The finance sector, ever cautious, was slow to buy in to digital. It took long enough for banks to offer proper, robust online banking. It's taken an equally long time to get apps onto the market.
Most of them are serviceable, letting you check your balances and so on. But they're all blown out of the water by Mint, a fantastic product out in the US and Canada.
Mint doesn't just show you one account, like official bank apps do. Instead, it pulls your data - encrypted, certified and read-only - from all your financial operations and combines them into a highly visual, easily digestible format.
This not only helps you understand just how much money you have collectively and where it is, but also keeps you up to date on the minutiae most of us don't quite get around to managing.
In an age of austerity, it seems like pretty good offer to allow your customers more control and transparency over their cash.
People are looking for better ways to live within their means, and putting this kind of intelligent power in consumers’ hands is going to be increasingly important in an era of wavering customer loyalty.
Taking advantage of new channels, especially mobile, in order to do it will also be vital - this much is clear from the rise of Square alone. Services that are not available around the clock, and from any location, are already starting to look rather creaky.
Of course, there’s more to it than just giving customers a better product, no matter how important that is.
The real value comes from how that product can gather combined data on a massive scale, which can then be used to improve not just marketing but commercial operations as a whole.
We all know that today’s marketing is all about customization. From behavioural targeting and SEO online, to the intricate science of in-store pathfinding, the holy grail for retailers is putting what you want in front of you, exactly when you want it.
And there you are, walking around with one of the most powerful profiling tools ever developed in your back pocket.
For illustration, think for a moment just how much money, per bank, is spent in any single working day in London.
Now, imagine understanding not only the immediate and functional data points, such as times and method of payment, but also how they tie into sociographic and geographic data.
Banks have some of the picture already, no doubt, but probably not social - and it’s unlikely that any of this is being joined up effectively behind the scenes.
So for instance, say I’m a Charlotte Street kind of guy based in NW5 who buys his lunch at Pret. All of a sudden, my payments data shows that I start getting a supermarket meal deal instead. In fact, purchasing across the board is going down.
More payments data, combined with app use data, shows that I’m spending a lot of weekends in a few villages outside Newbury. Social data shows that I got engaged six months ago, and that I’ve recently ‘Liked’ a couple of bespoke estate agents on Facebook. Chances are, I’m about to buy a house.
That’s just one example, and it’s probably unrealistically exact. However, with enough data coming in from enough sources, it’s just a matter of mathematics to start determining what activities signal what events, and that’s invaluable - especially as finance is usually the very last to know about these big life changes.
It’s tremendously exciting to consider all the opportunities for data analysis in this sector, involving location, social and payment data in particular.
The possibilities for optimising processes, both in marketing and wider business, are there to be embraced. You’d think that an industry that operates at six decimal places should be first in line to take advantage.