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Technology

Money management app for credit-card-happy Hongkongers launched by city start-up lists all your spending on one screen

Gini app creates a composite bank statement, breaks down spending into categories and issues a warning if you spending too fast. Founders of start-up behind it feel inspired to help people in one of world’s least affordable cities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 6:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 6:19pm

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when checking your financial position at the end of the month? It’s a situation familiar to many in Hong Kong: as you switch between several credit cards, your outgoings mount up and you cannot keep track of where your earnings have disappeared to. 

A new app hopes to change all of that; gini, a start-up founded by two Hong Kong-born entrepreneurs, claims to be the first personal finance app launched in the city. Its beta version was unveiled to the public via Apple’s App Store last week.  

Following in the footsteps of other, long-established personal money management apps such as Mint and Monzo, which are widely used in the United States and the UK, the free gini app allows users to see spending on all their bank accounts in one place so they can track spending more easily.

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The simple user interface displays each transaction with an accompanying logo representing what the spending was on. For example, you will be able to see at a glance if you have spent more on, say, utility bills than eating out last month. Users can generate customised pie charts and graphs based on the data.

“Personal finance is key to achieving all your life goals,” says Victor Lang, who co-founded gini with his cousin Raymond Wyand, a former vice-president at Citibank in Hong Kong who gave up his job in 2016 to launch the start-up. 

The pair were inspired to create the app by the many financial challenges facing Hongkongers, particularly millennials. 

“The reason it’s called gini is because [the Gini coefficient is] a measure of income inequality and Hong Kong has one of the [worst Gini coefficients]. We can’t fix that, but we can give people the tools to deal with this,” says Wyand, 31, who is also chief executive of the company. 

“I was very lucky because banking is quite a fortunate career, but even I had a lot of problems managing this stuff. [ …] I had been a banker for the whole of my twenties, but thought I wanted to do something more interesting by the time I hit 30,” he says. 

According to a recent consumer survey conducted by gini, nearly half of millennials born after 1990 fail to save more than 10 per cent of their monthly income, while one in four spend almost all their income each month.

The results suggested to the co-founders that there was a big gap in the market for a money management app tailored to the needs of people in Hong Kong – a city where housing is less affordable than almost anywhere in the world and the cost of living among the highest.

“The number one cause of stress is financial stress, and particularly young people in Hong Kong have a really hard time,” says Wyand. “It’s hard enough when property is so expensive and wages are so low – the last thing they need is to have no tools to deal with that.” 

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The app promises to prioritise user security by downloading bank data straight to their device instead of using a hackable cloud server. It uses AI (artificial intelligence) to learn the spending habits of users so that it can recommend deals and notify them when they are spending more than usual. 

However, users are unable to make any transactions on the app.

So far, more than 2,500 people have signed up for the beta version alone, the founders say. An Android version will be released in “a month or two” according to Wyand.