A 25-year-old American engineer who had trouble keeping track of his own finances invented a piece of financial management software in 2006 to remedy this. Three years later, Aaron Patzer’s Mint.com was sold for $170m, and now claims to have over 10mn users in the US.
Meanwhile in Hungary that same year, a young entrepreneur called Gyorgy Mudri started meticulously tracking his personal spending, including the breakfast chocolate rolls he buys in the bakery. As Mint.com was then and is still not available in Europe, he first used a notepad, then excel sheets, and, most recently, Wyze.me – a new application developed by a team that he had put together. The private beta version of this app was only launched late last year in Hungary, but Mudri is already aiming high, intending for it to become “the European Mint.com and even better”.
Wzye.me is similar to other personal finance management (PFM) apps in that it allows users to synchronise various bank and saving accounts, categorise the transactions, and see finances on diagrams: for example, how much money was spent on rent, food, hobbies and so on. “The app gives a full picture of your finances automatically. It is free, and it is more secure than other similar apps,” Mudri, co-founder and CEO of Wyze.me, sums up the advantages to bne IntelliNews.
While PFM apps may add many handy functions to users’ online banking experience, most of them also pose data security risks, as they require users to share all their online banking details, including username and password, with them. “For example, Mint.com’s server, where user credentials are stored, has to be hacked only once, and then all user data can be stolen,” explains Mudri, adding that banks are not responsible for the loss once their customers have shared their credentials with a third party.
Wyze.me’s new solution is “client-side scraping”: users never share their credentials with the app, but access their online banking through a plug-in downloaded to their computers. “Transaction data is completely anonymised and uploaded to Wyze.me’s cloud. The system would need to be hacked at three different points at the same time to steal data,” Mudri explains.
Although the creators of Wyze.me expect to have 10,000 users by the end of 2016, it is not yet clear whether their solutions will attract enough interest in Hungary, where – at least compared to US and Western Europe – financial technology is still in its infancy.
Among the Visegrad countries, although Hungary’s fintech industry seems to be doing better than Slovakia’s, it still lags behind the performance of Poland and the Czech Republic. Online statistics portal Statista estimates the transaction value in the fintech market in 2016 at $3.22mn in the case of Hungary, compared with $12.2mn in Poland.
Even so, Hungary’s fintech scene looks promising, with annual growth of 18% expected until 2020, according to Statista. The first Hungarian success story has alreday made headlines in 2014 when IND Group, specializing in online and mobile banking and PFM systems, was acquired by London-based financial software provider Misys for more than HUF10bn (€32mn), according to industry insiders.
Since then, about 35 new fintech companies have been launched in the country, involved in various micro-sectors including not only PFM systems, but also payment solutions, crowdfunding, bitcoin and insuretech. Events like BitCoin Drinkups and Fintech Meetups in Budapest keep the emerging fintech community busy on almost a weekly basis, helping teams to share experience and improve industry knowledge. An increasing number of accelerator programmes also create opportunities for entrepreneurs to learn from experienced mentors and to provide initial capital. The founders of Wyze.me, for example, were helped by innovation lab Kitchen Budapest (KIBU): they spent six months in KIBU’s start-up programme, received mentoring and €20,000, with KIBU taking a 10% stake in exchange.
As Wyze.me is free for users, Mudri says they are looking to make money from third-party financial services. “We see our app as fintech-lego: it has many building-blocks, such as our data aggregator and our auto-categorization motor, which could not only be used in Hungary but anywhere in Europe,” Mudri says.
The app will also be able to work as a financial advisor, giving suggestions, for example, about which phone subscription or savings account to use, based on the choices of users with largely similar financial behaviour.
Wyze.me currently works together with six banks in Hungary: OTP Bank, Granit Bank, Raiffeisen, Erste Bank, UniCredit and MKB Bank. Although Mudri admits that banks tend to feel somewhat threatened by these “market disruptor” fintech companies, Wyze.me is looking to find opportunities for cooperation. “Banks have to comply with more regulations, they cannot be as flexible as a start-up. B2B cooperation with start-ups would allow banks to comply with their own regulations, while being more competitive and able to adapt to changing market conditions,” Mudri says, already having in mind a new way to develop Wyze.me in cooperation with banks.
“Millennials tend to spend all the money they have. Wyze.me could help them to set saving goals, and calculate the amount of monthly savings that would not be too painful for the users, but would also generate hundreds of millions of forints in savings for the bank,” he says. “It seems to me a win-win-win situation.”