American Express (NYSE: AXP) today announced that it is kicking off a research pilot to study consumer savings behaviors using the Serve software platform. This research pilot can help identify new ways to promote saving and explore whether certain behavioral interventions are effective in increasing consumer savings. This program will also help inform research at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. government agency charged with making financial markets work for American consumers, to better understand how to promote saving among consumers.
Research shows that many Americans, particularly those who are underserved, do not have sufficient savings to buffer them from common emergencies. According to a new study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation and American Express, more than forty percent of Americans describe themselves as struggling to pay bills and credit payments, and more than one fifth have no idea how long they could make ends meet in the event of a job loss1. One of the reasons for this is that many families experience an unpredictability of funds coming and going. Pay days may not be regular, especially when working more than one job or freelancing, and expenses related to auto repairs, illness, or home repairs for common issues like a broken heater can come up unexpectedly. Establishing a savings buffer could benefit consumers by providing liquidity and making them less reliant on high cost borrowing.
“Rarely do researchers have the opportunity to test their theories in real world environments, using actual financial products, and directly with their target customers,” said Neal Sample, President, Enterprise Growth, American Express. “We see tremendous potential in enabling researchers to use our Serve software platform to improve the lives of the financially underserved. This is why we established our Financial Innovation Lab, and it’s why we are pleased to be working on this research pilot.”
The research pilot will be conducted using the American Express Serve software platform. American Express Serve is a full service reloadable prepaid account, which can help provide an alternative to traditional banking services. Serve has a $1 monthly fee, which can be waived for customers who use Direct Deposit to have their paycheck automatically added to their Serve account or by adding $500 during a monthly statement period2. Transactions at non-MoneyPass® ATMs have a $2.50 American Express Serve fee3 and Serve has a foreign transaction fee of 2.7% on each transaction4.
Both American Express Serve and Bluebird from American Express feature Reserve and SetAside respectively. The Reserve and SetAside features allow customers to set aside money in support of their financial goals. Customers who use these linked accounts are putting away more than twenty-five percent of the money they add to their primary accounts each month into a SetAside or Reserve account. They are transferring money into SetAside or Reserve an average of three times a month, and they are using this money for emergency funds or large purchases.
Sample added, “From the start, our priority has been to provide consumers with easy access to money management tools. Over the next several months, this research will help us better understand what triggers can drive measureable savings behavior-- which is differentiated from most savings research, which is often based on self-reported behavior.”
American Express is conducting the research pilot and will be testing several marketing treatments on the Serve platform to encourage savings. American Express has agreed to share insights with the CFPB from the pilot to inform the agency’s work. The information shared by American Express with the CFPB will be de-identified, and appropriate precautions will be taken to ensure that individual consumers cannot be identified through the data. This research is part of the CFPB’s Project Catalyst initiative, which was created by the agency to encourage consumer-friendly developments in markets for consumer financial products and services.
More information about the CFPB’s Project Catalyst will be available at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/projectcatalyst
About American Express
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