一直以来，女性在金融服务行业中都处于相对弱势的位置。以我国为例，2016年的统计数据显示，超过50%的大陆女性无法获得基本的金融服务。对此，万事达卡国际市场总裁Ann Cairns认为，金融服务的不平等也是性别不平等的表现，女性应该是发展普惠金融的重点人群，金融机构应该为她们提供必要的工具和技术来充分挖掘自身潜能。随着人类文明进入电子科技时代，不同于工业时代对严谨以及力量的高要求，如今的世界更重视精细和感性的价值，那么，女性特有的感性、空间感和想象力能否在这个时代展现出别样的魅力和风采呢？Scott Saunders和他的产品Joy开启了一场别样的探索。
早在2014年，Scott Saunders就组建了一支包括心理学家、认知精神学家、市场营销人员以及eHarmony匹配算法程序员（eHarmony是美国最大的婚恋交友网站之一，通过心理和性格测试为男女进行婚恋匹配）的产品研发团队，并开始研发一款以心理测试功能为基础的金融服务程序。在登陆该程序后，用户需要首先接受一套心理和性格方面的评估，之后，系统将根据评估结果为用户匹配智能化的金融服务流程。Scott Saunders试图通过将金融与心理学进行结合，减轻用户在参与金融活动中所产生的压力，提高趣味性。
据Joy的研发团队透露，该产品的初步发行结果显示，女性用户数量远远高于男性。鉴于此结果，他们又与时尚设计公司Alison Brod进行合作，对Joy的外观进行了进一步的改善，包括采用了更加明亮的配色方案以及增加了气球图案。对此，Scott Saunders表示，公司将加大对男性用户的宣传力度，但他也强调，Joy的目标用户群体一直是女性，希望该产品的趣味性能够吸引更多的女性用户参与到金融活动中来。
美国富达投资集团高级副总裁Alexandra Taussig认为，当今世界金融体系中的一切资源和标准都是以男性为导向的，而Joy的出现则极有可能打破这一局面，为女性在金融世界中谋求更加关键的地位。埃森哲全球财富管理总经理Kendra Thompson也表示了赞同，他认为，现代女性更为关注某一活动的远期效益，在面对风险时，甚至比男性更为果敢，然而，当前的大部分行业并没有真正关注到这一点。
LearnVest是一家2009年成立于美国的专为个人提供理财计划咨询与理财教育的网站。公司的创始者Alexa von Tobel学生时期就读于哈佛大学，并在2008年申请从哈佛退学开始创业。据von Tobel称，由于自己与公司许多高层管理者为女性，因此她们在确定服务目标时调查了女性理财市场，发现家庭中大部分的财务大权由女性掌管，但这些女性并没有专业的理财知识；另外，为了避开与当时行业中已有的理财平台进行正面竞争，LearnVest当时决定做细分市场，只为女性特别是家庭主妇提供理财服务。刚成立的LearnVest由于针对女性市场这一特点获得一轮轮的投资，迅速发展业务，既避开与老牌机构的正面冲突又成功吸引用户与投资机构的注意。
Women remain an underserved market in financial services. A new app thinks it has the answer, but is AI up to the task?
SCOTT SAUNDERS, CEO of the online lending company Payoff, did not set out to build a personalized financial coaching app for women. In 2014, he began assembling a team that eventually included a cognitive neuroscientist, a marketer, an advertising executive and the data scientist behind eHarmony’s match algorithm. The goal: to build an app that used psychological testing to match users of both genders with artificially intelligent financial coaches. By focusing on the intersection of money and psychology, Saunders hoped to minimize financial stress and maximize the pleasure users get from spending and saving.
The app, named Joy, launched earlier this month. Joy is free, although users are occasionally prompted to consider loans from parent company Payoff. The app’s AI-enhanced coaches ultimately took the form of animated, advice-dispensing robots. According to Joy’s creators, focus-group participants preferred robots to human-looking coaches because the robots seemed less judgmental.
Early testing yielded another important discovery: Women liked Joy more than men, so much so that Joy’s all-male team pivoted and redesigned their product. They brought in Alison Brod, a PR firm that specializes in beauty and fashion, to help create Joy’s look and feel, including its bright color scheme and balloon logo. Men are more than welcome to use Joy, Saunders says, but the app is unmistakably marketed to women, who remain an underserved market in financial services.
A five-question quiz determines each Joy user’s financial personality.
Although they have more earning power than ever before and are more likely to control their own finances, women are still less likely than men to use financial services. According to a 2016 survey from Accenture, 44% of women say they have talked to a financial adviser more than once in the past year, versus 58% of men, and just 61% of female investors say they have “a good understanding of their investments,” compared with 75% of men.
The problem, according to Alexandra Taussig, a senior vice president at Fidelity, is that the language of financial services is male-oriented. Saunders goes a step further: “The psychology of the existing financial system is that it’s incredibly male-oriented,” he says. “It’s transactional, power-focused, ruthlessly competitive and based on literal conversation.” According to Taussig, women tend to think about their financial lives in terms of life milestones, such as marriage, divorce and taking care of children and parents. “Men look at it more as a competition. ‘How am I doing? What’s my performance? Am I beating the index?’ ”
Kendra Thompson, a managing director of global wealth management at Accenture , says women are focused on long-term outcomes. “They’re much more interested in the big picture and how they can advance themselves in the big picture,” Thompson says. “Most of what we provide as an industry hasn’t really focused on that.”
Joy’s animated, AI-enhanced robot coaches ask users to rate their purchases in an effort to identify patterns and maximize the pleasure derived from spending and saving.
LearnVest was one of the first financial advisers to target women. Founded in 2009 by Alexa von Tobel after she dropped out of Harvard Business School, the company began as a newsletter and financial-education website for women and later added budgeting tools and financial planners. Northwestern Mutual acquired LearnVest for a reported $250 million in 2015, when the site had two million free users and 10,000 paying clients. By then, the company had adopted a gender-neutral approach and the tagline: “We believe financial planning (actually) is for everyone.” Today, von Tobel says, most LearnVest users are married couples in their 30s.
In 2016, former Citigroup CFO Sallie Krawcheck launched Ellevest, a digital investment platform that determines women’s investment portfolios by asking them about their goals rather than their tolerance for risk. The Ellevest model also accounts for financial challenges unique to women: longer lifespans, the pay gap and the higher likelihood of career breaks. And the platform avoids cliché investing jargon and metaphors such as “beating the market” or “picking a winner.”
“It isn’t that women want different financial services,” says Amanda Steinberg, founder of the female-focused savings and investment platform WorthFM. “It’s that they want the advice delivered differently.”
Joy is betting that its personalized delivery—determined by a user’s psychological profile and financial data—will set it apart from the competition. The app asks first-time users to take a five-question quiz designed to identify the personality traits known in modern psychology as “the big five”: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Based on their answers, users are assigned one of 10 “financial personalities” identified by Saunders and his team. Joy’s robot coaches combine those results with bank and credit account information to tailor their tone and feedback. The coaching becomes more individualized as Joy’s robots gather data on income, spending and consumer satisfaction. Users are asked to rate every purchase they make according to how happy or sad it made them, allowing the robots to track patterns and make recommendations.
Some experts aren’t convinced that psychological testing is the key to effective financial coaching. According to Meir Statman, the Glenn Klimek professor of finance at Santa Clara University, studies have shown some correlation between “the big five” and financial behavior; people who rate high in conscientiousness are also likely to have high lifetime earnings. But he’s unconvinced that the traits on which Joy is based are strong predictors.
“I’m not suggesting it’s the equivalent of a horoscope,” Statman says. “I’m just not sure if it classifies people correctly.” And an effective robot adviser, Statman points out, would need to be intelligent enough to account for variables such as major life events and shifts in behavior that occur over time. Joy’s coaches periodically ask users about their mood and stress level, which, Statman says, may fill in some of those gaps. But whether Joy’s animated robots are up to the task remains to be seen. “I think artificial intelligence still has to make strides,” Statman says. “Guiding people is really a complicated process.”