Monday, September 21, 2009

Green Sherpa Flexes For Competition With Mint/Quicken

A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk with Erin Lozano, the COO and founder of Green Sherpa about how the company has changed since the launch a year ago.

Green Sherpa ended its Beta program in August and launched its full subscription services. They now support more than 10,000 financial institutions and in addition to those already serviced by Yodlee, also can manually establish connections to their customers’ banks—a service the competition isn’t offering. They’ve also added more cash-flow planning tools and goal-tracking tools for users and are getting ready to debut a few more new tools in the next 60 days (though I don’t get to report on those...yet.).

Green Sherpa is one of the only hybrid aggregating services as they can combine automated aggregation as well as set up individual connections. Green Sherpa worked to establish additional layers of security beyond what is offered by their aggregation provider. They’re also one of just a handful of software-as-a-service (SaaS) or “cloud” software providers that is charging a fee for an online-only product in the personal financial management field.

The company is lean and mean, with six employees and a ridiculously low breakeven point of only 5,000 subscribers, but their personal touch and low price (US $7.95 a month or $5.95 for pre-paying a year) sets them apart from other companies who provide software. Greens Sherpa is striving to provide its customers with an intimate snapshot of their own financial progress and future, not data on a dashboard.

Green Sherpa eliminates the manual data of Excel and Quicken, but also allows customers to download their own data to save, archive and manipulate, even if they choose to cancel the service.

The company also has an active advisory team including former leadership from Commission Junction.

Green Sherpa rolled out an affiliate program this month, which is fully operated on their site, not served through an ad company.

I asked Lozano about how the marketplace has changed since we spoke last in March. She explained that Mint and Quicken have released features that are becoming more forward-looking, and hence now more competing in the same space. Following the recent announcement that Mint would be moving under the Intuit brand, Lozano surprisingly said this is good news to her. “We think that this validates the web based personal financial management space which will be good for all remaining players in the market, including Green Sherpa” she said via email in a follow up conversation.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Green Sherpa’s commitment to a valuable forward-looking product, zero conflict of interest (not advertising/selling to subscribers) and complete privacy to users.

Green Sherpa has changed in one way—temporarily suspending subscriptions, giving users a 90 day free trial period to use the service. Existing subscribers will receive an additional 90 days free. The official company announcement to subscribers is expected out this week.

Jessica Ward is a freelance writer in Seattle, writing on family and personal finance. You can also find her online at or

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Note on Note Trading

Peer to Peer lending has been around via and for a while now, but another option that is less prominent is after-market note trading on these sites.

There are many advantages to after-market note trading. For sellers, this means having some liquidity in your investment—being able to cash out before the loan fully matures—shortening a three year loan into one or two years or even less time.

For buyers, the advantage is being able to see some repayment history on the loan. If you’re unsure about jumping into peer to peer loans, this might be a good way to go.

Also, for prospective buyers on Prosper, a note is a loan that has already funded, so you don’t have to wait for an auction or funding period. Your note will be earning interest and expecting payment much faster. uses Folio Investing as their note trading partner, and charges sellers a 1% transaction fee. uses Foliofn and also charges a 1% seller fee.

Prospective note buyers should remember that they’re not circumnavigating the investor account maintenance fees at 1% at both Prosper and Lending Club—regardless of if you bought the loan at issuance or the note later in the after-market, if the money is owed to you, the maintenance fees are charged to you.

Also, at Prosper the note trading platform only applies to notes issued after July 13th of 2009. At Lending Club your notes can be a little older if you want to re-sell them. The Lending Club platform extends to notes issued back to October 12, 2008.

Overall, the note trading process is fairly smooth. You usually have to digitally “sign” an agreement with the trading platform but otherwise the sites are smoothly integrated. You don’t have to open another account or fund another account—your funds will move fairly seamlessly between your Prosper or Lending Club and the designated note trading platform account whether you’re buying or selling the notes.

If you've done any note trading, I'd love to hear your feedback and comments. I haven't tried this system myself yet, but may consider it in the future.

Jessica Ward is a freelance writer based in Seattle. She writes on family, business and money.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mint Selling to Intuit for $170 Million, the leader in online personal financial management has just signed an agreement to be purchased by Intuit (makers of Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax) for an amount disclosed as “approximately $170 Million” in an Intuit press release.

Intuit’s Quicken Online is a competing free service to and users of both services may be wondering “will Quicken Online/Mint remain free?”

Josh Smith, of Wallet Pop cleared that up for everyone in a story released today, quoting Scott Gulbransen of Intuit who assures users that both services are expected to remain free. CEO and founder Aaron Patzer will be joining Intuit as the General Manager of the Personal Finance group where he will be responsible for “online, desktop and mobile consumer personal finance offerings” for the company.

Patzer reported on the blog that the sale is good news for Mint users who will gain from Intuit’s size and status as a leader in financial software citing that “by joining Intuit, we can accelerate our ability to add more fantastic new product functionality into both Quicken and Mint."

The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.

Since launching two years ago, has garnered 1.5 million users and is tracking $200 billion in transactions according to an Intuit press release.

Intuit was founded in 1983 and had an annual revenue of $3.2 billion in FY 2009. They have 7,800 employees worldwide according to their press release.

Intuit Press Release blog Post

Jessica Ward is a freelance writer based in Seattle. She also blogs at The Penny-Wi$e Family and

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lending Club Reaches Another Milestone

Lending Club began issuing loans in September 2007, and has just reached the $50 million loaned mark. Loan demand has surpassed $500 million (yes, folks, that’s half a billion—we’re almost talking government sized dollars here!).

Underwriting has kept Lending Club to issuing just the $50 million in loans, and investors have received a 9.64% net annualized returns (that’s doing the math after fees and bad loans are taken out).

This does make Lending Club the “biggest fish” in the P2P sea right now.

So far in August, Lending Club has issued $3.1 million in loans.

Author's note: This post replaces a post from yesterday which included a factual error. Apologies for the duplication.