On the up · 15 December 2017

Facebook chatbot Plum is using AI to help users take control of their finances

Plum co-founders Alex Michael and Victor Trokoudes
Plum co-founders Alex Michael and Victor Trokoudes

Business Advice speaks to CEO of East London startup Plum to find out how the integrated Facebook chatbot is offering fintech fans something new.

Rather than offer a standalone app, Plum’s founders anticipated Facebook’s own Messenger as the place its users will naturally reside and a better platform to challenge traditional banking. So how does it work?

Plum connects to the user’s bank account and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn spending habits and automatically deposit small amounts of money into the Plum account every few days. There is even the option to invest savings into peer-to-peer lender RateSetter to earn a three per cent interest rate.

With a base of daily users reaching the tens of thousands, Business Advice sat down with co-founder and CEO, Victor Trokoudes, to find out more about early growth and what sets Plum apart in the fintech space.

  1. Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Victor Trokoudes, co-founder and CEO of Plum. Plum is the world’s first AI-powered Facebook chatbot which allows you to start saving money automatically without any effort, fees or changes in spending. Plum allows you to take control of your finances effortlessly, without changing your lifestyle, budgeting or even noticing.

Our goal here at Plum is to help people be better off. We do this by helping people grow their savings and manage their money. Plum helps you manage your personal finances in lots of ways. Our AI tech helps you save money automatically. You can also invest those savings within Plum for a decent return, and even earn money by referring friends (£25 for every three friends).

On top of all of that, we make sure you are not being overcharged on things like energy bills and help you switch if you are.

Plum connects to your current account and dynamically analyses your past earnings and spending. Using this data, our algorithm calculates daily what amount it can safely put aside without affecting your daily life and moves it to your Plum saving account via direct debit. You can access your savings anytime, within 24 hours of notice.

  1. How has it grown since foundation?

We have grown very rapidly since starting just over a year ago, 40 per cent month-on-month average over the last 12 months. We now have tens of thousands of active users most of which interact with Plum every day which is pretty amazing.

  1. What do you attribute that growth to?

As a young startup we don’t have a huge budget to push loads into advertising or anything like that. Our main driver of growth is word of mouth, and I guess that boils down to having a product people love to use and tell their friends about.

Plum integrates directly with Facebook Messenger
Plum integrates directly with Facebook Messenger

It’s our belief that if you have a great product it will grow itself on the back of recommendation and so far we have been right.

  1. Is the business profitable yet?

Right now we are not profitable. As we said our main focus is helping our users be better off. To really stay true to that we are a totally free to use product, we take no cuts from our user’s savings and charge no fees or subscriptions.

We are planning on making money via additional opt in schemes in the future and affiliate partnerships with people who share our common goal. It should never cost you money to save money.

  1. How important is AI to your product?

AI is crucial to our product. What makes Plum so unique is the bespoke experience of the product and AI makes this possible. With Plum, you can even adjust the algorithm itself, with our “moods” you can adjust between five different settings to save more or less with a tap of the button.

You have something that is entirely based around you and your needs. What’s great is that as those needs change the AI will change with you. In a time where people’s lives are not as stable as they used to be, and things can change from one week to the next, that’s really important.

  1. What setbacks have you had along the way?

It’s hard to say. Setbacks are part of startup life! We see them as challenges that we are here to solve and opportunities to provide new solutions. Regulation is an ongoing challenge as is building the trust with sensitive data.

As a new concept, there is always a time consideration for things becoming the norm, from online banking to mobile banking these behavioral changes can take some getting used to. PSD2 is likely to help with this a great deal by taking the data issue head on.

Read more about how the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) could reform financial services

  1. What’s your biggest achievement to date?

That we are saving users millions of pounds a month after just launching a year ago. Some of these people were not able to save before using us, we have helped people get out of debt, go on holiday for the first time and get themselves into a better financial positon all round.

That’s an amazing feeling, to know we are making a real positive impact on people’s lives, providing real value to our users.

We also won Start Up of the year at the National Technology Awards 2017, which was great.

  1. In five years’ time, I will be…

Relaxing because I know no one is getting ripped-off by the system and we are making everyone better off with Plum.

  1. What advice would you give other tech companies starting out?

Be driven by the mission to make a change.

  1. Who would you most like to partner with in business and why?

Elon musk because he is breaking through new barriers and is committed to ensuring AI improves everyone’s lives.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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