In a sea of money management platforms, one app stands out: Empower. Co-founder and CEO, Warren Hogarth, created Empower to help consumers retake control of their financial lives. Described as the ultimate “financial assistant,” the app connects a users’ financial accounts in one place, allowing consumers to track their money and find savings using a simpler, more streamlined interface. Billshark aims to highlight companies that empower consumers, and we think this is one of the sharpest financial apps out there. In an exclusive interview with Billshark, Warren Hogarth opened up about his company, how it’s making waves, and what the future holds.
What do you think is the biggest money management challenge facing the average consumer today?
Debt, debt and debt. Years of stagnating wages have resulted in living expenses outpacing incomes; more and more middle class families have to go into credit card debt just to make ends meet. New jobs created outside of the tech centers such as San Francisco and Seattle are “gigs” which comes with unstable incomes and hard to manage from a personal finance perspective. Consumers nowadays need to be more cognizant than ever of their money inflows and outflows and not to automatically take out their credit card with the mentality “I’ll pay that off later.” Instead, they’d do their future selves and that of their family members good by getting in the habit of living within their means and saving in advance for big expenses.
Why is it so hard for the average consumer to feel like they are in control of their personal finances?
American consumers are ill-equipped to handle their own money due to insufficient education in math, as early as grammar school, and personal finance, as they get into early adulthood. Millennials enrolled in college and signing for student debt were encouraged by the prospect of high paying jobs. Who is to blame them? They took advice from baby boomers who benefited from decades of climbing home prices and an ever-growing economy, and hence, thought little could go wrong. In addition, the market lacks affordable financial coaching services. Financial advisors are expensive and most concerned with growing their clients’ investments. What if you have no money to invest and instead, just need advice how to handle debt and finally get to breakeven? You’re on your own.
What inspired you to start Empower?
I spent 7 years at Sequoia Capital as a venture capitalist where I came to understand the tremendous potential technology has in improving lives. What if we take the technology in self-driving cars and put it in your bank account to automate your finances? Banks have been sitting on their laurels for too long and are not incentivized to help consumers. At Empower, we believe that you should be able to bank entirely on your phone and get personalized products and advice. The Empower app, our first product, is a way to do that, no matter where you bank.
The Empower interface is fantastic and certainly a standout among the competition. What tools do you think add the greatest value to users?
People love the simplicity of the big orange Spend graph that takes half of the screen when you come to the app. It’s dead simple, you are either above the line (budget) or under the line and can make adjustments accordingly. We don’t believe in budgeting to the cent where your money should go, but having a set of convenient, intuitive tools that alerts you whether you’re spending too much or saving enough towards your goals can go along way. For those that don’t want to actively manage their budget, Empower acts like an watchful eye on your finances, letting you know when your bills are due and scanning your accounts for savings.
What is Empower’s goal in changing the way consumers approach managing their money?
Our goal is simply to give you that awareness of what is going on with your money and we hope that by using the Empower app, you find it easier and much more manageable to stay on top of your finances. The jargon the financial industry throws at us can make the average person feels powerless. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially with tools like Empower that breaks your finances into super simple, bite size information.
Can consumers save money by using the app? If so, what is the average amount of savings a consumer has gained by tracking their finances with Empower?
We find that our average consumers can save around $350 by taking advantage of the recommendations in the app. We know how much you are paying for stuff and can scan your accounts for opportunities to save such as bills that you can cut, or credit card debt you can refinance. We have detailed the breakdown in this blog post.
What do you think is the future of personal money management and what is the next step for Empower?
Recent developments in financial technology have made it easy to aggregate all your financial accounts in one convenient app. Most apps out there do this well, and some, like Empower, even intelligently predict your income and expenses in the future and find you ways to save. But we’re not finished. Many people who take the right first step to understand their finances and get advice, but for lack of time or effort, don’t take actions. The next step for Empower would be going beyond giving advice and into automating the actions consumers should take to get them into a better place financially.
Other than Billshark, what are your top three platforms to help consumers save money?
Well, if you haven’t downloaded Empower app, give us a try 😉 I also like Square Cash for instant money transfer and super simple interface, as well as the retro feel of Robinhood.