Citigroup's A Spending and Saving Social Networking Site

This past Sunday's New York Times Business Section claims that "A search of the database of the professional networking site LinkedIn found that more than 700 people listed their current job title as "chief innovation officer" and that nearly 25,000 had the word "innovation" in their job title." While this is not likely to have an impact on persistent unemployment, the article highlights -- among other individuals -- Chief Innovation Officer at Citigroup Deborah Hopkins' recent investment in "a social media start-up where users can compare their spending and saving habits with those of others."

The Times states that "The idea came from the Citigroup innovation unit, and Bundle's C.E.O., Jaidev Shergill, [who] came from Citigroup. The other investors in Bundle are Microsoft and Morningstar. "The whole social networking phenomenon is moving so fast, and we need to be invested in some way," said Don Callahan, Citigroup's chief administrative officer, who oversees the innovation unit." A YouTube video claims that Bundle is about "everybody's money" and is "the first site to show how people all over America are spending and saving for free." The site enables users to set filters by age, household status, income and location (by zip code) while a chirpy female voice sounds very excited as she says that she can now discover whether her spending on groceries, gas and clothing is "good, bad or normal."

From a social networking perspective, Bundle sounds a bit silly to me. But of course its true value will be realized in whether it is used voyeuristically or to reassure insecure consumers vs. a potential treasure trove of self-defined consumer spending habits for retailers and economists -- and oh yes: banks too. Nonetheless -- and perhaps more importantly -- it also offers the capability to make cost of living comparisons between regions and cities on a current basis over a broad spectrum of personal spend.

The Times also quotes Don Callahan saying "Whatever the outcome, we're going to learn a lot." I suspect so. I'd also love to know the total investment to date.

William Busch

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