“Most people don’t want to learn about personal finance in detail; they just want to know they aren’t screwing up,” said Tim Chen, who is CEO of Nerdwallet, the comparison site for financial products from credit cards to mortgages.
For a self-professed finance nerd, this lack of consumer obsession is something of a disappointment. But he and the 80-plus researchers and writers have learned to live with it and by listening to their consumers they design advice that meets users’ needs and leaves them alone to enjoy life.
For example, Nerdwallet personal loan product page sorted loans by interest rates.
“All our consumers hated it. They wanted it sorted by monthly payments, which seems odd until you put yourself in their shoes and see what is going on month by month,” Chen said. “We have to meet them where they are. If you start by wagging your finger, that’s a good way to get them to hit the back button on their browser.”
Nerdwallet has three million members and more than 100 million visits each year, Chen said. Onstage at Money 2020 with Angela Strange of Andreesen Horowitz, she said the airline industry is far ahead in comparison shopping and its engines like Kayak and Expedia save consumers $10 billion.
Chen said the comparison engines in financial services are barely scratching the surface.
You could spend six hours reading about 529 college savings programs for your kid and still not know the ins and outs, he added. Nerdwallet users want to be triggered that the 529 exists, but they don’t want to learn all about them, just enough to find the best accounts.
“Education for education’s sake is overly complex. This is one areas where user research has been shocking. I am such a nerd and I love learning the ins and outs of all these things, but that’s not what the average person wants to learn.”
For individuals, Chen said, Nerdwallet and other comparison sites have made financial products shoppable.