Oval Money, the first personal savings app powered by collective intelligence, harnessing both machine learning and the wisdom of the crowd, launches in the UK. Oval helps users grow their savings in less time by teaching them to monitor spending habits and make saving automatic. The company has raised €1.2M in funding, backed by Italy’s Gruppo Intesa SanPaolo, b-ventures, an incubator from Japan’s DOCOMO Digital, and Bertoldi Group Family Office .
Oval users achieve savings using “Steps,” commands that tell Oval to make a deposit to the app’s secure digital savings account each time there is new income or spending in a linked account. The Steps system has been designed based on the latest research from financial experts and behavioural economists.
“To help people get a hold of their finances, Oval combines machine learning with the lessons users can teach one another to create collective intelligence. We want to create a new platform for people to both help themselves and help others as they identify intelligent strategies to save” said Benedetta Arese Lucini, Oval’s CEO. According to the latest Aviva Family and Finances report, the average British household maintains just over £3,000 in savings and investments. Yet, one-in-four UK households has less than £100 pounds saved. For families and individuals it can be a constant challenge to make saving contributions regularly, and to grow savings sufficiently so that investing with a long-term outlook even becomes a possibility.
The average amount saved by users in Oval’s closed beta over the past 3 months is just over £400, or about £135 pounds per month. Importantly, Oval users seem to be improving their ability to save, learning from one another, with the latest data showing a weekly savings average of £49. Oval was founded by Benedetta Arese Lucini, former CEO of Uber Italy, with Claudio Bedino and Edoardo Benedetto, co-founders of do-it-yourself crowdfunding platform Starteed.com, and Simone Marzola, longtime expert in machine learning and artificial intelligence with previous startups and now Oval’s CTO. Combining backgrounds in big-data solutions to everyday problems with deep understanding of crowdsourced solutions, the Oval founders are well positioned to launch the next generation personal finance app powered by collective intelligence. Faced with an increasingly complex financial sector, a rising number of people are visiting their bank branches for face-to-face advice. Perhaps surprisingly, new research by Accenture shows that the most digitally savvy consumers, 18-21 year olds who are members of “Generation Z,” are visiting their bank branches more than any other group as they seek guidance.
Advice is in high demand. The Oval team believes that the key intelligence in question is that of the user, and that this intelligence should augment machine learning. As such, Oval places learning at the center of its personal finance management app. Users are empowered to make better financial decisions through a combination of technological solutions and the suggestions and advice of other users, who can speak from their personal experience about how to incorporating saving into everyday life by using Steps that can be followed by the community.
There are three types of Steps that can be programmed: round-ups that save the spare change from transactions, percentage saving that puts aside an amount equal to a fixed percentage of a transaction or income, and fixed amount saving which saves an amount chosen by the user each time a transaction is made at a specific merchant or on a specific category or user tag. The average Oval user has 6 Steps active as they pursue their savings goals. “We are really excited about the level of community engagement we have seen among our beta users. When it comes to personal finance, it is clear that people want to help each other make better decisions. This not only involves the gratification of telling others that you are getting your finances on track, but also in knowing that there is a support network you can both contribute to and learn from. This is what being an Ovaler is all about,” notes Claudio Bedino. Oval, which was included in the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s fintech sandbox, is now available to download in the App Store and users can join a waitlist in the Google Play store.