There is nothing quite like checking your bank statement at the end of the month and realising you’ve spent a small fortune on $US7 lattes.
Managing money is tough. And when your money is spread across multiple accounts and apps like Stash, Robinhood, and Venmo, it’s can be even harder.
A new app from Australian entrepreneur Andy Taylor could make things a lot easier.
Called Douugh, the app is designed to be a financial control center. More intriguingly, it employs an intelligent virtual assistant named Sophie to help users fully understand and manage their finances.
Users start by plugging in all their bank account information into Sophie. Once she has access to those, she’s able to use them to map out users’ financial situations. From there, she can categorise users’ spending and see if they’re living beyond their means.
You can interact with Sophie via an in-app chatbot. If you ask her, “How much did I spend on food this week?” she’ll not only answer your question, she’ll tell you if that amount is higher than usual and even help you set a spending target for the rest of the month.
Taylor previously worked at SocietyOne, a marketplace lending platform he cofounded. While there, he realised how much of a problem financial literacy was in Australia and the US. That led him to launch Douugh last year.
“I got quite excited about how we could use tech to empower customers to manage their money and fast track them to financial freedom,” Taylor said.
Right now, Sophie is in training mode. Taylor said the company will remain in beta for the rest of the year and launch in February once Sophie has been trained on enough data. Eventually, Douugh plans to build out a full suite of financial products and make Sophie accessible via Alexa and Siri, he said.
In the future, Sophie could serve as a kind of personal banker for users, operating on autopilot and making transactions. For example, if Sophie sees that you’re about to be charged an overdraft fee for an account you’ve kept empty, Sophie could transfer a few dollars from another account to prevent it.
“Sophie should really be like a genie on your shoulder that has got your back with your finances,” Taylor said.
Trusting your money to an invisible bot may sound like a terrifying prospect, but that’s part of the reason why Douugh is going slowly and not rushing towards an official launch. The company wants to make sure its taken the necessary steps to secure the data it collects from users and is ready to handle anything hackers could throw its way.
“We take that stuff very seriously, which is why we aren’t rushing into voice activation,” Taylor said. “We want to get everything down pat before we deal with the fun stuff.”
Getting people to a place where they can ask a voice assistant to pay their rent might be a long way off. But much sooner than that, people will need to have an AI “genie” like Sophie to understand their finances.
“In the next few years, your money will be everywhere, in so many apps, you’ll need some way to make sense of it all,” he said.