Yodlee’s take on the Mint acquisition

By Felix Salmon
September 22, 2009
Mike Arrington noted the overlooked player in the Mint-Intuit deal: Yodlee, the company which powers Mint's backend and which competes directly with Intuit. I spoke to Yodlee's Joe Polverari today, and he was very unimpressed with the Mint acquisition. He characterized Mint as essentially being a Yodlee service with a pretty user interface layered on top, and said that the natural place for people to go for online personal financial management was the bank. Mint, he said, had done a very good job of attracting "a niche of early adopters and tech-savvy people", but they have now woken the sleeping giants (the banks), and indeed are already smaller than some of the big online-banking sites.

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On Friday, Mike Arrington noted the overlooked player in the Mint-Intuit deal: Yodlee, the company which powers Mint’s backend and which competes directly with Intuit. I spoke to Yodlee’s Joe Polverari today, and he was very unimpressed with the Mint acquisition. He characterized Mint as essentially being a Yodlee service with a pretty user interface layered on top, and said that the natural place for people to go for online personal financial management was the bank. Mint, he said, had done a very good job of attracting “a niche of early adopters and tech-savvy people”, but they have now woken the sleeping giants (the banks), and indeed are already smaller than some of the big online-banking sites.

Polverari was, in sum, very skeptical that Mint was really worth $170 million, especially since its data isn’t particularly valuable to big banks, who already have access to substantially identical databases through their own personal financial management (PFM) systems. The value of Yodlee, he said, is “exponentially greater than whatever the valuation of Mint should be”.

Polverari also indicated that if and when Mint moves from Yodlee to Intuit’s own PFM system, that might degrade Mint’s users’ experience. After all, Mint chose Yodlee over Intuit in the first place, and there was no doubt in Polverari’s mind that the quality of the data it provides users was significantly better than Intuit’s.

I certainly agree with one of Polverari’s key points — which is that customers trust their bank with their financial information much more than they trust any third party. I trusted Mint more than Intuit, and now that Intuit is buying Mint, I’ll probably just stick with whatever service Citibank manages to put together. (Already, their online banking platform is pretty good, and I’m a fan of their iPhone app.) If Intuit is counting on continued strong growth in the Mint user base, it might be very disappointed.

Comments
7 comments so far

No one should pretend that Intuit purchased Mint for any reason beyond eliminating a competitor.

Poor Yodlee did not see it coming.. Their cash cow has gone away…

Intuit has been doing this for years and probably supports more banks so I would not count on any issues with data.

Posted by Tommie | Report as abusive

It does seem that Intuit bought the wrong company. Everyone I know that uses mint raves about the superior integration w/ the various financial institutions. If Intuit just moves mint onto their own backend, as they have said, then they’ll lose one of the primary mint selling points. Alternatively they may have tried to buy yodlee to rid themselves of competition and mint was the plan B purchase.

Posted by libor | Report as abusive

Intuit now supports over 12,000 Financial Institutions, more that any of it’s competitors (including Yodlee). If anything, Mint users will be able to connect to more Financial Institutions than ever before

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

“[Mint is] are already smaller than some of the big online-banking sites.”

He says that as if the all of the banks got their own online banking sites AFTER Mint came along. Lots of banks had their own online banking site years before I ever heard of Mint, *especially* the larger banks like Bank of America, Wachovia, etc.

I don’t know why he’d say that, as if to imply these banks started later and managed to grow faster than Mint, when everyone knows that’s not true.

Posted by DM | Report as abusive

I don’t agree that it makes sense to do this at the bank level. Mint, Yodlee, and Quicken and Money online are all aggregators — the goal is to get away from the bank level and grab all my finances in one place. I’m a happy Chase customer (and US Bank and Huntington and Vanguard and ETrade), but I’m not sure I really want any one of those institutions knowing about all of my holdings at the other institutions. And if I drop Chase, or whomever is doing my aggregation, does that mean I have to go through the hassle of exporting all my data and re-importing it at my next bank?

I’m a happy user of Yodlee’s online service at yodlee.com, but if one of my bank offered me the same service, it would actually be worth less to me than it is when offered on an independent platform.

Posted by J Mann | Report as abusive

Looks like Yodlee was right – over the past few months my Mint.com accounts have all had issues, some resolved, but the most important ones have not been. It seems Mint’s customer service is overwhelmed with issues as they are doing some initial responses to issues (very boilerplate) and then taking a week or more with any follow up. Most of the time their responses leave existing users with loads of transactions already on their servers out in the cold.

Posted by herewegoinvt | Report as abusive
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