Acorns targets spending with new feature


By Daniel Paperny

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Micro-investing start-up Acorns Grow Australia has begun the next phase of its evolution with the launch of My Finances, an intuitive data analytics tool that will help Australians better control their spending habits.

The feature, powered by machine-learning, will look at an individual’s spending patterns by categorising recent purchases and giving users insights into savings opportunities through a variety of on-screen prompts.

Speaking to financialobserver, Acorns chief operating officer Brendan Malone said the new feature was a natural step in Acorns’ journey from engaging with clients around financial literacy and the benefits of savings to helping them be acutely aware of their purchasing habits.

Malone said a key benefit of the feature was that it provided encouragement tips to users on the platform, who can see how they are tracking in terms of their monthly purchasing activity and whether they are on course to meet regular expenses such as bills.
It also provides them with spare cash-flow at the end of the month to act as a financial buffer, he added.

“We’ve built a categorisation algorithm with My Finances that is looking at individual expenses -this machine identifies, categorises and learns your actual expenses,” Malone said.

“We’re passionate about financial education and literacy and a key part of this is financial awareness and understanding where people are spending their money.”

A Decibel Research survey of more than 500 millennial Australians aged 18 to 39, commissioned by Acorns, found that three out of four (75 per cent) have to make sacrifices towards the end of the pay cycle in order to make ends meet.

In addition, almost 70 per cent of the group claimed to have put together a monthly budget but only half (49 per cent) admitted to persevering with it.

Malone said the My Finances feature came in response to the findings, particularly as the data pointed to a correlation between visibility of finances on mobile platforms and improved confidence levels among millennial Australians when it came to managing their money.

“We’re seeing that people are living pay cheque to pay cheque and are struggling to pay their bills each month,” Malone said.

“What My Finances does is help with that spending categorisation and it’s all come about [in response to] what our customers have asked us for on the platform.”

Malone confirmed Acorns will also be launching a new ethical investment portfolio for users next month that will gauge an investor’s attitude towards ethical investing and allow them to allocate funds towards companies with a positive carbon footprint.

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