Category: Uncategorized

On Brexit, Excrement, Fans, Their Relative Locations and the Resulting Outage.

In 2016 the UK Conservative Party, with David Cameron leading it, fired shots. Into their own feet. As if this act of collective national self-mutilation wasn’t enough, they’re now coming for our feet as well.

WTF does all this have to do with Toshl Finance? 

I’m glad you asked.

Banks in the European Union have a legal obligation to provide automatic data access (APIs) to transactions, financial accounts upon client’s authorisation. In turn, companies accessing that data, need to comply with the regulations as well and get a licence from the national banking regulator. Once the banking regulator in an EU member state issues the licence, it can be easily recognised (passported) by all other EU members. This way, an EU company can access this kind of financial data across the EU.

Lets, for the moment, leave aside that the banks are in many cases still woefully unprepared and merrily breaking this legislation, years after it was first announced and over a year since the last implementation deadline passed (Sep 14 2019). In most cases though, it’s working in at least a good-enough way.

As there are thousands of banks, each with their own peculiarities in technical implementations, we work with partners who help unify these connections and provide data access. The companies we work with right now are Salt Edge and Plaid.

Through either misfortune or lack of foresight, both these companies are registered in the United Kingdom. They got their AISP licence from the banking regulator in the UK (Financial Conduct Authority – FCA).

Due to the upcoming no-deal variation of Brexit, the legal system as described above will no longer apply in the UK. Licences issued by the UK banking regulator will no longer be automatically valid across the EU. They will be automatically revoked on Jan 1 2021.

Due to this, the existing connections via API to banks in the European Union will stop working on Jan 1.

Some will just need to be reactivated, some will not be able to. If you’re not interested in the why and how, skip ahead to instructions on how to fix the connections.

We checked with both Plaid and Salt Edge multiple times during the last few years, especially in recent times when it was becoming clearer that Brexit likely won’t be orderly. Both companies reassured us that they’re taking the required measures and that there won’t be any disruption. Obviously, that didn’t happen as planned.

We also obtained our own AISP licence from the Slovenian banking regulator in 2020 in addition to using the licences of our partners to connect. Due to this, we can certainly appreciate that filling in all the regulatory checkboxes is a large task. The requirements of the PSD2 legislation and consequently of the regulator, are often unnecessarily complex while doubtful in usefulness. We did not yet start the migration to using our own licence as we initially expected to do this more gradually and seamlessly to the end user in 2021. 

Had we known that Plaid and Salt Edge were not prepared with their AISP licences, we could have started this process sooner.

However, Plaid only notified us of these problems on 11 Dec, Salt Edge on 1 Dec.

The two companies came to rather different solutions for these issues. 

Salt Edge

Salt Edge is in the process of registering its new licence with the National bank of Romania, but they were not able to complete it so far and plan to do so in the first half of 2021. They ended up buying (or leasing?) the AISP licence from another company.

The current connections will become inactive, but should be able to be immediately re-added on Jan 1 by using the new AISP licence. The new connection will need to be authenticated again by logging in to your online bank. The connection will also create new financial accounts to import on and they’ll need to be merged with the previous accounts. See instructions.

A secondary issue is that these connections will need to be re-added again once Salt Edge gets its own proper licence. Wherever possible, we will try to use our own licence from here on, so that this second switch won’t be necessary.

Plaid

Plaid is in the process of registering its new licence with the National bank of Netherlands. They however did not even provide a wonky attempt at replacement like Salt Edge did. From Plaid, we just got a straight up notice on Dec 11 that they won’t be offering their services in January 2021 until they receive the new licence. Without even adding an apology. Quite an attitude, especially coming from a well funded company that Visa intends to pay 5,3 billion dollars for. Not exactly starved for resources, if for competence.

Needless to say, we are extremely disappointed with this outcome.

Our action plan

  • Use of our own AISP licence and certificates. Transitioning to them was the plan all along for 2021, but we’re now greatly speeding up those efforts. Unfortunately this also takes some time, as banks need to onboard our certificates, have varying degrees of IT sophistication and there could be staffing issues due to Covid-19 and the end of the year.
  • Replacing Plaid bank connections with the ones from Salt Edge, where available. We currently offer European Plaid connections in Spain, France, the Netherlands and UK. UK will, ironically, be unaffected by this. Quite a few of these connections will have replacements available via a Salt Edge connection, but unfortunately, we cannot promise this will be the case for all. We will likely be experiencing a prolonged downtime with certain connections in France, Spain and the Netherlands until Plaid has a registered AISP licence again. 
  • Searching for new bank connection partners to provide both wider connectivity as well as backup connections precisely for such cases as described here.
  • Notifying all our customers of these issues via this blog, social networks and emails to provide re-connecting instructions and lessen the impact.
  • As we investigate the replacement connection options for banks, we will be providing more detailed information about which banks will be affected, how and notifying the affected users.

How will this look in practice? How can I resolve this with my own bank connections and accounts?

  1. On January 1st, an affected connection will become inactive. 
  2. Re-add it as a new bank connection.
  3. Limit import by date. After authenticating the connection, you’ll be asked what time period you want to import the transactions for. Choose from Jan 1 2021 onward. This is to avoid duplication with your previously imported transactions.
  4. Merge old and new financial accounts. The re-added connection will also add new financial accounts and import on these new accounts. You can then easily merge them with the financial accounts from before, to keep them unified. Select to keep updating the account from the new bank connection.
  5. Done.

Only bank connections to banks in the European Union over an API connection are affected by these issues. 

Replacement connections will be provided for most banks.

Due to Plaid’s January shutdown we won’t be able to provide replacements for some connections in France, Spain and the Netherlands in the meantime.

Connections elsewhere around the world and connections using the scraping method are not affected by this issue.

In conclusion, we realise this is a big letdown. We sincerely apologise to our customers who will be affected by this issue. We will be doing our utmost to remedy the situation and provide more robust connectivity options in the future so that such situations won’t be able to reoccur.

The Brexit omnishambles makes fools of us all. We wish our English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish brethren and all affected by this pest, the strength and perseverance to overcome.

Update 17. 12. : removed a direct quote from Salt Edge upon request and a made factual correction regarding licence purchase.

Posted in Uncategorized

Spending Categories That Learn from You

When an expense or income flies in from a connected bank account, it’s in a raw form. We first need to get to know it better and make it easier to understand at first glance. In most cases, the data that’s available from the bank is the amount, date, financial account and a description of the transaction. This description can be verbose and include info about a specific location, details of the vendor. More often than not, it can also contain just a few cryptic numbers or text that say very little to the untrained eye.

To make this information more useful for analysing your finances, the expenses and incomes need to be analysed and the true meaning of it determined. This means automatically attaching a category and tags, often based on a pretty flimsy description. This process can then tell that a scant point-of-sale description like “LIDL-SI 227” really means category: “Food & Drinks“, tag: “groceries“.

Initial categorisation

The first step in this categorisation is usually done by our bank connection partners like Salt Edge and Plaid, which use anonymous aggregate analysis of millions of transactions to better determine the likely meaning and purpose of this purchase or income.

This however applies general rules that are valid for most people. If we take the example from above, most people will go to Lidl to buy groceries. However, your case may be different. What if you categorise your expenses with custom categories and tags, or visit that shop for a different purpose than most? What if you only visit Lidl to buy cleaning supplies for your racoon farm pet project? You’d edit the expense to re-categorise it as e.g. category; Projects, tags; racoons, cleaning supplies. Doing this editing every time you shop there would be quite a nuisance. This is where Toshl’s personalised categorisation comes in.

Personalised categorisation

In addition to the initial categorisation, Toshl will track your corrections of the categories and tags and match those changes to particular elements of the description. In other words, Toshl will learn from your past choices and apply it to new expenses as they get categorised. Future expenses with similar descriptions will get the categories and tags you chose for other expenses that had those kind of descriptions.

Your racoons will get the recognition they deserve. Finally.


Constantly improving

No automatic categorisation system with such a variety of data and choices can be perfect. Sometimes the available raw data just doesn’t suffice to make an accurate determination, sometimes the use case is just so specific it would be impossible to guess. We’re however doing our utmost to improve and bring you the correct categorisation in the vast majority of cases.

The more you use Toshl and adjust your categories, the more precise it will become. This adjustment feedback can be incorporated both in the initial categorisation as well as the personalised one. With initial categorisation particular venues can get their default categories adjusted, as lots of people anonymously correct the category for a single venue. Your category vote here however is weighed against all others.

With personalised categorisation, the learning will be done specifically for your user account and only your data, so the changes in automatic categorisation and tagging will happen much quicker.

Connect your bank or credit card with Toshl

The automatic categorisation is available with the automatic bank connections in the Toshl Finance apps. Toshl Finance can connect to more than 13 000 types of financial accounts all around the world. Try out the free 30-day trial of Toshl Medici.

Toshl monsters are already learning all possible categories by heart. Just don’t break their hearts by whaling.
Posted in Uncategorized

Toshl Medici Expands with 3000 New Bank Connections Around the World

Getting control of your finances just got a whole lot easier. Toshl can now connect to 3000 more banks and financial services around the world, bringing the total to about 13 000 financial institutions worldwide.

To the already available banks in the United States and Canada, we’ve added many new connections in Australia, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and many more countries. In fact, connections are now available in 60 countries.

Check out the list of available bank connections and countries.

How does it work?

  1. Find your bank, credit card or financial account in the list of bank connections. You can browse by country. First, 12 popular institutions in the country will show up. There’s also a full alphabetical list of available banks below. You can also use search on top to look for your bank by name.
  2. Connect to your account. In most cases this requires entering the username and password or connecting by being redirected to the bank/service’s page to log in. Some banks may require additional security steps.
  3. Choose the date, from when on would you like the data imported. This is important if you’ve been tracking some of these accounts manually before. Pick a date from when on you’d like to switch to automatic and import from there on. How much past data is available varies from bank to bank, it’s most often 2 past months.
  4. See the incomes and expenses fly in! In a few moments, your financial accounts and transactions will be imported from your account, automatically categorized and tagged.

Privacy & Security

Toshl is dedicated to protecting your data and your privacy. You can read more about our policies and precautions we take on our Privacy Policy page.

We work with reliable fintech partners to enable the bank connections. These companies are Salt Edge and Plaid. Plaid mostly covers connections in the US and Canada while Salt Edge provides integrations most of the other connections around the world.

When you enter your bank credentials to connect, Toshl itself does not see or store the credentials. They are saved and kept safe by our connection partners. This is needed to enable the bank connection to keep automatically updating with new data in the background. When you remove the connection, the credentials are deleted as well.

As banks in the European Union (due to PSD2 legislation) and around the world add official APIs (automatic connections), we’ll be updating our connections to support the new authentication and connection methods. With those methods, saving the credentials will no longer be required, as authentication will happen directly with your bank. We’re very much looking forward to these developments.

Availability

To connect your bank, open the Bank connections section in the Toshl Finance Android, iOS or web app.

The automatic bank connections are available to Toshl users with the Toshl Medici subscription plan. See the pricing and all the features that become available with the upgrade. A free 30 day trial is available.

Posted in Uncategorized

Attach PDFs to your expenses and incomes

Sometimes expenses and incomes come with a bit more documentation that needs to be kept in a safe place. Toshl has for a long time offered the option to add photos of receipts, either by taking the photo right away, or by choosing it from your phone’s gallery.

We’ve now added the option to add PDF invoices to entires as well. 

The option is available in the web app as well as the Toshl Android and iOS mobile apps. When adding an expense or income, just find the little camera icon on the bottom right and you’ll see the Attach PDF option there, right next to the photo option.

In the mobile app, the file picker will open up, so you can choose between the files you have for upload. You can attach up to 4 PDFs. It should work with any PDF invoice, warranty, report or similar document, as long as it’s under 10 MB in size.

The PDFs will be automatically synced to toshl.com for backup as well as for availability on your other devices, where you are logged in with your Toshl account.

Adding attachments and photos to entries is available to users with Toshl Pro or Toshl Medici upgrades. A free 30-day trial is available.

Posted in Uncategorized

Planning Graphs Arrive in Toshl Mobile Apps

The Toshl mobile apps for Android and iOS were updated today. Version 3.1.0 brings a major new feature to the mobile apps – Planning graphs.

These graphs enable you to compare your finances month-to-month, seeing the whole year at once. You can compare your monthly balances, expenses, incomes and see the growth (hopefully) of your net worth.

Better still, you can filter the graph by categories, tags, accounts or even locations. That means you can easily compare your spending on Food & drinks month-to-month. Want to see how much you spent just on your credit card and compare months? Done.

Tutorials

Check them out for more detailed instructions and tips on how to use Planning.

Availability

The Planning feature is available for all Toshl Pro and Medici users in all Toshl apps. Just make sure you have the latest update from the App Store or Google Play. A free 30-day trial of Toshl Pro or Medici is available on all platforms.

Posted in Uncategorized