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.

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