Published on May 26, 2009 by Steve Thomas in Business
A few years ago I started using Quicken to manage my business and personal accounting.
At the time it was a great tool to manage my tiny cashflow – I was a poor student, and delivering pizzas for $8.50 an hour plus tips a few nights a week. I had to be ultra careful with my spending because my non-discretionary expenses must’ve been in the magnitude of 95% of my income. I had a credit card with a limit of about $1,000 and a bank account to my name.
Back then, the thing that peeved me off was the amount of manual labour involved in keeping the various account transactions up to date. Certainly I made it harder for myself by tracking even petty cash, but the banks had virtually no support for automated synchronization. Once I graduated from my course and started earning enough not to worry about financial implosion, I gladly laid my Quicken data to rest.
Fast forward 4 years and i’m starting to think in terms of buying a house, new car, and even live and work abroad.
So I had a look at a nifty web service called Buxfer. I was quickly impressed at the simple, application-like interface, and even more impressed at the promised synchronization with my actual banking data. Within minutes I had an account up and running. Not surprisingly, none of my Australian financial institutions were listed in the supported banks, but then I discovered a Firefox addon that supposedly would retrieve my data in a semi-automated way.
I quickly turned my frustration from the Buxfer service to the financial institutions themselves. They know that many of their customers are using internet capable applications and services to track accounts – why not establish a secure international standard (RSS + HTTP Authentication comes to mind) that allows software to access such data?
This is clearly a function that millions of tech-savvy people could utilize – why not let us opt-in to access our own data?
I should point out that it seems that much of the US and Canada have various services supporting this very functionality – so its just our aussie banks dragging the chain then.