Long gone are the days of paper bill calendars and check registers for most people. In their place, more banks are debuting cutting-edge digital options.
Huntington Bank, based in Columbus, Ohio, with many West Michigan branches, recently created a suite of free smart tools that link up with customers’ bank accounts to keep them from overspending and help them set financial goals in the midst of busy lives.
The Hub is available by web browser or smartphone app on an opt-in basis to existing or new Huntington customers. It has the following features:
Spend Analysis — Helps customers categorize their spending and better understand how they can change those habits going forward.
Spend Setter — Allows customers to set up monthly spending limits by category.
Look Ahead Calendar — Provides a financial view of the month to come. Customers can see when future bills and deposits will impact their accounts so they can plan accordingly.
Savings Goal Getter — Helps customers visualize what they’re saving for and shows their progress along the way.
Heads Up — Provides insights into spending and saving via a digital messaging platform to help customers make more informed decisions about their money.
Huntington started rolling out The Hub in phases beginning last summer.
This quarter, artificial intelligence tools will be integrated into Heads Up to provide customers with as many as 40 key insights into their financial wellness.
John Irwin, West Michigan region president for Huntington, said The Hub aligns with Huntington’s Fair Play Banking philosophy established in 2010, which states one of the bank’s primary purposes is to “look out for people.”
Huntington conducted a two-year listening tour with “hundreds and hundreds” of customers before creating The Hub.
“We sat down at kitchen tables with customers and said, ‘This is what we’re thinking about. What would it need to look like and feel like to be usable for you?’” Irwin said.
“We didn’t have a bunch of really smart tech guys in a room saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool, wouldn’t it be cool?’ to come up with the ideas. We went to the customers first and asked them what they want to be able to manage their money. It’s really a nice way that we’re able to show people that we want to make their lives better, whatever it might be.”
Irwin said one of The Hub’s most important attributes is that it’s user-friendly for all ages.
“You don’t have to be a power user to be able to use the tools here. I mean, old guys like me can figure it out, as well as the millennial children like I have who are already using it,” he said.
The Hub provides positive reinforcement and encouragement along the way, Irwin added.
“It’s not that people don’t want to do the right thing; sometimes, they just need a nudge or a coach. … It kind of helps form that bond with ‘This is what you said you wanted to do,’ and the messaging helps you stay on track.”
The first two tools — as viewed in the web version — are the Spend Analysis and Spend Setter. The former is geared toward helping people see where their money goes each month. The latter allows users to establish categories to keep themselves from overspending.
“If you want to spend $300 a month on groceries, you can plug that in, and it’s going to keep track of the grocery spend and then let you know when you’re going close or going over,” Irwin said.
“The thing that’s nice is the yellow, green and red (progress bars). It’s very simple and powerful where you can just look at it and go, ‘OK, I’m in the green for a category,’ or ‘I’m in the red.’”
The Look Ahead Calendar allows customers to see what expenses will hit their various accounts in the month to come so they can plan when to spend and when to hold off.
Emily Smith, vice president of media relations for Huntington, said a big advantage of the Look Ahead Calendar is it puts everything in one place.
“We have paying customers who keep a paper calendar on the fridge or in the drawer right by the phone in the kitchen, and what’s nice about the Look Ahead Calendar is … it’s the same thing as that calendar that may be in your file drawer, and now all of that data is right there, and all the tools are together, so where you’re spending your money, the goals that you’re setting for yourself, the calendar of where you’re inputting upcoming bills — it’s all right there together, so you don’t have to go pull that calendar off the fridge to do your monthly budgeting,” she said.
The Savings Goal Getter is about setting goals and planning for future spending. Customers can set a dollar amount and the date they want to have it saved by, and the tool will tell them how much to save per month and show their progress toward the goal.
Irwin said a Huntington customer is planning to run the Grand Rapids Triathlon in June and decided to use the Savings Goal Getter to plan for the associated expenses, and the tool is helping the customer achieve that.
Smith said many customers are using the Savings Goal Getter to create an emergency fund.
“They’re moving money every single time they get paid or once a month into that, and the tools are really cool because when you meet your goal, little fireworks go off on the app, and you just really feel proud of yourself. … It’s like a nice little pat on the back.”
The newest tool in the suite, Huntington Heads Up, is a watchdog feature that gives customers real-time alerts about their accounts that in years past, they would have had to wait to receive on their monthly statements.
“The AI piece to think about, which I think is really cool, is when you get a message that says your balance is too low to cover the payments you have to make every month … or this bill you get every month looks a little high, or it looks like you might have been double charged … those are the kind of things that are an evolution. We continue to get better and better,” Irwin said.
The Hub isn’t meant to replace brick-and-mortar banking or be a requirement for everyone to use, Irwin added.
“We want to give customers the ability to choose how they use us. They want to go to a traditional branch? Great. They want to go to a Meijer? Great. They want to do everything digitally? Great. We want to make sure that we have tools and resources so that they can (bank in) the best way for them.”