When Honeyfi got off the ground in 2017, it had a pretty simple idea. Couples could better manage their financial lives if they had a transparent platform where they could share the financial data they wanted to share, keep private what they wanted to hold back — and work jointly to set and meet their financial goals.
The goods news for Honeyfi, said Co-Founder Ramy Serageldin, was that this insight was fundamentally right. Couples do want to work together collectively, and when given a chance to do so the platform becomes highly sticky. And it has to be a team act. Individuals who join the platform, but can’t convince their partner to use it, do gain benefit. They even have better than industry average retention, he said. But it is only when the partner who joins successfully recruits that partner to the platform, he said, that Honeyfi has its “magic moment.”
“When the second person signs up, that unlocks the power and value of Honeyfi for the household,” Serageldin said. “That is when we start to see four to five times better engagement with the app — and the same thing with retention. Our job is to get the other person on board, which means we need the first person to have the best possible experience so they can be our advocate.”
And while getting that right was gratifying, Serageldin said, as it turned out it was just a starting place — and the firm still had a lot to learn. Couples wanted a tool to help them collectively manage their financial lives, he said, but they also wanted a tool that was both very flexible and very robust.
A Lot of Right Ways
One of the firm’s earlier insights — which seems obvious now but required some early feedback — is that couples are as individual as people, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all path for all of them. They didn’t need an “opinionated framework” that pushed them toward certain choices — they needed a flexible one that helped them pursue the different types of things they want to pursue.
Luckily, he said, the platform learned quickly from its very vocal customer base that there are a lot of different ways to split up expenses and different ways to think about buckets for spending. What all of that added up to was that the firm had to adapt for more flexibility than originally intended.
The company also learned that its tools needed to be able to grow and shift with a couple’s relationship. How much financial transparency a partnership has, Serageldin noted, is often a function of time in the relationship. About 60 percent of their customer base is married, he said, but 40 percent isn’t.
And there is a divide between early in a relationship and further down the road, he observed, in terms of how much couples share.
Plus, he noted, desire for privacy is individual. That means some of the couples on the platform — no matter how long down the path a partnership is — will also want to have some private separate accounts like credit cards or lending products. Honefyfi, he said, has had to grow up to handle all these preferences, and the ways they shift.
Most importantly, he said, it has also had to expand the parameters of what it does for customers.
A More Powerful Tool
While Honeyfi notes many different types of couples use its services, the firm did over two years see a recurring pattern in the customers it was attracting. Many of those who were coming to the platform were there in response to a specific economic shock or change — a partner who had lost a job, a new baby on the way or an anticipated first-home buy. Many of the couples came to the service because they knew they needed to start saving an emergency fund, but were unsure of how to get started.
“They are figuring things out like how to maintain their lifestyle, or how to adjust it to a new circumstance,” Serageldin said, and looking for a toolset to help them get there.
And what the firm learned, he said, is that toolset needed to do more than help couples plan — it actually had to be able to help them pursue the plans they were making.
That’s why in January, Honeyfi started piloting a feature that lets the app pull funds from customers’ accounts, and move them to the directed savings accounts. As of the end of March, it had rolled out to all customers.
“The idea we heard in our feedback was that the planning was great, but people wanted our help to take action,” he explained.
Because, Serageldin told Webster, when it comes to financial management tools, action is really everything. Customers need to be more financially literate, of course, but they also need to be able to pair that knowledge with beneficial action.
“Anyone can take a quiz, or watch a video for 20 minutes. But if they don’t put it into practice and change their behavior, it doesn’t matter,” Serageldin said. “We like to say we are in the behavior changing business.”