Benedetta Arese Lucini has seen technology’s ability to disrupt established industries and she hopes to have the same effect on a basic human behaviour: how we save.
Ms. Lucini is a co-founder of Oval Money, the first European savings app linking to the bank and social media accounts. Using ‘steps’ commands based on established behaviours which transfer money to savings accounts, Oval Money wants to change a culture seeing one in four UK households with less than £100 put aside.
Her first-hand experience helped shape Oval Money, Ms. Lucini explained. She was CEO of Uber Italy during a period of rapid growth for the company and has worked with VCs and crowdfunders.
Just as crowdfunding allows people to help others bring their dreams to life, Ms. Lucini saw the potential for people improve their own lives in the same way.
“We decided to do something new and the idea came from crowdfunding,” Ms. Lucini explained. “Crowdfunding democratized the possibility of investing in a company’s equity, even in small amounts.”
Those with the most money get the best products at the best rates, she added, but given the advances in technology, it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Good products are usually offered to those with high initial capital,” Ms. Lucini said. “We need to get to something where people can take £10 or £11 and put it aside.”
Ms. Lucini spent a few years in the United States, so early models were based on similar concepts from there where people put their spare change aside or rounded up purchases to the next dollar. The team discovered there were cultural differences in spending that left the end result hardly worth the effort for some European users.
“Rounding it off made it feel like you were putting away pennies in a jar,” Ms. Lucini said. “We wanted to make sure people saved based on their lifestyle, personal choices on how they live and spend.”
Linked to the user’s bank account and credit card, Oval Money allows the user to personalize how they save. If they enjoy going out to dinner, for example, they can set it so an amount equal to a percentage of their tab goes into their savings.
The app also links to Facebook accounts so users can set money aside every time they post a status update on their account. Some users are reluctant to share information with different institutions so linking saving to personal habits like social media user dining frequency softens the process.
“Users can get comfortable with the app by linking it to behaviours,” Ms. Lucini said while adding all data generated for the app is encrypted and anonymized.
That data generation and the ability to identify common behaviours across population subsets will play a significant role in Oval Money’s future, Ms. Lucini said. They will offer advice on spending patterns and how they affect savings capability. New suggestions and even encouragement can be offered. It’s part of a long-term strategy where users can save for their pension, house or child’s education.
“We’re not talking about saving for a pair of shoes,” Ms. Lucini said. “We’re talking about saving for their future.
“We look at it differently, we see a platform model, not just an app. We’re not just a product but a connector of users to financial products offered by third parties.”
Oval Money is well on their way to reaching their goals, Ms. Lucini said. Early users were saving £75 per month but that total has risen to £130. The app has attracted more than 46,000 users.
“We want to be a one-stop shop for any financial needs of our users,” Ms. Lucini said.
Oval Money is also in the midst of a successful Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign that saw it meet its £500,000 goal in three days followings Jan. 15 launch. More than 600 investors have participated. Interested investors have until Jan. 29 to participate. The £500,000 target represents nine per cent of Oval Money’s equity, but the response has caused them to increase the equity available.
“We are delighted by the tremendous interest shown in Oval Money during this funding round,” Ms. Lucini said. “To have reached and exceeded our target in such a short space of time is a significant achievement and it demonstrates the value there is in a product designed to improve lifestyle habits for the long term. We are excited to see how much capital will be raised by the close of the round before we embark on the next chapter of Oval’s development.”