Building Cake

What we’ve learned from the Cake beta so far

It’s been 3 weeks since we started opening up the beta-version of Cake! Because we very much believe in transparency we felt it would be a good idea to give the community an update on the details of how our beta is coming along.

Hi there! I’m Peter, the product owner at Cake! 👋
Because we very much believe in transparency (heck, “lead in the open” is even one of our core company values) we felt it would be a good idea to give our community an update on how our beta is coming along. I hope you find it interesting!
Also, before we begin, I want to do a special shout-out to all bank employees out there. 😁 Since your intranets drive the bulk of the traffic volumes to our website, it’s important to know that we’re always open for great talent to join our team. Feel free to reach out to us on social media or LinkedIn if you’d like. 👍

About the beta

It’s been 3 weeks since we started opening up the beta-version of Cake! 🎉 🎊 Getting the first iteration of our product out there marked another important milestone in the preparation of our public launch this December.
This early release is an opportunity to test our platform and validate how strong, stable and scalable our foundation really is. 🤔
We were humbled that over 650 potential beta testers applied to test Cake shortly after we made an appeal for beta-testers via our founder’s Twitter account. 💬
So far, we have sadly only activated 251 beta testers on our Android and iOS apps. It could have been quite a lot more, but we’re still having trouble with the quality of the provided APIs (or lack thereof) of a number of larger banks. 😞
Our active beta-testers have already entrusted us with a substantial amount of data! We now securely analyze 32.730 individual transactions, representing a total transaction value of over 8 million euros! 💸
If you take into account that all banks have currently (conflicting with the PSD2 regulation) restricted the data they send us to 90-days of transaction history, this is even way more impressive. 👏👏👏

The goal

Our main goal of this early release, aside from testing our infrastructure and giving a sneak peek to the first group of users, was to further investigate two prominent challenges:

1. Test the bank connections
The connectors provided by the banks that should enable us to link existing accounts to Cake differ tremendously between banks. A limited few provide a more-or-less stable interface. Others seem to have done the absolute minimum amount of effort to be “compliant” with the PSD2 regulation while a few simply don’t have provided a working interface at all… 😵

2. Improve the transactional data
The data we receive from the banks is not consistent across the individual connectors; some information is conflicting, other data is plainly wrong, while a few transactions don’t even contain any sensible information… 😖
Because we absolutely have to tackle these two challenges first, we limited the functionality of the beta on purpose. The outcome of the beta is helping us identify which banks we will support upon our public launch in December. 📅

Testing the bank connections

What’s cool about Cake, is that we’re building a bank-independent app. We believe that people should have a great digital banking experience without having to switch banks. 🎉 It should not matter if a user has a single account with one bank or 5 across multiple banks. ☝️ In our beta, we are already trying to bring them all together in one bank-independent app.
And it seems this is a need people have! Yay! Most beta users so far have connected multiple bank accounts across different banks! What’s also very interesting, is that many followed up with us to make sure that we don’t share data from one bank with their other bank. (hint: We don’t. It’s your private data) 🤫
This also confirms our hypothesis that people want a unified banking experience, but that they prefer it to not be offered by one of their existing banks. The feedback is that they don’t want their banks to know the balance of their other bank accounts. Users feel that the bank would then, by analyzing this information, simply try to upsell them on more stuff. 😤
We’ve recently published a blog post detailing which individual bank connections we support so far. Check out “Which banks are ready for Cake?” for more info.

Improving the quality of the data

Apart from delivering a bank-independent banking interface, we are working on drastically improving the data of your individual banking transactions. We want Cake users to clearly understand when and where they have been spending (or earning) their dough. 🍰
Banking apps today show a basic list of incoming and outgoing transactions that happened on your account. And the description of those transactions is quite often very obscure. For instance, last week, I was stuck wondering about a transaction of €20,9 at “YR030-HASSELT”. 🤷
It is our goal that the Cake app does not tell me I spent 21 euros at “YR030-HASSELT”, but that it was the “Yves Rocher” store. And by the way, here’s the logo, the address, the phone number, website and email address, just in case you need it.
In the near future, we will also allow users to upload a picture of their receipt for their records as well, just in case. 💥
The Cake data team is building a system powered by artificial intelligence that automagically re-labels transactions and adds additional information to it. 🤖 We do need to train this system quite a bit, both manually and by collecting feedback from our users about their transactions. And oh boy, did we get feedback!
So far, by having the app pro-actively ask our beta users to identify transactions, 3.103 transaction enrichment questions have been answered. This means that on average, each user identified about 12 transactions!
Even cooler, the top contributors identified over 100 transactions! This is helping our data scientists speed-up the training of our algorithms! 🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️💨
We feel that this has been the absolute most helpful outcome of the beta so far! The beta users are helping us decipher many cryptic bank statements. With Cake, this will soon become a problem of the past!

Collecting feedback

Even though the functionality of the beta app is very limited at this point, users can definitely see we do things differently than most banks.
In our beta invitation, we asked our users to provide feedback. 💬 The promise for the top 5 beta testers to win a private dinner with our CEO might have slightly influenced the motivation of some… 😋
A whopping 125 beta users have started in-app conversations with our team to give us feedback. 😮 We are very grateful for all the support and feedback we continue to receive! 💖
We’ve learned that by simply adding up daily transactions in basic income and spending reports, users feel they have a better understanding on how much money they’re actually spending; and this across all their accounts. 🔍 We additionally offer weekly and monthly summaries, which have proven to be helpful. 📝

Critical issues

Users helped our support team identify about 30 genuine problems:

– In most cases, users experienced issues while connecting their bank accounts to Cake. To make things worse, once we pass along the information to the bank to finalize the connection, it becomes a black box to us. We receive very limited to zero feedback from the banks when the connection does not succeed on their end. 🙉🙊🙈
– The user experience of the banks’ interfaces to connect accounts to Cake is usually bad. The process often requires the user to provide information that even the bank itself doesn’t ask its own customers during an online authentication process. 🤔
– Users can only add a single bank account at a time, and the interface requires great attention for the small print. For instance, when connecting an account, users are often asked to authorize the connection using the information of a different bank account number. Incredibly confusing! 😵
– Even when the connection to the account succeeds, some users are not yet out of the woods. In some cases the account balance and transactions fail to synchronize, others only return the last transaction. 🚧 And if that is not enough, some banks randomly drop the connection, forcing the user to delete and reconnect their account without any warning! ⛔
– Some transactions also include incorrect data. We have seen cases where we receive incorrect transactions, references, accounts, or – not only annoying but scary as well – transactions that have an incorrect amount. 😱

In almost all of these cases, the issues relate back to the respective banks of the users. We have proactively shared our feedback with the banks and are patiently awaiting the first improvements to arrive. 🐌🐌🐌

That said, we’re definitely not the kind of team to sit around waiting for lightning to strike. ⚡ We are already implementing improvements and workarounds that will address some of these issues, even if they are not ours to fix in the first place. We are determined to make everything easier, including the experience of those pesky issues… 💃🕺
We also started noticing that quite a few of our users started to reach out to their banks on social media in our support. 🔥 It is very encouraging for the team to see that future users have our back and really want us to succeed! 👏

Improvements and bugs

Apart from the genuine issues above, our users also identified about 20 improvements and bugs:

– Users helped us identify sentence-case and mixed-case capitalization for some or our labels, and places where we inconsistently used some visual elements. 😰
– Although the app language is currently restricted to English, some Dutch and French labels already managed to pop up. 😵
– The beta was missing some empty screen states; for example when the user experiences no internet connectivity, or when the connector of the bank fails to return any transactions. 🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♂️
– The transaction enrichment incorrectly matched (or failed to match) some merchants. 👻 This remains a work in progress.
– The keyboard sometimes covered input fields. 😶

We have already solved most of these issues, and the first improvements have already been released back into the beta!

Feature requests

In addition to all this, we received over 50 feature requests that we summarized below. (Pretty soon we’ll also be opening up our complete roadmap, feature by feature, to everyone.)
The feedback we are getting is very encouraging to our team, especially since we already had a lot of the feature suggestions on our roadmap. 👊

Already on our roadmap
– Connections to PayPal, Revolut and N26 💳
– A better way to categorize transactions 📕
– Reports on category spending 📝
– Make it easier to scan bank cards in low light conditions 🔦
– Additional security features such as fingerprint or face-id 🔐
– Renaming and reprioritizing bank accounts ✏️
– More complex daily insights in the journal 📈
– Allow creating of Cake accounts using username and password instead of Google/Facebook authentication 🔑
– Transaction-based micro-saving 💰

Under consideration
– Using “ItsMe” to connect bank accounts.
The consent flow is managed by the banks, this is accordingly out of our scope. In addition, “ItsMe” is a tool only used in Belgium, which conflicts with our ambition to quickly scale towards other European countries
– Support savings accounts and credit cards 💸
We ABSOLUTELY want to support this, but in Belgium, it’s unfortunately only possible to connect to current accounts. We need to apply pressure on the banks to open up more of their data to players like us.
– Support Sodexo meal-vouchers? 🍔🍟
Since it is a form of currency, we are investigating the possibility of including this.

Supporting messages

Internally, understanding what we’re building and where we’re going, we currently feel that the available functionality of Cake is incredibly limited. It was scary putting the beta out there so early.
Yet, in all honesty, the amount of positive feedback has been a little overwhelming. 🥴
We’ve received so many messages from people saying positive things, showing they understand where we’re going with Cake and that they can’t wait to see how it develops. We’ve had people reach out saying that they’ve been waiting for a tool like Cake for years!
This is incredibly encouraging to both the team and our investors, and only gives us the ambition to go faster… 🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️💨
Thank you!

What’s next?

There’s still an incredible amount of work left to be done. 👷‍♀️👷‍♂️ The next milestone is the public product launch, planned for December. 🎄
For the remainder of the year, we will gradually expand the beta to approximately 3.000 users. 📈 The next batch of invites will go out later this month! 💌 Users ranked at the top of our public waiting list, will get priority boarding. ✨✨✨
Thank you for following us, and especially a tremendous thank you towards our first group of beta-testers! 💪Not only are you a big help to the development team, but you also help motivate our team to make Cake the best banking app in the world. 🥇
We will continue to give regular updates on the development of Cake, so keep following us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. 💬 And we will certainly also post it there! 📌

Thank you all, and stay frosty! 🧁