One of ths most important tasks in keeping your books correctly and up to date is bank account reconcilation. The main purpose being to make sure that all your bank account (real) transactions have been recorded and accounted for within your business records.
If you have done it before you will know the little nerdy sense of achievment you get when you see your bank balance is exactly the same as your account balance on your books :-)
This process is much easier to complete when you import your bank transactions electroniclly, when you have your transactions in place all you have to do is match each transaction to the correct account (sometimes called coding), this step can be partly automated when you have similar transactions.
Up to now Nominal Accounting has supported the import of a QIF (or OFX) file into your records. The process included you logging in to your online banking, selecting the account to export, downloading a QIF/OFX file and than importing it to Nominal and matching the transactions.
It would have been much better if we could minimize the effort it takes for the end user to get the transactions into Nominal.
Apparently this can be done in a few ways:
* Direct bank feed - the end user authorises his bank to send a daily report of his transactions to the (online) accounting software and the software imports the transactions into his account ( attempting to do some of the matching as well ).
This is the method used by Xero for some of the bigger banks in Australia (and probably more). It is a good system, it minimises user interactions and it works on a daily basis. The downside from a customer perspective is that your information is "shared" in a way with the vendor and that it requires some administration work (and a few days) to get the proper authorisation to the bank. From Nominal perspective this option is not available as it requires a level of relationship with the banks which a small business is hardly able to achieve. (in other words... they won't even return our calls)
* 3rd party bank feed - this requires the customer to use a 3rd party system that already 'knows' how to connect to many data sources (banks). The end user configures his bank accounts within the system and than authorises the accounting software to connect to his account and download the transactions.
This is the method used by Yodlee, ANZ MoneyManager and Xero for some of the banks. The downside is again the required 'sharing' of your transactions, as well as an additional setup that is required to get the 3rd party system to connect to your accounts before the accounting software can connect and download. Additionaly this is not a preferred option because of the high ongoing cost that is associated with theservice. This cost would have to be included on the ongoing costs of the software, which is probably the reason why online accounting systems have a much higher ongoing costs.
* Online banking feed - Nominal developed 'online banking connector' for some of the biggest banks in Australia (ANZ, NAB & Bankwest for now), which allows the software to connect to your online banking account, login, list your accounts and retrieve the transactions into your Nominal Accounting records. This is done using Web browser automation which means Nominal uses the browser in the same way a user does and 'reads' the information into it's records. (you can choose whether you want to actually see the browser or hide it while it is connecting to the bank)
There are multiple benefits with this system:
- Minimal setup - you don't really have to setup anything, or provide any authorisation, you simply enter your bank details into the software and login.
- Immidiate - there are no delays, you import ALL the transactions that have been recorded by your bank. No need to wait for a daily feed
- Multiple accounts - you have visibility to ALL your accounts within the same session, you can import all your transactions inlcuding cheque accounts, online savers, home loans, credit cards and more.
- Cost - there is no cost involved with this system, not for you and not for us... So we keep the cost as a one off license fee. (and avoid high ongoing fees)
- Security - there is no need to autorise or 'share' any information with anyone. Nominal is running on your own computer and you keep it as secure as you choose to. Nominal doesn't 'share' or send anything to anyone.
The disadvantages with this system:
- Limited - we can only support the most popular banks, which means that if you don't bank with the a big bank we're unlikely so invest in developing the 'bank connector' for your bank until we have some strong demand.
- Customisation - the system is dependent on the structure of the online banking web site (names of fields, links and buttons), which means that if a bank performs a major web site change - there is a chance the system will fail - which means we will need to invest some more in updaing our software to reflect the changes. (We love this challenge)
Overhaul the system works like a charm... BUT it is still in Beta (testing phase) and for obvious reasons may stop without notice.
Our NEW online banking feeds will be released with Nominal within a few days - do let us know if you like it (or not!)