Good News for Investors

Innovative financial-services companies show off at today’s Finovate conference, and CEO Aaron Patzer gives us some highlights. Could pain-free portfolio management be coming your way? Plus: Other financial startups to watch.

Last fall I attended the first Finovate conference in New York City, where a bunch of innovative startup financial services companies presented their products in live demos. I covered one of the stars of the day in Fast Company:, which offers free online personal financial organization for 20 and 30-somethings. Since then, Mint’s become a category leader, with 500,000 users; their rate of new signups has doubled, to 3,000 or 4,000 a day since the financial downturn. Even Intuit’s Quicken Online, a new product launched in January and aimed at the same demographic, can’t compete yet in numbers, probably because Intuit charges $2.95 a month; for the members of Generation Debt, it seems, free is the right price for financial advice.


Today’s the date of the second Finovate conference, and CEO Aaron Patzer got on the horn to show me some new features they’re introducing. Most exciting is the ability to add all your investment accounts in one place. With Mint’s simple interface, you can look at your entire portfolio, your performance vs. the market, and total allocation—and you can sort holdings by highest value, best performers, and worst performers. “We redesigned it three times and brought in 30 people to do user testing before we got it right,” Patzer says. “We want it to be very powerful when you need it, but not overwhelming at the same time. That really fits with Mint’s vision—to be effortless.” Of course, with the market the way it has been this year, Patzer’s (and my) best-performing assets are in cash—a fact that only underscores the need for an easy tool to make portfolio management as painless as possible. Patzer aims to make Mint break even by the end of the year; I like his chances.

Some other companies that will be presenting this year and that are worth checking out: WeSeed, which aims to humanize stock investing; MoneyAisle, where banks bid for your business, and Thrive, which I met with on Friday and will be writing about soon. Stay tuned!

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.