Prelude Accounts Launches Bank Feeds: Why Now?

Bank sign
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Prelude Accounts will soon launch a new bank feeds feature, which will be available to all users.  This is in response to feedback from many ICPA members who feel that, while Prelude Accounts is good accounting software, it would be even better with such a feature.

Bank feeds, which is the importing of banking transactions directly into accounting software, is not a new concept and I think the new-found interest in this functionality has been driven by the rapid rise adoption of cloud accounting solutions (such as Prelude Accounts) by small businesses.  While it is good that they are adopting cloud accounting, small businesses remain notoriously poor at properly recording banking transactions.  It is no wonder then that so many accountants see bank feeds as a ‘deus ex machina’ to resolve their frustrations with clients; as if implemented correctly, bank feeds can achieve time and efficiency savings.

In introducing efficiencies into the accountant/client relationship, the ethos behind cloud accounting is similar to that behind bank feeds.  This was covered in our previous article on the benefits of cloud accounting, which can be viewed on the Prelude Accounts website.

Historically, bank feeds services originated in the United States using ‘screen scraping’ software, such as those used by price comparison websites, to access data by logging in to clients’ internet banking services.  In the US there are many local, state and federal banks, so it was probably easier to do this than to negotiate with each individual bank to provide the transaction data directly.

These methods require clients’ internet banking login details to be disclosed to the accountant and/or the accounting software provider, which I think should not be done, indeed not to any third parties.  Such disclosure generally breaches banks’ terms and conditions and could leave account holders exposed should a fraud occur; whether as a result of that breach or not.

Also, screen scraping relies upon internet banking sites remaining unchanged.  Whenever banks make changes to their websites (which I expect they do in part to frustrate this unauthorised activity), these bank feeds will fail until the screen scraping software provider updates their software to accommodate the changes.  This is something over which clients, accountants and accounting software providers can have no control.

In spite of these risks, some accounting software providers offer bank feeds that use screen scraping and do so at low or no additional cost to the user, which I am sure sounds appealing, and they can do this because screen scraping can collect data from a wide range of banks at a very low cost.  Moreover, I found that, by using careful wording and by featuring banks’ logos etc., they give their users the impression that this service is authorised by the banks, when actually it is not.  I expect that many accountants have inadvertently advised their clients to use such accounting software not realising that the bank data feeds are not authorised by the banks.

Given all of this, I was not convinced that bank feeds were anything other than unreliable, unauthorised, unsolicited and potentially insecure.  I was therefore reluctant to provide such integration services to our users because of the inherent risks involved.

However, bank feeds technologies have advanced, with software developers working closely with the banks to ensure security and authorisation issues are tackled head on.

In Bankstream, we have identified an alternative and viable bank feeds solution, which we believe to be superior to others on the market and with which we are happy for Prelude Accounts to be associated.  Bankstream offers a robust, secure and bank-authorised daily feed of banking transactions, which can be sorted, identified and allocated prior to being imported into Prelude Accounts.

Kevin Bottomley, Marketing Manager at Bankstream explains: “Through our mutual support of the ICPA we’ve built up a good relationship with the Prelude Accounts team.  It’s great that our services can now work side by side to form a strong solution for ICPA accountants and their clients.”

We are looking forward to developing our relationship with Bankstream, and to introducing Prelude Accounts users to new integration features in the near future.

For more information, visit www.preludeaccounts.com, call 01656 725800 or e-mail info@preludeaccounts.com. Prelude Accounts can also be found on Twitter via @PreludeAccounts / https://twitter.com/preludeaccounts.

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