We use an online accounts package which means we are able to raise invoices and email them to our clients automatically. We can even receive payments online which are correctly logged with the accounts software. It's slick, it's fast and it keeps us away from the trivia that can go with running a business.
Even the tax man has gotten in on the act. HMRC accept online submissions, which means our quarterly VAT return is submitted for us by our accounts software. And why not? All the information is there, the transmission is secure and it's nearly instantaneous. So the quarterly VAT return must be a breeze then?
Er.......no. That's where it all starts to fall apart. Because in order to keep the accounts in order, I need to verify against our business bank account. And our bank wants nothing to do with the outside world. I therefore have to print off a long list of transactions and manually reconcile them against our accounts software. It's slow, it's tedious and unfortunately with me leading this particular charge, prone to errors.
If our bank allowed secure connections from authenticated third parties, this problem would go away overnight. And why don't they? The technology exists and you can cut out most problems simply by making the connection read only. I would be delighted if they were able to make this possible (and I'm not the only one). I know some systems do exist for connecting accounting packages with online banking, but they are done despite the banks rather than with their blessing, typically breaking their terms and conditions in the process.
I might not be the bank's typical customer, but I don't think I'm that unusual. We don't have an overdraft or any loans. I haven't been into the branch since we signed up and almost all of our payments are online. In fact we received our first ever cheque last week. I haven't figured out how to deal with it yet! On top of that, our 'free' banking period elapsed a while ago and we're now paying £7.50 per month for the privilege. Frankly, I don't think we're getting good value for money. I don't mind paying, but I'd like to receive a better service for it. One that's more suited to our online and connected business.
Therefore, I throw down the gauntlet to the banking world. I'd like a better bank account. And this is what I'd like it to look like:
- Online only. I don't want or need a branch. In the unlikely event that we receive a cheque, I can post it.
- A decent API for third parties to connect to. All it probably needs to do is to allow a list of transactions to be retrieved. That would probably solve 90% of requirements.
- A small but reasonable monthly charge. Free would be OK too!
- The facility to delegate access, e.g. allowing my accountant to be able to log in and view, but read-only.
- How about built in crowd-lending? We don't need a loan or overdraft, but we'd be happy to loan out any savings we have in reserve to other businesses for a reasonable return.