‘You really want to have this?’ Danbury bank’s app dives deep on spending habits

Peter Scotch, director of Union Savings Bank's innovation center, inside a glass display truck touting the new USB Mobile Insights app. The Danbury-based bank is the first in the state to make the the FIS-developed artificial intelligence tool available.

Peter Scotch, director of Union Savings Bank's innovation center, inside a glass display truck touting the new USB Mobile Insights app. The Danbury-based bank is the first in the state to make the the FIS-developed artificial intelligence tool available.

Alexander Soule /Hearst Connecticut Media

On one note, “Legos” was scrawled. On another, “gift for Mom,” and a third showed “pay medical bills.”

What would you do with an extra $50? In an offbeat promotion of a new mobile app — through the big bay window of a glass display truck — Union Savings Bank is posing that question to people throughout western Connecticut, asking them to jot their thoughts for all to see.

Danbury-based Union Savings Bank is the first to offer a new artificial intelligence app developed by FIS, a Jacksonville, Fla. company that is among the largest offering banking and merchant processing systems.

USB Spending Insights tracks 50 data points and makes suggestions on how users can save money based on their spending and saving patterns. The app is available to USB checking customers.

“It’s an artificial intelligence tool that actually analyzes the activity in your account and gives you a little idea of what you’ve been doing,” said Peter Scotch, director of USB’s in-house innovation center. “It can also give you hints and little quizzes to see how good you are at understanding ... how much you spend.”

Traditional banks have been scrambling the past several years to keep up with online financial platforms that have lured away customers with savings and checking accounts and other services. The top six “fintech” apps generated more than 16 million downloads in the first half of this year, according to Apptopia, with Chime the most popular.

In a consumer poll last summer, the consulting firm EY found that nearly a third of U.S. customers said their primary financial relationship was with a fintech company, up from just 6 percent who said so in 2019.

Speaking in September on the Banking Transformed podcast, an EY executive said the COVID-19 pandemic helped accelerate a trend that was already under way as people sought alternatives for financial transactions from home.

“What we’re really seeing now is this complete shift and acceleration of trust,” said Nikhil Lele, a leader in EY Americas financial services office. “Fintechs...are solving very specific needs for very particular target audiences, in a way that’s highly relevant.”

Bridgeport-based People’s United Bank plans to wean off FIS systems when it completes its $7.6 billion sale to Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T Bank, at which point Union Savings Bank will be the third largest Connecticut-based bank in deposits, behind Webster Bank and Liberty Bank as ranked by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Scotch thinks USB Spending Insights provides similar value by delving into many aspects of a customer’s financial decisions — as one example in the instance of a larger-than-normal paycheck at which point USB Spending Insights might suggest possible ways to sock away the surplus cash.

“If you have multiple music streaming services, it might point out to that out to you and ask if you really want to have this,” Scotch said. “You might say, ‘You know what? I’ve been really meaning to turn off this one’ — then it takes you through a link right to that service where you can cancel right away.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman