Yesterday, Intuit closed on its previously announced $170 million acquisition of personal budgeting site Mint, making Mint founder and CEO Aaron Patzer the new vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Personal Finance Group. He is now in charge of not only Mint.com, but also all of Quicken’s online and desktop products. What will his first order of business be? I spoke to him today to find out.
“Over the next 6 to 9 months,” he says, “we will end-of-life Quicken Online and their customer’s data will be migrated over to Mint.” Just a few months ago, the Quicken Online team was questioning Mint’s success. Now, Patzer is their new boss.
It’s not so much revenge as it is a smart business move. Intuit doesn’t need two different online financial planning sites for consumers, and it bought Mint because it couldn’t beat it. Combining the two is the obvious move. (Both help consumers keep track of their money and spending by monitoring their bank accounts, brokerage accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts).
Quicken Online has roughly 1.5 million registered users, but only about 100,000 are active in any given month. In contrast, Mint has about the same number of registered users (1.7 million), but nearly 700,000 are active every 30 days. “The biggest opportunity for us is to reactivate those users who thought that maybe Quicken Online wasn’t for them,” says Patzer. (Read his account of how he built Mint over the past two years after winning TechCrunch40).
Other than Quicken Online’s users, is there anything that he’d like to keep? Patzer can only think of one feature Quicken Online has that Mint doesn’t and which he wants: the ability to manually enter cash transactions or record checks which have not yet cleared.
The fact that Intuit put him in charge of Quicken’s desktop products as well as its online services says a lot about where it thinks the future of that business is going. The growth is definitely in the online portion of the business. And now Intuit can start cross-selling Mint from its Quicken desktop products, as well as TurboTax. Some consumers, however, will always prefer the perceived security of a desktop app when it comes to their personal finances, which is why Patzer is starting to think about ways to store some information from Mint locally by using something like Google Gears, Adobe Air, or Microsoft Silverlight.
Building hooks into TurboTax will present other opportunities beyond simply signing up new members. When a TurboTax user decides to sign up for an IRA to save on taxes or want to know what to do with their tax return, Mint can present the best rates and offers from competing financial institutions and earn a hefty fee for finding one of them a new customer.
Patzer has other ideas for connecting Mint and TurboTax as well: “What I want to do is to take your stock transactions and everything you’ve tagged in Mint as a medical expense or business expense and push that over to see if you should itemize deductions. If we pull in your 1099s and deductions, we have done half your taxes for you. We could reduce the time it takes you to do your taxes to 20 minutes or less.”
The next step after that would be to get into financial planning for big life goals such as paying down debt, saving for college, buying a house or car, or saving for a home renovation or a big vacation. He wants Mint to be at the center of every major financial decision a person makes.
When he sold to Intuit, he took some flak for not going it alone, but Patzer believes he made the right choice because he can build a bigger business much faster at Intuit. He wants to keep pushing online, as well as mobile, desktop apps, and international (which is hard to do in finance with a 38-person startup). Mint already has a popular iPhone app which has been downloaded more than 350,000 times, and is now working on an Android app.
But the biggest reason Patzer sold is because Intuit will help Mint get to scale faster. Mint’s value is in the personal financial data that it tracks, and that data will be much more valuable with 5 million active users than with under one million. Getting to 5 million and 10 million and beyond is the game. And however popular Mint was among younger, Web-savvy consumers, some people were never going to trust it with their financial lives. About 25 million people a year already trust Intuit with their taxes, half of those online. That’s the most sensitive financial data a person has to give. If you already trust Intuit with your taxes, making the jump to Mint becomes a lot easier for those who might have been hesitating before.