Intuit Putting a New Stamp on Mint

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Intuit CEO Brad Smith speaks during a Bloomberg West TV interview in San Francisco last year.

(This blog post was updated to include more details about Intuit’s online banking software.)

Intuit Chief Executive Officer Brad Smith likes to talk about his company’s need to keep pace with industry shifts, especially when it comes to acquisitions. That’s apparent with changes planned for, a site it bought three years ago for $170 million.

Intuit is testing a small-business version of  Mint’s popular financial management software, paid versions that let users do more sophisticated banking, and is considering selling the software directly to banks, Smith said in an interview yesterday.

When Intuit bought Mint, the idea was to use the company’s technology to freshen up products including Quicken and TurboTax, and attract younger users to its financial software. The business model entailed collecting finder’s fees when Mint’s Website steered users to sponsored offers like credit card rewards or lower interest rates.

Things change. These days, most of Mint’s new users — the product has nine million — sign up through their smartphones or tablets. They’re less likely to spend time shopping for cheaper credit cards or insurance plans and just want to balance their books, Chief Financial Officer Neil Williams said in an interview.

So Intuit is experimenting with new ways to make some coin from Mint. It’s testing a version for small businesses that aren’t “ready for accounting,” Smith said. Hobby and craft businesses with five workers or fewer often “co-mingle” personal and small business expenses and need help sorting them out at tax time. The Mint-like small business software could help replace spreadsheets or other personal productivity tools those entrepreneurs use.

“It’s a lightweight set of the financial transactions that you need,” said Smith. ” I really think of it as, ‘money in, money out.'”

Intuit is also testing premium versions of Mint for smartphones that entail charging for usage or transaction fees. The software lets users more easily move money between accounts, pay bills, and make investment decisions on 401(k) plans and other funds, Smith said. And Intuit is considering adding Mint’s capabilities to the Personal FinanceWorks software it sells to banks for use as part of their Websites, said spokeswoman Diane Carlini.

Intuit has bought seven companies in the past three years, though not all the deals have worked out.  The company took a writedown on Medfusion, a maker of medical-office software it bought for $91 million in 2010, after misreading the regulatory and competitive landscape, Smith said.

For Mint to stay fresh, Intuit needs to keep changing with the times.

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