In this blog post, I’m going to discuss two of our most popular connected services: Direct Access and stock quotes. Specifically, I layout out our roadmap on where we are with our services today and where we are headed. If you missed our last post, “A subscription that doesn’t suck,” please consider going back and reading it before diving into this one.
Direct Access Roadmap
Direct Access is our service that allows customers to easily connect their bank accounts in Banktivity. This allows you to import your transactions without having to log in to a bank’s website or manually download any files. When Direct Access works, it’s great. But over the years, as banks have changed their security practices more and more financial institutions require their customers to enter additional multi-factor authentication (MFA) questions and provide one-time passcodes (OTP). Some banks, like Capital One, require you to provide a OTP every single time Banktivity tries to get new transactions. To say this is annoying is an understatement. It’s really bad user experience.
Once our move to subscription is done we are taking on a major project to build out our next generation Direct Access service. This new service will use our backend provider’s latest APIs and platforms. It’s a large undertaking as it is essentially developing “Direct Access 2.0” but it is absolutely something we have to do. Getting to their new platform should result in several major improvements:
- Less MFA/OTP interactions*
- Faster fixes when a bank connection stops working
- Reduced latency for account linking
- Reduced latency for transaction downloading
- Support for additional authentication protocols
*We don’t have any control over which banks require MFA and how frequently they require it. Ultimately, it is largely determined by the agreements our backend provider has for each bank.
What about UK and EU customers?
I know that our UK and EU customers are probably thinking, “well this investment in Direct Access is great if you’re a US or Canadian customer, but what about if you are in the UK or Europe. Your Direct Access service doesn’t work here.”
I’m happy to announce that we are currently negotiating with another provider that can offer data aggregation services that are in compliance with Open Banking! This means we will be able to start supporting banks in the UK and EU again. The first step to adding support for this Open Banking provider is to build our v2 Direct Access service. Once that is in place we will be working on integrating this provider for our UK and European Union customers. I also want to point out that this is a roadmap and things can change. We don’t have hard dates yet as there is still a significant amount of preliminary work to do before the actual integration starts.
We used to use Yahoo Finance for stock quotes. Unfortunately, they shut down their public-facing API which forced us to switch to a new provider. For many customers, the transition has been relatively seamless – we still get stock quotes from over a dozen exchanges. However, if your investments are traded on an exchange that is not supported, the experience is dismal. You have to hand enter your stock prices. The customers most affected by this are in Australia and Brazil.
We are currently looking for a data source for Australia and other stock exchanges. However, we are having a hard time finding one. Our current provider indicates they may add it in the future, but they aren’t offering anything concrete. I’ve also reached out to the Australian Stock Exchange directly and we are currently exploring working directly with them. If you know of a reliable way to get quotes for ASX and other exchanges please let me know!
We’ve learned a lot over the years about developing services to meet the changing needs of our customers. For those interested, I thought it would be fun to share two of our biggest lessons learned.
First, free services, rarely if ever, stay free. When you find a service you want to incorporate and the price is free, it’s hard to put the brakes on and not move forward. But trust me, don’t do it. Free services rarely stay free. We were bitten by this with Yahoo and we now prefer paid services so that they are less likely to be pulled out from underneath us.
Second, services need lots of maintenance. In this day and age, you can’t just stand up a server, get your service installed and working on it and call it a day. There are constantly new security vulnerabilities being found which results in someone changing something on the server to address the vulnerabilities. It usually isn’t our code that needs to change, rather the frameworks and tools we use to build our services need to be upgraded and patched. Then we have to test our services on the upgraded backend and so on. Even if you don’t need to upgrade your services for security reasons, if you don’t upgrade them to stay on the latest technology stacks at some point you’ll have too much accumulated technological debt. Someday someone is going to come to you and say, “Hey, your service is running on frameworks from 10 years ago and we are dropping support for that, so you have to upgrade.” You can’t outrun the technological debt, we’ve found the best strategy is to be always dedicating some resources to “paying it down”.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that is pretty much always the case with software development. It’s great to be finally starting to execute some of these big projects that have been on our radar for a while now.
The next blog post I’ll dedicate to new features coming in Banktivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. We have more to share!