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October 27, 2007

Geezeo: Financial Aggregator meets Social Network.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Peter Glyman, Co-Founder of Geezeo, a new financial aggregator and account management site. As you can tell from my previous review of Mint.com, I am not a fan of services like this. My primary concern has always been the thought of putting all of my account information in a single place, and while this is not something I am comfortable doing, others may not have the same qualms, so I decided to move beyond that and take a look into the other concerns I had.

Q. One of your competitors, Mint.com, states that they do not actually store any customer financial data, they just gather it then Yodlee stores it. Is your set up similar to this, only using Cash Edge as the back end?

A. Cash Edge powers all of our account aggregation. We don't store the bank login information or account numbers, but we do store your transaction and balance information in an anonymous database so that we can analyze it. The connection to this database is encrypted and can only be made using your Geezeo password. Not even Geezeo developers or system administrators can access it. (This applies to our backups as well; no identifying information is in database).

Q. How long is user data kept once a user cancels their account? (Including the time until backups with their info is purged)

A. All of your financial data is destroyed immediately when you delete your account. We only keep two days worth of data in an encrypted backup in case our database server goes down. So your data exists in the backups for only two days after account deletion.

Q. How long does Cash Edge hold user information once an account has been canceled?

A. As soon as you click on the "delete" button, after your financial data and user data have been deleted, we make a call to Cash Edge to delete your account (and all included login information) from their server. So all the data is deleted at the same time (when you click the "delete account" button on our site).

Q. How often do you backup user’s information? Are backups kept off site? Is the location of the off site back secure?

A. We make complete snapshots of the database every 15 minutes and retain them only for 48 hours after which they are deleted. We use Amazon Web Services for all our hosting. Nothing is stored at Geezeo. Amazon offers a very secure, cost effective, scalable environment and has been a fantastic business partner for Geezeo.

Q. What are your thoughts on the concern that using sites like Geezeo may be dangerous because users are "putting all their eggs in one basket" by entering all of their financial data in a single place?

A. I think that's an individual decision. Some people will never be comfortable aggregating their accounts and for others, it's a non issue. Personally I don't believe that our users are put at any further risk by using Geezeo...but hey that's probably a little bit of a bias opinion. Cash Edge is an awesome partner...they power account aggregation for a number of large financial institutions and we are very confident in the steps they have taken to protect their customer's data. Also, I believe there is value to aggregating your data in one place. Aggregations makes it easy to link goals to accounts, offer analytics holistically not just at the single account level, offer proactive alerts and real-time checks of your balances via your cell.

Q. Is Geezeo purely ad revenue driven? Or do you receive revenue from the banks you work with?

A. Both. Soon we will be adding a section to our site where users can search for various financial products (Savings Accounts, Loans, Investments, etc). In addition to representing quantitative data like rate and fee info we also have a user product rating engine. "Would you recommend this product to a friend"? Users will be able to use this information to make their own choices about what products are best for them.

I think one philosophical difference we have with Mint's approach is the idea of channeling users to one specific product. I think it's presumptuous to think that just because your savings rate with your credit union isn't as good as another product that you should switch. How are we to know that you don't have a car loan or other products tied to that savings account that in the end offer you an overall better financial relationship with your bank? Instead we will identify areas for improvement that could be addressed by calling your financial institution or possible by getting into a new product that you may or may not find in our financial product section.

Q. Why use Geezeo instead of Mint.com, MS Money, or Quicken?

A. If you are looking for a safe and simple web-based solution to better track your finances then Geezeo is the right solution. Geezeo offers easy to use tools to view all your accounts on the go, see where your money is being spent and offers a community environment that can help you make better decisions. If you have an aversion to buying software and don't want to be told what financial products to have then Geezeo is probably the best choice.

Q. Can you provide some background on yourself as well as the other founder(s) of Geezeo? Specifically your experience in online financial data and security?

A. Shawn and I worked together for about 5 years at a company called GainsKeeper. GainsKeeper is a portfolio accounting product that is used by consumers via http://www.gainskeeper.com and offers enterprise solutions to major financial institutions. We do not have specific experience managing the data security but did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night (Just kidding). If you would like a closer look at our professional profiles check out the LinkedIn links below.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterglyman

http://www.linkedin.com/in/shawnward


Some Interesting Facts about Geezeo:

  • Rather than a traditional collocation service, Geezeo uses Amazons EC2 Hosting solution which provides the ability to increase the hardware resources made available to the service should they ever hit their current capacity.
  • They also use Amazons S3 storage solution to ensure proper backups as well as a safe environment for data storage.
  • You are able to use your Gmail credentials on Geezeo via the Google Authentication API
  • In addition to the financial analysis, Geezeo acts as a social network so you can get advice from not only Geezeo, but other Geezeo users as well.

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