Student Finance: My ideal product

Amanda Boachie
5min read

With over one million students studying away from home during the 17/18 academic year, managing budgets and expenses is an ever-increasing need.

My previous blog post explored five products that could be useful for managing student finances. The biggest hurdle, that all but one failed to overcome, was providing an offering that catered to the management of expenses for a group. In the final post in this series, I outline features for an ideal student expense management product.

Core Features: A Joint Account for Household Expenses

An important issue highlighted by the survey is that students struggle to create and manage budgets as a collective. A core feature of this product is that upcoming payments for both the individual and the household are displayed in calendar format. Similar to how Monzo display upcoming direct debits in their home feed, this would provide a holistic view of outgoings and allow for greater transparency. Also, there would also be a bill-splitting feature which would allow a user to request money from other users once they’ve uploaded a picture or screenshot of a receipt. A defining feature of the product would be direct debits for utilities and rent. The obvious benefit of this joint billing feature, which is inspired by Acasa, is that the credit risk is shared amongst all housemates. A central part of the growth strategy would be a referral scheme, which would credit £25 to a household when another house registers using their unique referral code. We’ve seen these tactics being employed across the board – think of how Uber gives £10 credit to a first-time user when they enter an existing user’s promotion code. This is the beginning of the user connectivity that Acasa is missing.

Additional Features: Utility Management and Savings Pots

In addition to core features, the product would include optional modules covering utility bills and savings pots. A greater awareness of energy usage and energy bill costs would be facilitated by the ability to connect a smart meter to the household account. This allows for greater transparency concerning costs, as recent meter readings are recorded on the household account without the need for manual input, which is often complicated in rental property. Given that this would be the same data that the supplier receives, this would be a good indicator of whether users can access a tariff better-suited to their usage and, hopefully, save. Budgeting will be made much easier with the option to set money aside in pots towards group goals. For example, if the house wanted to buy a new dining table (or to replace the one which belongs to the landlord – that no one wants to own up to breaking), each individual could contribute a certain amount which could then be deposited into a PayPal account.

Freemium Business Model and Potential Vendors for the Service

The free version of the app would allow users to manage rent and utility payments. Paid users would be able to set up and manage direct debits for ‘extra’ services such as Netflix subscriptions, subscription comparisons and easy switching to new providers, and tracking payment status. Such a product would be of interest to three core bodies: letting agencies, universities with a large population of students that live off-campus, and the National Union of Students (NUS). Letting agents: The first could prove the most useful version, that seamlessly integrates rent payment schedules and extras such as house maintenance functionality, which would be an added bonus as logging maintenance requests can be an absolute nightmare. Universities: I think that the second would generate the most interest among students, given that a product offered by a university is where most students studying at that institution would look to in the first instance. It presents an opportunity for universities to partner with trusted local agencies or local services such as Unipol, which help students find properties to rent. NUS: In my opinion, the NUS could offer the most exciting version. Once housemates have verified their student status, the app could integrate an ‘Offers & Discounts’ area to encourage students to take advantage of the number of health, entertainment and travel discounts available to them. Here’s a mockup of what the general interface could look like: These are the features I would like an expense management product to have if it were to be made without any constraints of course. What do you think? Share your thoughts with us about student financial products on Twitter, you can find us @11FSTeam