Active Money management takes a lot of our time and most of the times the activities can be automated. We have different Money management tools available in the market (FREE or Subscription based service) but those are not Complete or Comprehensive. Also they don’t view the complete perspective of wealth management and lack intelligence which can be built in an Expert system.
This article aims to close those gaps by applying TRIZ principles and conceptualize an ideal system for all Finance Management needs. The proposed expert system should be a one stop shop for all money management needs.
Introduction to TRIZ
Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) was developed by Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues in the former U.S.S.R. starting in 1946, and is now practiced throughout the world.
Major cornerstones of TRIZ are as follows:
1. For finding the ideal solution of any problem we need to solve contradictions.
2. Innovative solutions do not compromise and can be found using TRIZ principles.
3. After analyzing huge amount of Patent data very few universal principles of invention was codified.
4. Any personalized problems can be solved by making it generic, finding the generic solution and then customizing the generic solution to the specific problem.
5. Most of the times best solution can be found by only utilizing the resources available within the system and not introducing any external resources.
Application of TRIZ in Personal Finance: Characteristic features of the ‘ideal’ solution:
Optimum resource management is extremely important for success. From personal finance perspective intelligent money decisions are absolutely necessary for Financial Freedom. Most of the times people start from similar financial positions. But over the years a huge gap is created between so-called a ‘Rich dad’ and a ‘Poor dad’. Proper Investments on a timely manner, prudent credit management, Financial Risk management, Career management etc. can make one rich. We all know this but very few of us can successfully manage it.
This becomes more challenging in the chaotic world of Information overload. People today have enormous amount of options and this makes decision making extremely difficult. One of the ways to manage this problem is to automate the search process to filter out right information from the huge amount of data and thus reduce noises and simplify information intake. The proposed solution tries to achieve this by integrating different products available in the market as well as few other scenarios which are still untapped by present market players. This solution should have all the possible features to help a user to manage his money on a daily basis.
We can apply TRIZ methodology to envision our ideal Personal Finance solution.
· Ideal Solution – This solution should be ‘ideal’ by incorporating all the features needed.
· Solving Contradictions – Automate the process to solve the contradiction of informed decision making in a world of information overload and huge time crunch in our busy society.
· Best solutions are already available – may be in different markets and product segments. We need to find those solutions to create our own solutions. We should use minimum external resources.
· Generic to Specific – Look for Generic solutions for generic Problems and map them to Customized solutions of Specific problems.
Applying these we can come up with the following features:
1. The user should have all the Finance related data in a single place. So he does not need to waste his valuable time in browsing around multiple channels of information (multiple websites, TV, Magazines etc.).
2. This solution should process huge amount of available data and only provide significant and meaningful information to the user.
3. The solution should be highly customizable. User should be able to change preferences for amount of data, set triggers etc.
4. This solution should minimize user intervention needs for any process which can be automated (Bill payments etc.).
5. This solution should behave as an expert system and advice the user with insightful suggestions, alert any obvious mistakes etc.
6. Bottom-line is the user should have complete peace of mind and should be able to use his time in more productive ventures.
Some Case Studies from existing Business Solutions
Most of the present day Personal Finance Software provides the following generic features:
1. Import Account Data
2. Reconcile Accounts
3. Online Banking
4. Bill Pay Service
5. Split Bills/Expenses
6. Categorize and Track Spending
7. Standardize Payee Names
8. Budget Expenses
9. Write/Print Checks
10. Find Loan Rates
11. Free Credit Report
12. Exchange Rates
13. Connect to Paypal Accounts
14. Connect to 529 Accounts
15. Cash Flow Reports
16. Personal Investing Reports
17. Tax Reports
18. Net Worth/Balance Reports
19. Loan Calculator
20. Mortgage Calculator
21. Savings Calculator
22. Refinance Calculator
23. Home Equity Calculator
24. Import Investment Account Data
25. Portfolio Manager
26. 401K Manager
27. Download Stock Quotes
28. Displays Stock History
I will discuss few other present market offerings and improvement areas in detail and discuss how the integrated look of all these market offerings can create a wonderful tool for users.
Case 1: Bankofamerica My Portfolio
This is a FREE service offered by Bankofamerica (BOFA) to all the Account Holders.1 BOFA has partnered with many other financial houses to provide their Accountholders a complete view of their portfolio. Please refer to the screenshots below.
This gives a fantastic spending history pattern for Card members. But these details are history data which means actual spending only.
Two views can be implemented in My Portfolio service. One Planned Expense (as done in mvelopes) and one Actual Spending. Also we can have different tools for Analytics purpose like Planned Spending vs. Actual Spending, Percentage Target achieved (Cheer up the user if more than 90% achieved), Transactions which could have been avoided (will guide users to make informed decisions). These add-ons can help the users to be on track in managing their money.
We forget things starting from paying credit card bills on time to pay the premiums for insurance. Either all these can be automated or at least alerts for different triggers can be setup. This gives users complete peace of mind!
Can have Mobile applications where the users will get multiple SMS alerts (snooze the alarm type facility where you will continue warning till you complete the Action items).
Also the Users can add different other Customized alerts like as they like it.
Case 2: Best Value for Money offerings
Benjamin Franklin said, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’. Many of the present day Personal Finance solutions do not offer the Best value offering search option.
Helping customers to save money on high value transactions is another way to show that we Care for them.
User may like to buy high value commodities like TV or car or want to plan Flexible vacation plans when the Fare is Lowest. The Service provider can partner with different Deal sites (www.deals2buy.com)2 to sell Co branded products (on Profit sharing model).
American Express FareWatch service for Cardmembers where the Cardmembers can save their Target Travel Plan and if the Fare goes down to that trigger level they will get an alert.
Farecast will suggest whether to Buy or Hold an air ticket purchase based on Historical Air Fare patterns.
Also this tool should analyse the past spending data and help consumers to appreciate how they could have saved money by buying the same product or services from some other vendor.
Case 3: mvelopes.com (It was awarded PCWorld 100 Best Products for 2006)4
This is a subscription based service where they allow users to track their money before they make the actual transactions. So here the users can plan their Personal Finance and keep track of the spending and investments. The basic philosophy here is to plan and track before you actually spend it.
The Net Worth page of Mvelopes can be extended to any Future Date based on Planed Cash flows. The main idea is that bulk money transfers are mostly Pre-planned and hence accounted beforehand. Meaning based on my planned expenditure and Investment Return assumptions I should be able to predict my Net worth 3 months down the line. This may be helpful for Future Financial Planning.
Should have provisions to manage FOREX and multiple currency transactions. This should be very helpful for corporate clients and MNCs for Capital Management. This way this product/offering can be extended to Corporate Accounts as well.
Should have capability to track different Receivable/Payable management system like billmonk.com5
Case 4:Moneycontrol.com 6
This is a fantastic portfolio management service and best thing about oneycontrol is it is absolutely FREE.
Moneycontrol has some problems in the calculation of Return on Investment (ROI) numbers for Dividend Payments (Meaning the Software is not able to count Dividend Reinvested or Paid Out correctly in ROI calculations).
Suggest Asset Allocation suggestions based on the Risk-Return Payoff and Life-goal needs of the user. Add different other Asset Management tools (Charts/graphs etc. for Best or worst investments) or Calculators. The Bank can Cross sell its brokerage wings for this kind of services.
Can Partner with Tax Planning companies for cross selling Tax Planning services.
Can be extended to Private Equity, Venture Capital, Hedge Fund, Art, Commodities and other Alternative investment routes.
May include even intelligent Donations (from Tax treatment perspectives) and Estate Planning.
Should advice the user based on Personal Profile and Market outlook (Personalized recommendations).
Case 5: Providing Market Intelligence with Market News Feeds, Analyst Recommendations, Different Financial planning tools etc.
For a one stop solution of Personal Finance it is necessary to have all the Market Intelligence in a single place including all the Financial Headlines, Analyst recommendations, Planning tools(like buy or lease etc.).
This can be achieved through RSS like features like Google reader7 and standard tools available in market.
In ICICIDirect.com8 different research tools are available:
Case 6: Service Providers
Service providers can make money from Subscription payments from users or from Profit sharing opportunities if they plan to cross-sell offerings from vendor partners and keep the service FREE to the end-users. Data warehousing facilities can be built from the user Financial data to provide customized service offerings. For example if the spending pattern unfolds that the user has interest in eating out customized local restaurant advertisements can be displayed.
Many of the TRIZ patterns can be found if we analyze the above solutions:
Solving Contradiction: For smart Financial decision making one need to analyze huge amount of data. But in today’s world time is a premium and presently people compromise on the research time. But TRIZ supported innovative solutions try to remove contradictions. Here we have followed a similar path by automating this search phenomenon. This expert system will research all the available data feed and make informed decisions and display only the chosen suggestions to the user. This way the user can save time without compromising on the quality of research.
Customizing Generic Solutions (Best Practices) to Specific Problem areas: Multiple alert systems (‘Snooze’ facility in our normal alarm clocks) is a great example where we have taken solution from other areas and incorporated in our solution. In today’s scenario we also receive alert systems for Credit Card Bill Payment etc. In our busy lifestyle we may still sometimes miss those alerts and need to pay late fees. But if we can introduce a system where we will continue to receive alerts till the time we pay the bill our odds will be much better.
Using existing resources naturally and minimizing external intervention: Our ‘Ideal’ system will be an expert system handling day to day operations automatically without any user intervention. This system will have the intelligence to pay the bill on-time, execute scheduled transactions, alert the users in case of emergency, make intelligent Financial decisions for low value transactions etc. This will provide the user a complete peace of mind.
The Ideal solution is still not in the market. But we can surely have a close to ideal solution if we can consolidate all the existing market offerings. With the progress of time we will come up with the new features and new market offerings. Continuous research following TRIZ methodologies should be adopted to improvise the existing solutions.
Ideas from existing market offerings have been reused in this article wherever necessary.