Bank of America says 5 million customers now use its Life Plan tool

Life Plan, a tool Bank of America rolled out a year ago to help customers pursue goals like buying a home or saving for college tuition, now has 5 million users.

Of those, 62% are millennials and members of Generation Z, the company said Tuesday.

The growth is notable because many banks are pursuing a strategy similar to Bank of America’s: give customers personalized, just-in-time advice based on what they’re doing with their money and what they should be doing to reach their financial goals.

Life Plan users “have shared with us their hopes and their dreams and their goals, and then they want to come in and talk about it as well,” David Tyrie, chief digital officer and head of global marketing for Bank of America, says of the 1 million appointments those customers have made with bankers.

Bloomberg News

When Bank of America launched Life Plan last October, its stated goals were relatively unambitious. It was a tool in the mobile banking app that would prompt customers to tell BofA what is most important to them by choosing among seven life priorities. Life Plan would assemble articles and other content relative to their interests and suggest next best steps. If a customer identified improving credit as a priority, for instance, Life Plan would recommend 10 things to do to achieve that goal.

“Life Plan was our very first toe in the water on highly personalized experiences,” said David Tyrie, chief digital officer and head of global marketing.

Since then it has grown in scope. Life Plan now monitors a customer’s transactions and provides all manner of advice about whether their behavior is in alignment or conflict with their goals. It provides a dashboard that shows progress against goals and celebrates milestones.

This makes it different from other banks’ efforts to provide personalization, Tyrie said.

“All banks are personalizing their digital offerings based off of transaction behavior and what people are doing online, as opposed to marrying that data to aspirational data like Life Plan,” he said. “Five million people have shown us their aspirations and we’re personalizing the experience to that.”

What keeps people coming back to Life Plan are the updates the bank provides about their progress against the goals they have set, he said.

“We’ve got a huge population of millennials and Gen Z with budgeting and savings goals who are interacting with us weekly, because budgeting is a 24-7 type thing,” Tyrie said. “We’re constantly keeping up to date how they’re doing against their budget.”

And when these customers’ paychecks come in, BofA suggests the next best thing they should do with any extra money in their paycheck.

“We want to become part of your life as opposed to being a destination that you log into,” Tyrie said.

An example of a next best step would be if a customer’s paycheck has increased and that person has a savings goal, the customer might be advised to save more and shown how that would shorten the time to reach his or her goal.

Life Plan benchmarks users’ spending in different categories over time and tells them when their spending in an area is high or low. Bank of America uses its bill-pay directory to identify and categorize merchants. It also lets customers edit the categories within which their payments are grouped.

One trend Bank of America has seen in its Life Plan data is the millennial and the Gen Z consumers who use it are just starting to prioritize large purchases and improving credit.

“That’s telling us these millennials and Gen Zs are now starting to think about, OK, I’ve got a couple of years under my belt in the workforce, I’ve started saving, now I’m starting to think about purchasing something, like a car,” Tyrie said.

One surprising fact: the 5 million users of Life Plan have made 1 million follow-up appointments with bankers.

“They have shared with us their hopes and their dreams and their goals, and then they want to come in and talk about it as well,” Tyrie said.

Sometime next year, Life Plan will be integrated with Bank of America’s virtual assistant Erica.

“When Erica comes around with it, it essentially becomes an omnibus experience,” Tyrie said. “We’re not just going to wait for people to log in to their Life Plan to get personalized information. Erica is going to you, so you don’t even have to log into our site. It’s going to send alerts. That’s a pretty major step because my vision five years from now is that people aren’t logging into our mobile app.”

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