows users to send a check from their phone. This reporter paid his rent in a couple of minutes from the app.
From a strategic perspective, it doesn’t appear that going after startups is Chase’s priority with this product.
It could help JPMorgan expand its foothold in regions where it doesn’t have a branch presence, says Feldsher, hence its debut in St. Louis, where there are no Chase banks. Finn rolled out nationally via the App Store at the end of June. But JPMorgan isn’t betting that branches are irrelevant, according to Feldsher.
“This is not a branches aren’t relevant play,” she said. “This is built for people looking for an end-to-end experience. We look at this as another product on the Chase shelf.”
A spokeswoman for Chase declined to comment on the number of people using the app. It has a 4.5/5 star rating on the App Store with 513 ratings. By way of comparison, Ally Mobile has a 4.7 star rating with over 6,000 reviews.