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I love Open Banking but it doesn’t really set you free

The rows and fighting about Open Banking standards and procedures passed me by. I understood them, but they did not impinge. I hadn’t realized how important they would become when the APPs using this data and systems matured. Now at J&W Associates use two APPs – one for our personal expenditure and another for our business expenditure – which tell us:

  • Our data was “Refreshed an hour ago”
  • Upcoming payments, etc.
  • Balance at the end of the period/Left to spend
  • And so much more.

This is what I expected, but it was the other features and nuances that were a surprise.

Getting control of personal finances APPs

The APP that we chose here uses the well-tried approach of starting with our available balance, not our income (across all our accounts – which can be from many banks, etc.) so that our budget is synchronised with our available cash.

The APP separates all expenditure into:

  • Bills – such as council tax, mortgage, etc.
  • Everything else – which can be split up into a range of categories.

The differences between the APPs start to emerge here, e.g. the categories available, how you can amend them, and how they treat savings/spare cash, etc. 

At the moment we use Money Dashboard from the UK (and are very happy with it), but there are features in other APPs that appeal too.

This is no longer a concern because a vital feature of open banking is that I can change APPs as long as my bank keeps supplying the basic data. Now we don’t HAVE TO rely on our bank or a particular APP for the analysis and understanding. 

That sounds good, but Open banking has not really set us FREE because we are now used to/dependent on how Money Dashboard displays and analyses of our finances. Change to another APP? No way.

Getting control of business expenditure

The best thing our bank did in the last 30 years for our business was to make FreeAgent, the award-winning accounting software and APP, available at no cost to their business account holders. Free Agent has been voted the UK’s #1 accounting software for small businesses. It not surprisingly as it does all the functions I would expect (and more):

  • Uses open banking to download all transactions and payments
  • Manages book-keeping and receipts, etc.
  • Prepares and sends invoices
  • VAT reporting and even helps send your return to the UK’s HMRC
  • Provides a dashboard that gives us a clear overview of our whole business
  • Has exceptional telephone support by experts who really know the FreeAgent package AND, critically, also understand tax and accounting rules.

With Open Banking I could change banks, but there is now no need as long as our existing bank keeps dealing accurately and efficiently with our bank account and credit card payments plus reporting the transactions.

FreeAgent’s whole package has changed the way we operate, saved us a bundle on book-keeping costs, etc. We are now dependent on this new combination of services, in which the new open banking services are key, to controlling and managing our business money flows. Change from FreeAgent? No chance.

CTMfile take: Open Banking has really opened up new opportunities to save time and money in managing our personal and business finances, just like the basic corporate cash management services did for the corporate treasury department. It has also begun to define the role of the banks and fintechs: banks for transaction processing and payments, and Fintechs for the innovative insightful services that make so much difference. It has also underlined, yet again, how dependent we all are on these suppliers, and how quickly we get used to them. Change our banks and our fintech APPs? No way. Well only if really essential, just like a corporate treasury department wrestling with the problem of whether to replace their bank or TMS. No wonder things change so slowly.

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