Making an Impact with Data and Persistence
Jeffrey van Dam - Productmanager Financial Restructuring & Recovery
How far should a bank go to help consumers get their finances in order and keep them that way? Jeffrey van Dam (35), creator of the Finbuddy app, is working with the bank to answer this question. 'As your bank, we’re not going to tell you you’re spending too much on something. But we can help you get a good overview of what you’re spending compared to other people.'
What is Finbuddy?
Finbuddy is a mobile app that we’re developing to help people manage their finances. We’ve been seeing more and more people struggling to organize their banking affairs, and Finbuddy can help. For example, the app can prioritize and highlight all your monthly standing orders the moment you get paid. This shows you exactly how much you have left to spend after paying your bills. Finbuddy helps you to understand your spending patterns without judging you. Finbuddy simply shows you the results of a comparison of your spending with that of other people like you (similar age, household composition, and lifestyle). Users can decide for themselves what to do with that information.
What is Rabobank’s role?
I’ve worked at Rabobank since 2012. I started out at one of the local banks. Even then I had this idea knocking around in my head. My manager got me a place in a local talent program and that’s when I started working on Finbuddy. After six months I presented my pitch and won! Then one thing led to the other. Thanks to my manager at the local bank, I got the chance to pitch the app at Rabobank headquarters and was selected for the Partnershipverkiezing. I worked in a team with five other people from other companies to develop the idea. Besides me, the team included Manouck van der Knaap (Zilveren Kruis health insurers), Saskia van der Salm (Achmea bank), Rianne van der Velde (Rabobank), and Lennart den Hartog (Zilveren Kruis health insurers). When we won the Partnershipverkiezing in April 2019, it gave us extra motivation to participate in Rabobank’s Moonshot campaign. This internal acceleration program gives any Rabobank employee the chance to develop and realize their own ideas and innovations.
There were 70 teams in the Moonshot campaign. Along with two other teams, we were selected as Moonshot winners. That created more opportunities to work on Finbuddy and make the idea a reality. All those programs and pitch workshops cost time and energy. Not just during working hours, but especially in your time off. A lot of evenings and weekends went into our project. Thanks to the Moonshot program and the training sessions we learned how to cultivate our idea, how to test it and develop it further.
Where did the idea for Finbuddy come from?
I’ve had the idea for a long time. Back when I was advising customers about their mortgages at the local Rabobank in ‘s Hertogenbosch, it occurred to me that something like Finbuddy would be helpful since people often need a framework to learn how to manage their personal finances. My role in the bank is different now. I am the product manager of Special Asset Management (Bijzonder Beheer) at the main office in Utrecht. This position is a really good fit with Finbuddy’s mission. My department helps customers avoid ending up in financial difficulties. If they do fall on hard times, we look at how the bank can help them best.
What have you learned while developing Finbuddy with Rabobank?
With Rabobank’s help we are considering opportunities and development scenarios for the Finbuddy app. The introduction of new PSD2 technology has made the app’s technical design feasible now.
In the early days of the app, when it was still going from concept to development, I had a hard time finding the right people within Rabobank to help me get it off the ground. I wasn’t sure whom to approach with my pitch, or who could really help me within the bank as well as outside. It took a lot of persistence, but most of all, a lot of my own initiative. By now I’ve learned how much more you can accomplish at Rabobank, but also that you’ve got to step up if you want it to happen. The bank offers coaching programs that can help you achieve your goals.
To make Finbuddy a success, we mainly need technology and data. Rabobank has both under one roof. The idea behind Finbuddy is simple: help people manage their personal finances. There are 1.3 million people in the Netherlands whose bank accounts regularly have a negative balance. Too often, they end up in a vicious cycle. If Finbuddy can help these people gain more insight into their banking affairs and learn to manage their money systematically, it benefits Rabobank too.
Debt can be a touchy subject though; many people are ashamed about it, which doesn’t exactly encourage people in dire financial straits to go look for help. Finbuddy makes it possible to flag impending financial problems at an early stage and can play a role in helping solve these problems in a privacy friendly and appropriate manner.
What’s in store for Finbuddy?
We want to start building the app as soon as we can. That’s how we can make a positive impact on the lives of Dutch people who want to manage their finances better. That’s what’s most important to me and that’s why we have to get Finbuddy out there. We’re talking to an external start-up about a possible partnership: they would provide the tech and we would provide the network and the concept for a pilot that would be mutually beneficial to both our initiatives. With Rabobank’s help we can reach and help more people organize and understand their household spending. One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to have a good team. You need people around you to help you out and get your plan going in ways that you couldn’t possibly manage alone.
You won’t find Finbuddy in the app stores yet, but you can learn more about it and see a demo on our website. The Finbuddy team consists of Jeffrey, Philippe van Alphen (Rabobank), Andrius Mosejevas (Rabobank) and Manouck van der Knaap (Zilveren Kruis).