How a chatbot can save you money. Victor co-founded Plum with Alex Michael after realising that they didn’t have substantial savings or a way of putting money aside for the future. Based on Richard Thaler’s prize-winning economics on the ‘power of nudge’, the team created a Facebook Messenger chatbot that securely connects to your bank account and uses AI to begin saving you money automatically.
WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY?
The two met when Victor was working for TransferWise and Alex was at Tictail. After realising that they didn’t have much to show for their hard work, they designed an experiment to work out how to save money. Victor started putting money aside at the beginning or the end of the month, while Alex downloaded his bank statements and monitored his outgoings. After 3-4 months, Alex has saved three times more money by applying the principles of ‘nudge’, a theory for improving the way we think about decision-making.
They decided to automate the process. The result is Plum, a chatbot that connects to your bank account. The idea is that Plum automatically saves you money based on your spending habits (holding your funds in escrow) then allowing you to invest and earn around 4% interest. It even tells you if you’re being ripped off by looking at what you pay for utilities. They launched Plum in October 2016 after raising £350,000 in funding. The turning point came when the BBC ran an article about people not having enough savings and Victor wrote to them, which led to the BBC writing a feature on Plum.
WHAT IS HE DOING ABOUT IT?
Plum is easy for people to sign up to and it’s available right now. The idea is simple: connect to a bank account and start saving money automatically. In addition to this, Plum offers a spend analysis, utility switching and bill cleaning, and simple investment opportunities. The question is, why create a chatbot rather than an app? Victor wanted to form a conversation with users and felt that a chatbot was a natural way to send notifications, drip messages, offer instant support and ultimately end up with a product that has more character than ‘just another app’.
This comes through at every level of the user experience. People actually enjoy talking to Plum. If you use an emoji, Plum send an emoji back. The service has been a massive success with early adopters and has also seen strong conversion from people who already use Facebook and want a simple way to save more money. If you have any issues, the support is pretty much immediate because you’re already talking to the chatbot. So far, Plum has received praise from the likes of the BBC, The Telegraph and The Financial Times – and they show no signs of slowing down.
The primary focus for Victor now is to create the right team. He explained how their first hire (from two to three people) effectively increased the size of the company by 33%, and how it’s paramount to have trust in your employees. One of the priorities was to build a strong engineering team early on to make sure the product was as good as possible. Even though Plum was taking off, the moment of realisation came when Victor was at a dinner party, and one of the other guests told him that they use his product. That’s when he knew he’d created something that people cared about.
NEXT STEPS ...
In January 2017, they opened the doors to the public. They have been evolving the product ever since and experiencing a 50% month-on-month growth. The promise to users in the next year is to introduce more fair investments, kill expensive loans and credit cards and insurance policies, and continue to develop Plum into an intelligent provider that connects all your financial information and helps to make you better off.