Toshl Finance Blog

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

Community-based Financial Empowerment to Overcome Abuse

Stable ground is a precious commodity. We all need sources of stability in our lives, even more so when other parts of our lives become more fluid, prone to changes. While that’s true in general, a pandemic and other global turmoil really help bring the point home right now.

As if all this wasn’t enough to give you the impression that you’re playing life in the hard mode, imagine being caught in an abusive relationship to boot. The source of stability for many, but what can quickly become your Achilles’ heel if your partner is abusive. “Financial insecurity is the # 1 reason why people who experienced gender-based violence return to an abusive relationship or enter into a new abusive relationship.” – Freeform.

To get out of a relationship like that, overcome and thrive on your own, building your own stability matters. While it’s only one aspect of the process, financial stability matters too. Both when leaving an abusive relationship, as well as when getting back up on your on feet after.

This is where the money coach Tiffany Tara and her group for financial empowerment are trying to help. We talked with Tiffany by videoconference from Germany, where she now lives after having moved from the US.

She leads a group of abuse survivors, meeting regularly to discuss their daily financial lives, as well as plan for the future. While their financial lives may be under additional stress due to all the circumstances, their approach to improving their financial lives holds lessons for us all.

One of the first steps is knowing yourself and addressing your deep-seated financial biases. For example, based on your past influences and the resulting personal approach to money, you likely fit into one of the 8 financial archetypes. When faced with a quick decision, our approach to money is often subconscious and rooted in our pre-defined attitudes, rather than well considered rational analysis. That’s why knowing, for example, that you might fit into the “Innocent” archetype might help. It may just be enough to get you to pay attention and not avoid financial matters altogether as “innocents” otherwise might. If that’s not your schtick, you might be an upfront-planning Warrior, spiritually-minded Magician, a Martyr that always puts the needs of others in front of their own, or one of the other archetypes. In any case, realising your upfront financial biases can help with shaping a healthier belief system about money.

The group also discusses their current financial issues openly, getting them out in the open to deal with them better inside the group. They use the Toshl apps to track their daily finances and empower themselves with data.

Financial survivors can make 100 000 $ less in their lifetime earnings due to abuse, according to estimates, so it’s even more important to lessen these effects in the long term. To be more concrete, according to Freefrom, the lifetime costs of intimate partner violence—including the costs of related health problems, lost productivity, and criminal justice costs on average $103,767 for women and $23,414 for men.*

Redefining your personal approach to money is a good start, but longer-term plans are needed as well. The group also works together on their 6-month financial plans, using data to fill in a more customised spreadsheet and make a rough outline of their future needs, goals and how to best manage them. Getting out of debt is certainly one such worthy goal, removing uncertainty and empowering individuals to make bolder choices in the future.

We wish Tiffany and her group all the best and lots of success on the road to financial empowerment. We could all learn from them.

Life savings in form of lollipops might be appropriate for Toshl monsters, but not necessarily humans. Caution is advised.

*Cora Peterson, Megan C. Kearns, Wendy LiKamWa McIntosh, Lianne Fuino Estefan, Christina Nicolaidis, Kathryn E. McCollister, Amy Gordon & Curtis Florence, “Lifetime Economic Burden of Intimate Partner Violence Among U.S. Adults,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, (2018): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.04.049

Posted in How people use Toshl

22 Cryptocurrencies Added, 249 Currencies Now Supported in Total

We’ve added support for a bunch of new cryptocurrencies for use in Toshl Finance apps. This means you can add transactions, accounts (wallets) or budgets in these new currencies as well and the exchange rates will be continually updated.

This also means that you can automatically import and update financial accounts in these currencies from crypto exchanges like Coinbase, Bitstamp and Bitfinex.

  • 249 currencies are now supported and auto-updated in Toshl.
  • 170 fiat currencies.
  • 75 cryptocurrencies.
  • 4 commodities.

New currencies added today:

Symbol	Name
ALGO	Algorand
BAL	Balancer
BAND	Band Protocol
CGLD	Celo
LINK	Chainlink
COMP	Compound
ATOM	Cosmos
DAI	Dai
KNC	Kyber Network
LRC	Loopring
MKR	Maker
NMR	Numeraire
OXT	Orchid
PAX	Paxos
REN	Ren
REPV2	REPv2
XLM	Stellar Lumens
XTZ	Tezos
UMA	Uma
UNI	Uniswap
USDC	USD Coin
YFI	yearn.finance

New data sources can be quite refreshing indeed.

Posted in Announcements

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