#PFM / Inside personal finance app Albert’s ‘Genius Bar’

Personal finance apps like Albert tout a future where money management happens automatically with minimal human intervention. Bill payments, savings, investing, you name it – everything just happens in the background, while consumers focus on living their lives.

[Albert] … makes team members called “geniuses” available to its 5 million customers 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. The company… is on a mission to move past the familiar refrain of “set it and forget it” to an automated financial life that’s supplemented by tailored advice from its team members.

[Founder:] “It’s important to automate as much as possible [but] you also need the customer to be involved… If you truly set it and forget it [for all financial use cases], it turns into burying things under the rug.”

The Albert app, which was launched in 2016, offers customers capabilities to automate savings and investing. Other features include earned wage access and insurance.

Albert was an early mover in a personal finance field that has exploded in recent years. For instance, large banks like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada and TD Bank have launched their own digital personal finance and investing capabilities. But Albert strives to differentiate itself by offering human assistance alongside automation capabilities typical of nonbank financial apps.

Like other personal finance and investing apps – including Digit, Qapital, Acorns, Stash and many others – Albert aims to become a focal point for most of its customers’ financial needs… In addition to human advice, the Albert app offers customers automated personal finance guidance…

For saving, Albert lets customers set aside money at regular intervals, or customers can allow the app to analyze transactions and automatically move money into a savings bucket.

“You can enable what we call smart saving, which lets the user put it on autopilot … or if you want more control, you can set different schedules… We find that most customers like the smart savings feature and they just want to put it on autopilot.”

For investments, the company, which has a broker-dealer license, offers portfolios that are based on customer goals, risk tolerance and desired time horizon. Albert also lets customers select holdings from a curated list of themes.