Toshl Finance Blog

Toshl Granted an EU PSD2 AISP Registration by Bank of Slovenia

If you’re confused by that alphabet soup in the title, don’t worry, you’re normal. If, however, you work in the FinTech or European Union (EU) legislative space, you’ll know that this registration is a sort of licence that allows us to access balance and transaction data from banks in the EU.

Quick recap:

PSD2 – Payment Services Directive, is an EU directive, further implemented in national legislations of EU member states. It, among other things, mandates all EU banks to provide automated access (APIs) to account and transaction data to third party providers (like Toshl) and regulates how that can be done.

AISP – Account Information Service Provider. Toshl Finance in this case. We help our customers access their bank account data and provide services built on top of that, like helping to analyse how you could spend less and save more money, budget better etc.

As per the PSD2 directive, third party providers like us need to register with a national banking regulator in the European Union, to access the data and provide information services. As Toshl d.o.o., our European subsidiary and where much of Toshl development is done, is registered in Slovenia, we registered with the Slovenian banking regulator – Bank of Slovenia.

The registration requirements and process

It wasn’t an easy process. All together it took us almost a year to complete. We’ve had to provide hundreds of pages of documentation, ranging from our security practices, information infrastructure, risk management, various proof of ethical unencumberedness of key personnel, professional liability insurance, business plans, contracts with business partners related to account information and so forth. Last, but not least, it involved a lot more paper and physical mailing that an all digital company would prefer to deal with.

Yet on a hot summer day, we finally got the news:

As you can tell, there was much rejoicing among the Medici branch of the Toshl monster family.

The registration of TOSHL, razvoj aplikacij d.o.o., can also be accessed on the Bank of Slovenia website: AISP registrations English version, AISP registrations Slovenian version.

Passporting

At the moment, with the help of Bank of Slovenia, we are also sending our registration to all other EU member state banking regulators for confirmation and entry into their national registries. This process is known as passporting.

Benefits

Based on this new registration, we’ll be gradually updating our bank connections to connect in a more direct manner, using our own QWAC and QSEAL eIDAS certificates and with fewer required legal agreements with our partners to confirm, when adding new connections. It will also enable us to work better with banks to provide great new services to customers in the EU. So far, we’ve been using the shared or “umbrella” registrations provided by our bank connection partners Salt Edge and Plaid which help us in providing a more unified bank connectivity.

While we’re glad to have finally obtained this registration, one would be foolish to think all is sunshine and roses in PSD2 land. Even a year after the final deadline for PSD2 connectivity, many banks’ implementations remain abysmal or non-existent, EBA‘s (European Bank Authority) interpretations of the directive perplexing, to say the least… We’ll soon share more on the current PSD2 landscape and challenges ahead in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, see which bank connections are already on offer in Toshl and how you can switch to the new type of fully automatic connection (API), if you’ve been using an earlier type so far.

Posted in Announcements, Bank connections

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

we’ve come to talk with you again.

Darkness can be a a force for good. It can obscure the less relevant and make the vital glow even brighter.

We’re adding a dark mode for all Toshl Finance apps, Android, iOS as well as the web.

Why dark mode? It’s easy on the eye. Both from the aesthetic point of view, as well as reducing strain on the eyes during nighttime.

For those with OLED screens on your device, it can also help reduce battery usage a little bit, as blacks take less energy to display than bright colours.

Tutto automatico. Last time we checked, switching from night to day and vice versa, doesn’t require tinkering in your life’s ambient settings. Neither should your phone. You can set the appearance of the app to switch automatically based on the time of day. This will use your device’s settings to determine the correct time to switch.

  • iOS – switches based on time of sunrise and sunset at your location.
  • Android – depends a bit on variation of the OS, but switching based on set times is usually available.
  • Web – to switch automatically, your web browser needs to support the feature, but latest versions of Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Edge browsers will handle this well.

In short, Toshl appearance set to automatic will mimic the setting of your operating system and adjust accordingly.

Some might prefer to keep it all light or all dark, all the time. No worries, you can set it that way as well. You can set this in Toshl main menu / Settings / Appearance.

Toshl monsters finally get some shut-eye. You know about these odd creatures living inside the apps, right? Some have been here since renaissance times. Now imagine existing with lights-on, ALL the time. Dark mode might help take the edge off a bit. As long as it doesn’t blunt their edgy humour, we’re very happy for them.

The feature is available for all Toshl membership levels, free, Toshl Pro and Toshl Medici. As always, you can get the latest features by updating the app to the latest version in the App Store or Google Play. The web app is always the latest.

Posted in Announcements, Goodies

1400 New and Improved Bank Connections in the European Union

You’ll now find a lot more bank connections available in Toshl Finance. 1418 new ones were added to be precise, bringing the grand total at the time of writing to 14 073 bank connections available worldwide. As new connections are added replaced all the time, you might want to click on the link to get the current number if you’re reading later on.

Rather than the raw numbers, what matters more with this update is the way that these new bank connections work. All of the new additions work by using the bank’s official automatic connection (API).

Why does it matter if the connection is API-based?

  • It means the connection will always update fully automatically. No need to click “Update” and authenticate each time anymore. The connections need to be re-authorised every 3 months. Toshl will send you a notification when that’s due.
  • The authentication is done directly with the bank. When you connect one of these new connections, the bank’s website or mobile app will open and you enter your credentials there. This approach is preferable as your credentials only need to be stored and checked by the bank, we and our bank connection partners only get the confirmation that you have logged in successfully and transaction data to import.
  • Such connections are much faster to update. As before, they’ll update at least daily and more often if you open the Toshl app frequently. Whenever you open the app, and the connection hasn’t been updated in the last hour, it will try updating it again, up to 4 updates per day.

Any downside?

  • While mostly available, some rare banks do not yet include credit card accounts in the API connection. Often, this is based on technical limitations or uncoordinated opinions by national regulators. As this goes against both the spirit and the letter of the PSD2 EU directive we expect these initial omissions to be resolved in the future.
  • There can be some other transitional issues, usually depending on how the new connections were implemented on the bank’s side. If you experience any issues with authentication or details of transactions, contact us via support and we’ll try to resolve the issues together with the bank and our bank connection partners.

How do I add these new connections?

Just search for your bank in Main menu / Bank connections and click on it. Where newer API-based connections are available, we’ve already set the new API connection as the default one.

The bank’s authentication will open up, just follow the steps. Once you finish, you’ll be asked if you want to import all the past data, or only some. Once you confirm, the new accounts and transactions will import automatically.

What about my existing bank connections? How can I switch to the new API-based ones?

Your existing bank connections will remain as they are. If the new API type of connection is now available and you would like to switch, you would need to add it as a new connection.

One thing to note, is that the new connection will also add new financial accounts to import on. To avoid overlap of transactions with your earlier accounts, make sure to set the new connection to only import from a certain date onward. Set it to the last day for which you have the data from your older connection.

When your new accounts have imported the data, you can simply merge them with the older accounts and unify them again.
To merge accounts, click Edit below the account list, then Edit again next to the individual account. You’ll see the Merge option there. Set the merged account to keep updating from the new connection.

How do I know which connections are API-based?

When searching for banks, a grey API icon will appear on the right of the results.

To check whether existing connections are API-based, click Edit on the bank connection list. If this notice appears on the Edit form, the connection is done over API.

Got any examples of new connections?

Sure, but all the new 1418 connections would be hard to list. The total of API-based connections on offer is currently 1534. A large part of the number are also regional variations of the same bank federation, like Raifeissen in Germany, Crédit Agricole in France etc.

For example, we’ve added banks for the first time in Slovenia, Luxembourg, Greece, Cyprus. We’ve replaced and added heaps of them in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Czechia, Belgium, Spain

Among the widely used multi-country connections, N26 is now API-based and fully automatic, Revolut has been for a while, bunq is new, TransferWise was also a recent addition…

Why only in the European Union? Why aren’t all the bank connections like that?

To connect with a bank as described above, the bank needs to provide tools, for us to be able to connect like that. As very few banks are in that much of a cooperative mood on their own (to put it mildly), legislation is needed to ensure that people have access to their own data stored at the bank. They can then enable other financial services (like Toshl) to access those data in order to provide services. Sorting out and tracking your finances, in Toshl’s case.

In 2015 the European Union adopted the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), which obliges all the banks in the EU to provide APIs to access account information. With the time needed to get that directive transposed into national laws and for it to enter fully into force, we’re now finally seeing the real fruits of that labour.

There are similar initiatives going on in other parts of the world. In the long-EU-departing UK, there’s Open Banking that adheres to the same principles as PSD2 and is still part of the EU scheme. Similar initiatives are gradually taking place in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, India, Ukraine, Canada and elsewhere. However, most are still in the legislative phases and will need some time before they can be used in practice. For the time being, we remain rather doubtful of the US’ industry-led approach, as the voluntary nature of such integrations doesn’t really ensure a level playing field and full availability for all banks and financial institutions.

Do you enjoy posing yourself questions and answering them? Do you get some sort of perverse pleasure out of this?

Yes, very much so. Thank you for asking.

Posted in Announcements, Bank connections

Tips from a Money Coach: a Talk over Coffee with Debbie Katzav

In times when the lockdown is slowly being lifted, life is more confusing than usual. From a financial perspective, the global pandemic brought us new challenges. The good news is that we now have time to reflect on what is happening to our personal finances.

Experts note that when the situation gets uncertain, people should not rush to make big decisions or make hasty changes in their financial pictures. Seeking professional financial advice might be a useful step to help. 

Having that in mind, we have decided to talk with the financial coach Debbie Katzav and share her tips on how to manage personal finances in a time of global crisis. 

We’ve met with Debbie by video call over morning coffee. She inspired us immediately with her vivid energy and positive attitude. Here are the moments from our talk.

Debbie, could you please introduce yourself? What is your job?

My name is Debbie Katzav. I live in the center of Israel, just north of Tel Aviv. Officially, my title is Personal Finances Advisor. It is also known as a Money Coach in certain countries. 

Basically, what I do is I guide people – it can be singles, couples, or small business owners – towards understanding, managing, and organizing various aspects of their finances. It can be their budget, expenses, their incomes, or their savings. I explain how to reduce expenses and create savings, to make sure they put some money away for pension time and so that they know what’s going on with their insurances. I’m not an insurance agent or broker. However, I have enough knowledge to point my clients in the right direction and ask the right questions of their brokers and advisors. As those areas are full of information and terminology, whenever people get a report or request from their agent, they get scared and don’t know what to do with it. But I know how to deal with it.

One of the reasons why I am in this field is that I’ve gone through different things in my life, all of which had financial implications. I migrated between countries three times. I was married, got divorced, got married again. I lost my dad at a pretty young age… So I’ve had a lot of different experiences and more… I made money, lost money, bought and sold properties, and so on. All these events had implications also on my finances, so eventually, I wanted to help other people to avoid financial problems and mistakes. 

Besides this, I love organizing. I love knowing where I can find information quickly and be able to use it. And I enjoy everything digital: apps, programs, technology… For instance, I’ve been using Excel and PowerPoint since the 1990-s. Now I learn how to use any new app very easily and quickly. 

To go back, I became self-employed 9 years ago, I’m 52, by the way. Till then I was always an employee in large organizations for over 20 years. I worked very hard building my business and raising two small boys at that time. And I was really lucky to get great marketing opportunities at the beginning which took me further. I charged forward with those opportunities, as I knew that I’d need to step outside my own boundaries in order to succeed as a small business owner. Taking those risks paid off and I managed to build my business very well. For example, I had a regular column on one of Israel’s biggest websites and that led to TV appearances, radio broadcasts, and other media contacts. Right now I prefer to invest in my own media: website, blog, and podcast (in Hebrew at the moment).

Wow! That’s amazing.

Yes, that’s a lot of life behind me! (Laughing)

You’ve mentioned that you love to use the apps. How did you get to know Toshl?

I use the Toshl app for more than 4 years. I don’t really remember exactly but either I’ve heard about it through a client or my sister who lives in New York. Anyway, I’ve been a paid Toshl Pro customer for 4 years and it is really worth the money… I did explore other apps at that time and I found that Toshl was really intuitive, nicely designed, and user-friendly.

As a financial coach, could you please share: what should we focus on when managing our financial life?

Obviously, the first thing is control of the day-to-day expenses. I call them variable expenses – expenses that occur daily and we actually have to put a hand in our pocket to take a credit card or cash, or use online banking to make a transfer – all of these expenses need to be tracked because it is very easy to lose control over them. 

Aside from those, we have fixed expenses. Although they are repeating every month, we need to control them and think if there is a way we can reduce them. Some people say: “Oh this is fixed. I can’t do anything about it”. But sometimes you can. For instance, in Israel, we have a pretty cheap cellular service for less than 10 dollars per month. And I still see some people using the more expensive program even though there is no reason for them to have it. 

Then, we need to make sure that we have savings, liquid savings. Especially now, in the times of the global pandemic, a lot of people suddenly didn’t have an income… And if you have some money to put back in your current account that you’ve saved up for a rainy day, you are in a much better position than people who haven’t done that. So you need to have money that is pretty liquid and you need to have savings for retirement or when you stop working. It can be in many formats: rent from the property, saving accounts, investments. 

I think it is also important to be a smart consumer. It means not being roped in by clever advertising or a friend or celebrity who posts an Instagram photo of an item that was just bought but rather  – to investigate, do price comparisons in advance. I’m not saying: “Don’t buy”. I love buying myself and I think it’s fun. Just let’s be clever consumers.

It is better to buy one good-quality expensive item than many cheap ones. Personally, I don’t like online shopping for cheap clothes… That’s just like… Where I’m going to put it?! (Laughing) It might be the wrong size or colour, or maybe the quality of the material will be very low… I’d rather buy good things, more expensive and not so many. That’s being the smart consumer.

To sum up, just control your expenses, make the savings, and be a smart consumer.

Do you suggest looking at it individually?

Oh, absolutely. For instance, a situation in my family is very different from the situation of a family with small children. Yes, I can give very general advice but at the end of the day, each person or family and each household is in its own situation. All in all, it is very individual. 

You know, I cannot tell a family who has a coeliac kid to spend much less on food. They will spend more because that gluten-free food is very expensive. So everything needs to be adjusted. Only when I do individual work with a family, I can point out the areas that are not in line with what it should be.

Now we live in times of the global pandemic. Some of us could experience uncertainty about our financial future. Are there any specific tips on how to act in these circumstances?

I think you need to put on your creative hat and realize that you have to move out of your comfort zone. For example, what I’m doing now (as I finally had the time during the 2 months of lockdown) is putting together an online workshop. Yes, it is a lot of work but I’m moving out of my comfort zone to create new services which will bring me new clients and new income. That is what we need at the moment of uncertainty. 

On the other hand, we need to exercise restraint. As the lockdown is lifting slowly, I see that people are so craving to go to the mall and buy… And maybe they don’t have money… They need to think first: “OK, the mall is open but it doesn’t imply that I HAVE to go and spend!”. You know, don’t go to the mall, go for a walk around the block! 

So we need to become restrained and keep being optimistic and learn some new skills. I think there are lots of opportunities to learn skills that you can sell to create an income. These things could be a little bit more difficult, though it’s worth trying.

What else? We should put off some purchases… For example, before the pandemic, you planned to renovate your house during the summer. But now, if your income has changed, you need to put it off, to leave some money in your bank account. 

This is also a time to review the budget of your monthly expenses. You need to do it every month but in times of uncertainty, you need to adjust it even more. And in this sense, Toshl is a very handy tool.

Recently, the global market has shifted to the Internet. Many people purchase goods and services online. Are there any hints on how not to overspend?

It’s a big problem. I see it with a lot of my clients. Apart from purchases that require delivery services, there are subscriptions for online products. When my clients go through their bank statements having transactions from App Store or Play Store, sometimes they can hardly answer what that online purchase was for. When you’re buying online, it is very easy to think: “Oh, it’s just three dollars!” I think our minds are not capable of aggregating everything that we purchase over a period of a month and we cannot work it out unless we see it on a screen (in Toshl!)

Another thing… Most of my clients use Toshl manually. One of the things I teach them is that they have to enter their purchases on the same day. Because the next day you wake up, your mind is like a blank page and you don’t remember anything. I’m also quite a big online purchaser of services for my business Yesterday I paid for Zoom and I put it in Toshl right away. And that’s how I can control myself because it is very easy to get lost.

Could you describe: who is your typical customer?

I have three types of customers. The first ones are couples or individuals that want to learn how to manage their finances. I teach them how to analyze their expenses and how to create, maintain, follow, and track a new budget. These people come to me to learn and I guide them in that. 

The next type is people who ask me to manage things for them as a personal financial assistant. Typically, these are older people. Normally, they are well off, and if they want someone to deal with it for them, they can afford it. I’m the one to clean up the messes and consult them. 

And the last ones are small business owners. If you are a small business owner, you have to sell your service or product but at the same time, you need to manage your business on your own. A lot of small business owners don’t know how to manage the financial aspects of their business. Most deal only with the tax aspects and amounts that need to be paid to the authorities. I’m the one who really goes into the numbers and says: “Oh, you spent too much on equipment!”. What I do with small business owners, I look at the details and advise them every month on what they need to be more careful with. I look at the numbers from a different point of view than the accountant does.

And now I might have one more type! These are the people who are going to learn and do everything on their own using the Toshl app. 

Yes, we’ve heard about the workshops you organize to share your knowledge with others. Could you tell us more about these events?

The workshops are my new service. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a couple of years but it was quite challenging to get people to come at the same time and to the same place. Then the pandemic came… And now everybody meets and learns online. So I said, “OK, now it is time”. What I want to share is completely teachable in the online environment. 

Basically, I run the workshop to teach people how to use Toshl to manage their personal finances. I’ve discovered over the years how to use the app correctly and stick with it over time. It needs to be set in a certain way and I’ll share these tips at the workshop. The session lasts for 1.5 hours and it is in Hebrew. There in fact going to be 2 workshops – for beginners and an advanced session. I also have an idea to do it in English for clients from all over the world. And hopefully, I’ll also sell the workshop as an online course.

Which methods and approaches do you use in your work?

First of all, my approach is that order and efficiency are the basis for effectiveness. If you have all your ducks in a row and everything organized in a clever way, then you are probably going to be efficient and effective in whatever it is: your business or saving. Another approach is that at the beginning you’re always sweating a little bit more until you get everything organized, and then it goes pretty quickly and smoothly. 

In terms of actual methods or tools, I use a lot of different ones to run the business. With my clients, I use Excel and Toshl: Toshl – for tracking the day-to-day expenses and controlling them and Excel – for looking at the big picture and doing more complicated analysis, etc. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

During the last two months, many people were writing statements such as: “Now I know that it is important to save, spend money on the right things and not to overspend”. I think in a few months most of us will go back to our old habits because we are creatures of comfort and we like buying items and experiences. But I do hope that more and more people will understand that it is OK and not so boring to control personal finances… It can be done quite easily and in a more calculated way. There are so many handy tools for that! So do not forget what we went and are still going through with Covid-19 and spend wisely. 

Useful links: Debbie’s website, Facebook page, blog, about the workshop (in Hebrew)

Posted in Family finance, Opinions, Personal finance, Tips & Tricks

How to Merge Your Financial Accounts (Web App)

The merging feature is handy if you want to put the data from a few financial accounts on one account. This is especially useful when migrating from manual to connected financial accounts, or if reconnecting a previously connected bank, which then creates new financial accounts. 

Merging manual accounts with automatic (connected) ones

Perhaps you were initially tracking your bank account expenses and incomes manually. Or, perhaps, you’ve used a different type of bank connection before and switched to a new automatic account for that bank.

When you connect your bank or financial service, new financial accounts for this connection are created in Toshl. Connected accounts update automatically and are marked by a green globe icon.

It’s likely that you’ve put some effort into categorizing expenses and incomes on your existing financial account and do not want to lose anything when importing new accounts from the bank connection.

To keep your manually entered data and import automatically from now on, you can simply set the automatic account to import from a certain day onward and then merge it with the earlier manual account.

When you connect your bank, choose the date from which you’d like to import the transactions. This should be the date after which you’ve stopped noting the transactions manually. This way, you’ll be able to merge the two accounts and avoid potential overlap of transactions.

As soon as you are ready to merge your manual account with the account(s) imported from the bank:

1. Click the Accounts button on the top right of the screen. The Accounts list will show up. Click Edit on the bottom of the Accounts list.

2. Find the financial account you want to merge and click the Edit icon in front of it. The Edit account screen will open.

3. Click Merge Accounts.

4. Select the account(s) you want to merge with.

The default title of the final (merged) account will be shown in the Title field. You can change it into anything you like.

If you select multiple automatic accounts for merging, you’ll need to pick the accounts that will continue to feed the data from the bank into the newly merged account. The accounts can continue to keep updating from multiple connected financial accounts at your bank.

If the currencies of merged accounts differ, you’ll be prompted to select the currency of the final merged account as well.

5. Click Merge Accounts

6. If you’re sure about merging the accounts, click Merge Accounts again.

The newly merged account will then be displayed in the Accounts list.

The balance of the merged account will depend on how you chose to keep the account updated. If it continues to update automatically from bank accounts, the balance will keep being updated as the one that the bank provides. If you chose not to update the account automatically, the balance will be based on the sum of transactions and reconciliations up to today, like any manual account.

Merging automatic accounts

You might also want to merge connected accounts. You can do so following the same steps described above. 

As with cases above, if you chose to continue updating from the bank, the balance will also be updated from the bank. If you continue to update from several accounts, the sum of those account balances will be used.

Merging manual accounts

You have collected some cash in a box. You’ve created a “Box” account in the Toshl app and have been entering all the amounts. What if you take all the cash from the box and decide to track it within your main “Cash” account? No problem! You can merge your “Cash” account with the “Box” account. For that:


1. Click the Accounts button on the top right of the screen. The Accounts list will show up. Click Edit on the bottom of the Account list.

2. Find the financial account you want to merge and click the Edit icon in front of it. The Edit account screen will open.

3. Click Merge Accounts.

4. Select the account you want to merge it with.

The default title of the final (merged) account will be displayed in the Title field. Feel free to change it into any custom option.

In case the currencies of merged accounts differ, you can select the currency of the final merged account as well.

5. Click Merge Accounts.

6. If you are sure about merging the accounts, click Merge Accounts again.

The merged account will be displayed in the Accounts list. 

After merging the manual accounts, the balance of the merged account will be re-calculated based on the sum of all transactions of the merged accounts up to today.

Merge with care, as such operations cannot be undone. Some of our Toshl monster friends learnt that the hard way. But they also report that their relationship has improved with merging. They can finally see eye to eye regarding their finances.

Posted in Tutorials, Web App Tutorials