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>> Hello and welcome to Reporters' Roundtable episode number 3. This is CNET's weekly deep dive into one major topic a week. I'm Rafe Needleman form CNET and today we're gonna be talking with Aaron Patzer, the CEO of the personal website--personal finance website called "Mint." Aaron, Hello, thanks for joining us.
>> Thanks for having me Rafe.
>> Mint was sold recently to Intuit for 170 million dollars. And we'll be talking about the acquisition and also about the personal finance market and the security and some questions from readers and listeners. Joining me to talk with Aaron is Elinor Mills, reporter for CNET News. Elinor, covers security, thanks for joining us.
>> Thank you.
>> So let's start with a little bit of background and catch up on Mint now. You started--You started Mint when?
>> So I started the--I have the idea sort of back in winter of 2005. So I started working on a full-time March of 2006. Basically, worked alone in a room programmed about 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for about 7 months and then it really got its first funding and other employees in the fall of 2006. It's been around for 3 years.
>> And you introduced it to the public at TechCrunch50 in 2007?
>> That's right.
>> Actually, it was TechCrunch40 there were [inaudible] last back then.
>> But we won that event and that that really catapulted us to another level and we've got 1.5 million users at this point in 2 years of operation.
>> Fair to say here, I think it's a great service. My wife likes it. Elinor you know people who use and love it. And I remember after TechCrunch40, after this was announced that you and I met at a party which I believe not ironically was the old Mint. The party was at the old Mint building, if I'm not mistaken.
>> That's right it was at the San Francisco Mint.
>> In fact, the code names for our projects for all the engineers and nerds out there are named--each release is named after a different mint in the US. So we--our first release was Philadelphia which is where the location of first US Mint was.
>> Ah, okay. Little Mint trivia for us. Anyway, at this party, if I recall correctly, you said, "Well its great recognition but we didn't really need the money." You won a 50,000 dollar price.
>> We do.
>> At that time, we have already had secured series A financing of about 4, 5 million dollars. And so, it didn't make a huge difference in terms of our operations. But we're a startup and that we're cash conservative so I was gonna give it back.
>> Of course, so what you do with it?
>> The 50,000 bucks?
>> I don't know. It just went into the general operations of the company.
>> We didn't do anything special with it. We're not particularly extravagant at Mint. We have really sort of cheap office space but pay our people good wages basically.
>> Okay. So, and then fast forward 2 years, Intuit buys you for 170 million dollars, is that figure accurate?
>> That figure is accurate, yes.
>> So the first thing I have to say on this, congratulations.
>> Oh, thank you.
>> Nice exit.
>> Thank you.
>> And is this what you expected when you started down this path of building a personal finance website?
>> I didn't really have any expectations on exit. You know the reason that I started Mint was I was just really frustrated with Microsoft Money and Quicken. It just took, you know, an hour to get set up with these programs. They wouldn't categorize most of your transactions for you. You had to enter a lot of things. You had to reconcile your transactions which is sort of this bizarre concept of balancing your checkbook except in electronic form. And I thought you know what, most people don't wanna be with finances, they don't wanna be accountants. People wanna get set up in about 10 minutes, get in and out of their finances in 5 minutes a week or less, and just get an email when, you know, stuff goes wrong. When I get hit with the fee, if my balance is too low, if I'm over my budget for restaurants or alcohol or whatever it maybe, tell me about it and sort of put your finances on autopilot. And that's what Mint is really all about.
>> So, I think it's important that you mentioned that you're frustrated with Quicken and the big question that people are asking, you know, online fans of Mint in particular are, why did you sell? You had Intuit and for my perspective as a user of both Mint and Quicken personal finance--
>> --you had Intuit on the ropes in personal finance. I really believe that you are really going somewhere with this app and the question that people are asking is why did you sell?
>> Right, so what Intuit gave us the opportunity to do is to actually take over the personal finance division at that company. So, we will actually own Mint, Quicken online which will essentially be replaced by Mint, the technology will be all replaced by Mint. And Quicken Desktop both the Windows and the Mac version is coming out.
>> I can now complain to you about my Quicken Desktop experience?
>> Oh you are so in for it.
>> I am. No, the acquisition is not yet complete.
>> There are still bunch of legal work and approvals to go through so no, not yet. But in about a month or 2, yes you can complain to me about Quicken Desktop. I'm, you know the anticipated plan is to potentially actually replace the desktop application. I think a lot of people still want a desktop application, you know, because of perceived security concerns or because they want--when their on a plane or when they don't have connectivity is to potentially redo it all in as Adobe AIR application would be or Silverlight or something that would give you cross platform capabilities with the desktop responsivity. And I think that'd be a powerful thing to do.
>> I'm gonna ask the same question again in the words of a reader who wrote in. And I got a couple of emails like this and I've been seeing this floating around the web at the commentary like this.
>> This is a quote from Jeff B who sent me the email, "Why did you sell out to a company with absolutely terrible money management software and a complete disregard for customer service? Do you understand how upset you've made your core user base?"
>> Right. So there are, you know, a lot of people who are passionate Mint users who are essentially afraid that, okay, you sold to Intuit, Mint is gonna become bad like Quicken instead of--I mean, we went to Mint because we didn't like Quicken because it wasn't working for us, because it was too cumbersome, because they have horrible customer service. I mean, they have 200 sort of representatives who do phone support and it takes 4 or 5 phone calls to get something resolved. It's not a good situation, but I would not have done this acquisition if both myself and the Mint team, we didn't have control of the personal finance division. And so like I said, we'll own Mint and we'll own Quicken Desktop. I will be the general manager, so I will have in some sense complete control over that division. And so, we will make Quicken good like Mint instead of Mint becoming bad like Quicken essentially.
>> Well from your lips, the guys here as what they say. I hope that comes to pass, good luck with that. When you sold or--now they're in the process of selling the company, how much of the company was left financially in the hands of the founders versus the venture capitalist?
>> Well that's--since I'm the only founder, if I gave you that number, that would be revealing what my personal stake is, was. So I will not do that. You know, it used to be that you wouldn't give me demos on WebEx or whatever it was screen sharing and you would give me your password to your accounts so I could see what your balances were.
>> Well you can still see my balances if you want, I mean I can give you my [inaudible].
>> No, we changed the password.
>> Oh, okay.
>> I'll give it to you offline.
>> No, no, it's okay. I don't really wanna snoop like that but, you know, it's curious how--it's such an interesting decision to make because people have been asking, you know, as this--it says here that you could have gone on without taking this buy out.
>> Absolutely we could have.
>> I mean we, you know, have the money and we have the user traction, we have the revenue traction. What this does--look, at the end of the day, what I am personally interested in is building. And what Intuit has--yes, they have lots of problems in Quicken with customer service and actually their 2010 version is better than it was in the past, still not good enough. But they have 25 million users of Turbo Tax. They have 10 million people on Desktop Quicken who need an online alternative. They have 8 million people on their online banking platform. They have 4, 5 million people who use their small business products. So all of the sudden we can get Mint innovations. Money saving innovations out to 40 or 50 million people and that's important. I mean, we've already, with just our user-based, help people save I think 3 or 400 million dollars so far in identifying, you know, higher interest rate savings accounts, low interest rate, credit cards, you know, making decision [simultaneous talking] much--
>> And that's based on your revenue model of providing Mint for free and--
>> That's right.
>> --and giving people very targeted offers or advertising basically that looks into their account or their transaction that says, you are now paying this on credit card. You could be paying this much less if you go to this other one and that's a sponsored message.
>> Exactly. Well--
>> It's fairly represented as such but yeah, yeah.
>> Right. We have a mixture of sponsored and non-sponsored results who will say, "Hey you've got 20,000 dollars at Bank of America or Citibank." And you know, the average interest rate on those accounts is about 10 days' point, so 0.10 percent interest. And you can get, I think it's 1.77 percent at Ally, right now. So we show the top rates, regardless of whether we have an advertising relationship for someone. With an advertising, we make it easy to click through and actually signup right then and there and they get certain branding but it's clearly marked sponsored. We get anywhere from a 10 to 20 percent click-through rate on those because they're personalized just to you. You know, we won't suggest an account that requires a 5000 dollar minimum balance if you don't have 5000 dollars. We'll take a look at what your spending habits are before we recommend a credit card. You know, maybe you Rafe, you spend a lot on gas and grocery so we'll recommend a particular type of card. I spend a lot on travel so Mint recommends a miles card to me. And so, it's very personalizes. We get a 10 to 20 percent click-through rate, that's literally a 100 times more effective than a banner ad.
>> Okay. Well be getting to some really interesting security questions coming up here but I wanna drive in--dive in a little bit to, while we're still talking about the Intuit and the change of ownership basically of this.
>> Now, Yodlee is the backend service provider for Mint and many financial institutions that connects ultimately consumers with their bank accounts and their other financial institutions. It's what let's you provide all these data to the Mint consumer.
>> Right, so Yodlee is a backend sort of data provider and I think they have--they sell primarily to banks. So, Bank of American and Fidelity and a bunch of other places like that that let you do what's known as account aggregation which is puling all of your accounts whether it's credit cards or checking your savings or investments together in one place. And some of that is built on screens scraping technology, other parts are built on direct connections with those banks, others are built on OFX which is the standard that Quicken and Microsoft Money pioneered back in about '97 which is the Open Financial Exchange XML file format. And so, Yodlee is our provider, there's also CashEdge who provides this service by all accounts you monitor. There are bunch of people who do this as well as Intuit having their own technology.
>> So this is where things get interesting. Now, Intuit PR people say--this is according to our webware writer, Don Reisinger, that he spoke to Intuit PR people say that after the acquisition is approved, Inuit will be using its own aggregation service and dishing Yodlee. I talked to Yodlee--SPP at Yodlee this morning who said, "We think Mint will stick with Yodlee." They'll come to the same conclusion that he was talking about which is that it is more robust than Intuit's internal OFX-based thing.
>> What's your--you're the guy here.
[ Simultaneously Talking ]
>> So remember the deal is not close. So this is all tentative.
>> And we haven't had a chance to fully review Intuit's platform. Yodlee, you know, we selected out of four different providers because they pulled in more interest rates and they were generally more scalable. So we have to make sure that all of those things are, you know, at least is good or better before we'd make a switch. So it's, you know, is possible we'll stick with them, but it's something that's, you know, open to evaluation.
>> Okay, [inaudible]. There are tons of questions here I could ask about Intuit and Mint. Let's get in some of the security things. Elinor you've been sitting there just monitoring. Elinor Mills here is our--the CNET's news security reporter. We fear her. But I wanna bring her in for this question because when it comes to personal finance there is nothing more important to the consumer than a security of their data. So--
>> --Elinor, let's talk about this a little bit.
>> Yeah. So, first off, can you talk about where the data is and what's being stored and is it encrypted?
>> Sure. So, Mint uses bank level data encryption. Everything that you do--
>> Meaning SSL or--
>> This one.
>> But, you know, he can't move money around. So you know, even if somebody broke through all the security, and we haven't had any security britches, they wouldn't be able to do anything.
>> Okay, I wanna go back to the SSL and the other stuff.
>> Lets tackle this 'cause I do think what you're talking about is, my biggest problem with using Mint which I don't right know because I wanted to get more information--
>> --and see how things fold out but--So, you do keep the infor--my lo--you know, if I were a customer, I would have the log information for my other accounts--
>> That's right.
>> --mutual funds, et cetera. So, anyone who gets access to that, those passwords in that login credentials through Mint somehow, then we'd be able to go into my accounts and transfer money.
>> So you mean like an internal employee or an engineer or something like that?
>> Right. Or somehow, you know, depending on how encrypted the data is in transit.
>> So it's all encrypted in transit. And what we do on our side before we store, you know, encrypt and decrypt your data is, it actually goes to a hardware encryption system. A tamper-proof hardware encryption system from encipher. And it's--in order to sort of change the encryption key on that or reset the mechanism or pull anything out. There are sort of in front of the encryption system is an audit log and that actually permissions any time the hardware device wants to do a decryption that goes off to an offsite server and says "hey, can I have permission to do this?" sends a signal back that says "yes." So you'd have to compromise both the core main system. You'd have to compromise the system that's offsite and it uses a rate limiter. So it can only decrypt a certain amount at a certain time. In order to reset any of this stuff, we actually have series of smart cards. We physically have to go to the device to reset or change the password or anything like that. And we've actually got a password that's broken up among five different people. So you need three out of the five people in order to reset the thing. It's kind of like--
>> This is off for admin access?
>> This is all off admin access. This is protection against, you know, internal Mint employees even.
>> Not even myself or the VP of Engineering can pull your usernames and passwords out unless, you know, we got three people together essentially. It's kinda like on a nuclear submarine where you have to guys with the keys and they have to be at least 6 feet apart and have to turn at the same time. We need three people in order to, you know, actually get access to usernames and passwords. So there's no way one rogue person could do that.
>> Are there back--
>> Even internally.
>> --background and criminal checks on your employees and only any contractors and--
>> Absolutely, we do the criminal checks so no one, you know, with felony conviction or even bankruptcy can ever work for Mint. We use--it's important and now for physical security, we have an unmarked co-location facility where you actually scan your hand to get in. You have to make it pass the guards. You go into this place called the "man trap." So you scan your hand there and what that does is like this long corridor or one door will not open unless the other one closes behind you. And so, if you've sort of faked it, I don't know because you've got someone's dead hand and you got into the biometrics. I don't know what the exact scenario where this would actually come in to play is. Then they can actually trap you into this corridor 'cause one door has to close before the other one opens. Then you make in the physical facility and we got our own cage and we don't share with any other startups. You know, a lot of people share--
>> --servers or cages for economic purposes. Now, we've got our own cage. We have since the very beginning. It got 24/7 video surveillance on the cage and on the power supply. When you get in there, the racks themselves are locked and the hard drive themselves are encrypted even if you pull them. So other than the sharks and laser beams, it's like mission impossible.
>> So then let's talk about the data. Okay, so first off, is there an authentication at the point of log in when I'm coming to Mint, you know, the bank sites offer you some way to make sure that, you know, it's not phishing site or--
>> Right. So what we did instead is we have a bunch of anti-phishing technology from it's a company called, it was in Kyoto, but what it does is we share information with banks on all the suspicious phishing sites that are out there and as a group, you know, with us and PayPal or [inaudible] whoever is in this coalition, we'll find the phishing sites and work together to take them down and also to identify particular IP addresses or locations that are considered malicious. We also have anti-Trojan sort of technology which will scan all of the freeware and scan for spyware that's specifically targets Mint or targets your bank usernames and passwords. So you know, you could say well phishing sites or Trojan sites in some sense that's on the user because they're the ones going to that. And by the way, Mint has a certain type of next generation VeriSign key where if you go to Mint.com and I think in Internet Explore 8, you'll see that it's got green address bar. So, it's another level of security there. So phishing sites, you could say, well that's sort of the user going the wrong site but we protect against that on spyware or malware--well and again, the user was the one who downloaded that but we even have try to protect against that.
>> What about if--can I access your main page using HTTPS?
>> My--The main page?
>> The main--for Mint
>> I mean, so the main page doesn't have any login or you don't type any credentials on it.
>> So it's HTTP for--essentially, search engine, you know, reasons.
>> Okay. So then, where is the data stored? Is it on Yodlee's databases servers or what are you storing, what do they're storing, and is it encrypted both on the backend and the endpoints and in transit?
>> Yeah, it is in encrypted in transit. It's on both our servers and any providers that we use for the account aggregation services. Any of the providers that we use such as a Yodlee have been audited to bank level standards and follow in all the ISO standards that banks would.
>> So when you say audit, like who's auditing your logs?
>> So for Yodlee and there's more of these on their website, I know that they've had like Visa and MasterCard, Bank of America maybe even the FDIC come in and audit. What we do on our side, because we're not a bank so we're not subject to those sort of regulatory things. We follow a lot of the regulatory guidelines sort of voluntarily 'cause we actually have outside contractors which I would call white night hackers who come in and try to break into the system, try to break into the core of the system to do, essentially on audit anytime we do a major release. And no one's ever been able to break into the core of the system. We also have outside audits by cryptography research. So Cryptography Research is a company here in San Francisco, Paul Kocher, the founder of that was the guy who invented SSL 3 when he was at Stanford. My friend, Carter Lauren [phonetic], was the guy who invented the blu-ray encryption scheme. My other friend, Josh Jaffe was the one who--with he and Paul basically stopped the rollout of smart cards in Europe by cracking them. And then they invented the defenses around differential power analysis to make smart cards more secure. And so we use that firm and those guys to look at a new code reviews on all the sensitive code. And then the security code, we don't touch each release. There's no need for--we probably gonna touch it once a year and anytime we do, we have an audit.
>> So, and how often are these audits or assessments?
>> Well, anytime we change the core security code, we'll audit. This is pretty deep.
>> This is--I know the listeners here, they're totally gonna agree on these, I believe. Yeah, and if they don't--
[ Simultaneous Talking ]
>> Some questions are gonna be like, well, that audit server, where is that and what if they were an earthquake and the timing between those two--
>> No, no. I mean, these at least are important serious questions they were asking. I mean, we can get a little too much in here but it think it's--we're talking about data that is so critical people and your aggregating so much data. I mean, I've got--I use Mint and I'm not afraid to say that, you know, I've got my--Elinor thinks I'm not sure she told me earlier that I have my retirement funds here and it's really cool how Mint can aggregated my IRS and stuff like that.
>> Yeah, you can see your investment performance and all that.
>> Yeah, but if anybody breaks into that, we're talking about, you know, retirement funds here and not just my checking account. And I wanna know how much you know about security and I think it's good that you actually know this stuff.
>> Yeah. I mean,--
>> --I'm the CEO but I'm an engineer by training and I am not the security expert in the company, my VP of engineering is topnotch and that respect, right before Mint he worked at PGP which is s a security company doing their security mail product and, you know, PGP disk and that sort of thing. My QA guy was also from PGP, George Colenso [phonetic]. So we have that expertise. I hired those guys for exactly that reason. And I hope you get the impression from me talking about these things and how we do the audit logs and the trails and the physical security and the background checks and the fact that no one single employee can access this information. But these are the same procedures that a bank would take if not better.
>> Lets level up a little bit here in terms of going up the stack for a bit. Terms of service, you have the term the service for Mint, Intuit has a term of service, have you looked at them? Do they mesh? Will people who are on Mint or who are Quicken or Quicken online have to be aware of any changes or should they be aware of any changes as they move from one service to the other?
>> Yup, so I haven't taken a side by side comparison of the two. I would say that the Mint terms of service would be the ones that will stay. And those terms of service by the way say that we'll never sell your data or your email or things like that. We can aggregate data by the way and we do that sometimes if you go to mint.com/blog, you'll see some really interesting info graphics that show, you know, which area is the country are spending most or spending least or how much has it changed since last year or how much our people spending on coffee shops or, you know, on movie rentals. So a lot of fun interesting insights into both your finances and how those finances compare with sort of the Mint average if you will. But that's how we use it and that's the only way.
>> I wanna read anther comment here from a reader. This one is rather lengthy and I got some really short questions, if we have time I'll get to, but this one I think captures an interesting sentiment towards Mint.
>> This is Jonathan from--he sent me an email, he said, I heard about Mint signed up for it about one week before it hit big news. About a month ago, I looked online and watched a bunch of videos of the CEO because I wasn't going to give my PIN numbers to just anyone. If it had been some guy in a suit saying blah, blah, encryption, blah, blah, 100 percent safe, blah, blah, blah, I would have laughed and left.
>> But he seemed really nice and straight forward and I like to think that I am a good judge of character, so I signed up and I was super excited. I have even been telling people about it and encouraging them to check it out. I requested my bank--that my bank be added, and now, here I am. So now my question, I live in a small town of 100,000 people, have a local bank with only thousands of customers, I'm willing to wait for approval, but realistically, it's not going to happen and if it doesn't--if my bank doesn't reach that threshold--
>> --can I just pay to have it setup?
>> Well, first off, that's incredibly flattering, that they would think just from my face that I'm a trustworthy enough guy.
>> And I have to interject here, by the way, that is not a good way to decide if your bank is a good bank or not or if you're--but, you know, Aaron is a nice guy, but I mean, come on. Alright, and go ahead, sir.
>> Oh, Rafe, I'm not feeling the love over here.
[ Laughter ]
>> It's not lack of love.
>> Yes, yes.
>> It's just a lack--it's common sense.
>> I--of course, of course. So, what we do--there are actually 15,000 FDIC-insured banks and credit unions in the US. We support 8000 of them. So we support all the big ones, and even a lot of the obscure ones. I mean, like sometimes I do a search just in a demo for the search word "Beef," so we support the National Cattlemen's Association Credit Card. Who knew that the cattlemen actually have their own credit card?
>> Well, that's a lobby you don't wanna mess with.
>> I know.
>> All the sports cars, all of the--we support 1200 different brokerages. So--But there is, you know, some people like this guy who have--they live in a small town, they only have a couple hundred clients or couple thousand clients in their particular bank which maybe we don't support. And what we do is we prioritize the requests that are coming in. And so we add, I would say anywhere from 20 to 40 banks in a given month.
>> But you have to work with the banks. They have to want to be added?
>> We--Yeah. In part, we have to work with the banks, which in sometimes be cumbersome. We have to see if they have an OFX feed or we have to use screen scraping and make sure that, you know, they don't block us, or if they have certain extra security procedures, they give us the same sort of questions that you just gave me. And that can take some time. Now, we will potentially have a solution to get up and running with just about every bank in America sometime in the future. I can't give you any timing on this, but I do know that Yodlee supports maybe 8000 banks. Intuit says they support 11,000. So it's possible that this guy's bank is gonna be in that group. And we may have more control over it at Intuit. You know, one of the things you asked about Yodlee before, Yodlee maybe the best in terms of scale and reliability for say the top 4000 banks and maybe we just put the time and energy in resources and have more control over the long tail of banks. So that's one way to potentially do it. So I'm not quite sure how that will workout.
>> Now, speaking of Yodlee, going back to that for a minute. Yodlee execs have told me that 85 percent of aggregated online consumer transactions run through their backend and they believe that the majority of consumers will access their accounts, their financial accounts even in the aggregate through their banks.
>> Well, right, because Yodlee sells primarily to banks.
>> Yeah, and will--
>> And so if they didn't say that, their customers would be quite upset.
>> Yes, I but I want to realistically, to argue--do you believe you're in a battle with the banks then?
>> Yeah, I would say that our primary competitor, you know, has never really been Quicken. I mean, if you look at the demographics, they don't even particularly overlap. The average Quicken Desktop user is 47, 85 percent male, managers at 250,000 dollar portfolio, you know, basically, an older rich white guy. And--
>> I'm 85 percent male, I guess I qualify.
[ Laughter ]
>> I don't wanna know about the other 15 percent.
[ Laughter ]
>> So, Mint, you know, the average user is 30. It's 60 percent male, 40 percent women. So we've attracted a lot of people who are younger and more female which is fantastic. And so I don't--never thought it was particularly overlapping with the Quicken, or at least the Quicken Desktop demographic. Online banking, I mean a lot of people, there are 84 million people who use online banking in this country, you get a balance, and you get transaction which may or may not be categorized, and that's good enough for a lot of people, or they think it is because it's easy, because it doesn't take a lot of time, and they think, God, personal finance offer, I don't wanna be an accountant. That's gonna take a lot of time to setup. It's gonna take a lot of time to, you know, manage my finance. I just don't have the time for that and I'm just not interested in finances. I'd rather go off and live my life and have fun and don't care about those sort of things.
>> And--So that's really been our battle in the marketplace. The real--the perception battle that, you know, what Mint really--honestly, you setup, in 10 minutes, you get all of your banks and there, all of your credit cards, all your students loans, all of your investments. And from that point on, it categorizes everything, gives you the bill reminders, it provides so much more than online banking in terms of the personal finance functionality with really not much more effort.
>> Well, I can't--let's end on that advertisement. So Elinor, do you have any other security questions to ask?
>> Yeah, just two quick ones. Some users on your forum and the security threads we're talking about or asking about when they delete their accounts, and you guys delete it all. What about Yodlee, is that passed on, you know, how long do they keep it?
>> Yes. So right when you delete your accounts on Mint and you can just go to the profile and hit Delete anytime you want to. So we make it probably, you know, too easy in some sense. It--We send a signal to Yodlee where we remove all of those Yodlee accounts and all that information over there. And then I think we actually keep your data around for another 12 hours just in case you hit Delete and then typed in the word Delete and, you know, did all of those things 'cause we--you sort of do two steps. You can't just accidentally click a button. So we keep it around for 12 hours just in case, 'cause there have been some people who are like, "Oh, my God, I can't believe I deleted my account. It's got like 8 years worth of history" or my wife was paranoid about security and she deleted it and I want it back. But it gets purged, there's like a nightly batch process so it's not around for more than a couple hours, and it gets purged from Yodlee as well.
>> And one last thing, you said you or some other executive. I read a Bloomberg story s said that you were considering charging for access to anonymous data like spending habits, sort of an anonymous maybe aggregate way. Is that something you'd still be considering?
>> Right, so what that article was about was saying, you know, and we've--and sometimes been doing this all along, like Jane Kim of the Wall Street Journal used Mint to aggregate data on bank fees. So she did an article on who were the top 10 sort of worst offenders in terms of bank fees, and that was based on Mint data. So we can see empirically, like how much does Bank of America actually charge the average user in overdrafts or, you know, the ridiculous fees that they may charge.
>> Did she get that from your sign or was there a special deal or they pay for that?
>> We did a special deal with them.
>> That was not paid, but there are other people who have said, you know, that's really interesting data on where people are spending. And so, we primarily used it for press purposes. We've got a deal up coming with MSNBC where they are tracking how the recession is going and which states are recovering, 'cause different states will recover more quickly.
>> You know, maybe California and New York recover first then Middle America recovers later or vice versa. And so, we can actually look at discretionary spending and the savings rate in those particular states. And it's all anonymous, of course. And we obviously don't provide any emails or any user identifiable information. But it's--I would call the "spending index." So those are some things that we do with the data. And if you wanna use this to your own benefit, when you go on to Mint, when you set a budget, you can actually see four people in San Francisco, what is the average that they spend on coffee shops. Or for groceries, what is the household with four people who's living in the Palo Alto area, what do they spend on groceries each week. And so it's a way for you to say, "God, why are we spending so much or why do I spend this much on utility, this much on my cell phone when the average person who's, you know, just like me or similar to me is spending less." And we make sure that when we--whenever we do those anonymous aggregates, that there at least 50 people in that sample size, even if we take it down to, you know, some--a city as small as Palo Alto or Mountain View to make sure that we preserve anonymity and statistical significance, quite frankly.
>> Elinor, thanks for being the guest reporter on Reporters' Roundtable. Aaron, thank you so much for coming in and telling us about Mint and your new role at Intuit. We wish you the best of luck. As I said, "I'm a customer of both and I think you got your work cut out for you." But--
>> I do have my work cut out for me. I'm excited about doing all the, you know, potentially, the bill pay, the transactional stuff integrating with tax and all the things that Intuit would be able to provide.
>> Yeah. So, good luck. Keep us up to date. Thanks everyone, for listening to Reporters' Roundtable. We are live each Friday at 1 o'clock Pacific Time at live.cnet.com. Next time, I'm not sure yet. It might have something to do with how to launch a product in the era of over-coverage of blogs and stuff like that. Show notes will be at firstname.lastname@example.org? Yes, I think so. Got questions or feedback? [Background music] Email me, email@example.com, and we will see you next time. Thanks again everyone.
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