It's Here! Launching Data Connections

After months of testing with a wonderful group of users, we're happy to announce that Data Connections is ready for primetime. It's time for you to dive in and experience the upgrade first-hand!

Note: Data Connections is now live and all new feeds are automatically added via the Data Connections platform — you do not need to get in touch for testing. For information on open banking in Australia, please check out our Basiq blog post.

Data Connections is our new platform for getting your data into PocketSmith automatically — faster and more reliably than ever. It modernizes a crucial piece of our technology stack and opens doors to PocketSmith working with more data partners across a broader range of sectors than ever before. Think homes, investments, utility providers, and more.

We’re sticking to the basics for right now, with core bank feed data being brought into PocketSmith using the latest APIs available to us.

Alongside Yodlee for general worldwide bank feed coverage, Data Connections connects to New Zealand financial institutions via Akahu and uses Salt Edge for countries regulated by PSD2. You can also link directly to Sharesight to bring in your portfolio balances automatically.

For those interested, we’ll discuss parts of the journey taken to get here, and highlight some things that users have said to us in recent weeks. But first, let’s kick off with how to get moving.

Start using Data Connections right now

The Data Connections launch means that users can add no new legacy bank feeds, and everyone with bank feeds is being encouraged to migrate to the new system.

If you’re an existing PocketSmith user, you’ll now see a banner at the top of the Account Summary to migrate to Data Connections. Just follow the steps in the banner to migrate. You can also check out the documentation on the Learn Center for a walk-through.

If you’re a new PocketSmith user, you’ll automatically start using Data Connections when you connect your bank feeds. You’ll be good to go! If you’d like, you can check out the Learn Center for more details on connecting to your bank.

If you’re an ex-user of PocketSmith, perhaps someone who left due to bank feed issues, then we’d love for you to check things out. Send us an email to this special email address letting us know what bank(s) you had trouble with last time you were with us. We’ll let you know how other users have been getting along when connecting to your banks, according to the stats. From this, you can decide whether you’d like to give things another shot.

And for a limited time, we might even have something special for those of you who’ve not used PocketSmith for a long time. We know that there are many of you, as we’ve been offering bank feeds in PocketSmith for 10 years now. We’re hopeful we’ll hear from someone that hasn’t used PocketSmith since Gangnam Style dominated the airwaves.

I have just converted to the Data Connections Beta and am pleased to see [the feed for my small bank] is operating, which never worked with the old system.

It’s all as simple as that! If you’re still reading and want to read through some lumbering paragraphs on how we got here, then please — be my guest!

Building Data Connections

The core tenets of Data Connections were well established from the outset. Learning from our experience with the software we’d built in 2010 to connect to Yodlee, we set out to create a scalable and reliable solution that would connect PocketSmith to various data sources.

We’ve taken a measured and deliberate approach, which has decoupled us from using any specific data partner; something which we believe is fairly unique. We also gave the project the time it needed to mature. There weren’t dozens of people working on the project to meet deadlines; things took as long as they took.

The result — Data Connections — is a concise and opinionated aggregator for aggregators. The last version of the layer between PocketSmith and your banking data saw us through a decade — I’m confident that this one will have us set for at least the coming decade and all it brings.

Launching Data Connections

We faced extensive delays out of our control when launching Data Connections. The software was nearly finished back in May, with internal testing starting at the very end of 2020, and a public alpha in February 2021. We were ready, aside from the typical teething issues expected with young software.

Reality hit quickly, though. Despite the new APIs and partners, getting your bank data out of the banks is still a complex ordeal. Data partners commit to mind-bending workarounds daily to give you access to your data. Despite this, we were not seeing success rates at the level that would make us comfortable pushing for a launch without a lengthy beta period.

Even the first consumer bank data access legislation — PSD2 in Europe — is fraught with problems. Accounts are missing (notably, Savings accounts for many banks), and banks implement the PSD APIs inconsistently. Unsurprisingly, if you give the big banks the option of doing the bare minimum, that’s what a lot of them do.

And that’s the experience via bank-sanctioned APIs. The wild-west of screen-scraping, which is still de rigueur for global data aggregation, made it clear that we needed to adjust our expectations for the speed with which we could launch. May became July became September.

But we’re here now after being in beta for over two months. 12.144% of users have migrated to Data Connections at the time of writing, and we’re feeling confident about releasing it to the world.

The People of Data Connections

I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved, and we’ve done it only due to our people. It’s the team that pushes forward every day to solve real problems which have gotten us here.

… just wanted to say how good the new data connections are. They are very fast and up to date, no sooner have I made a transaction and it appears in my transaction list. Well done.

The incredible bank feed support team have been steadfast champions of providing best-in-class service, despite intense transitional shifts in their work over the past few months — all against the backdrop of Covid.

We’re so proud of the lengths the team goes to everyday to help you get your banks connected, especially when so many customers believe that bank feeds are just a turn-key solution. So do we — banking technology just hasn’t caught up yet!

Secondly, the product and software engineering teams inside PocketSmith. From the user interface that you click buttons within through to the Data Connections backend establishing the connection to your bank via our data partners, hours of love have been poured into making this reality.

Data Connections puts our best foot forward. It represents all we’ve learned about how users manage their bank feeds, and the tools to arm the support team to help customers. So far, feedback on the new user interface has been unanimously positive. We’re so excited for everyone to get their feet wet!

The new data connection has also solved a problem with having a more up-to-date balance, that I am used to with Quicken (Reckon). I can now transfer fully from Reckon.

And third, the rest of the PocketSmith team — those that communicate with users, proofread my drivel, keep an eye on the stats as people migrate, and provide weary team members with love, support and sugar in their times of need. We are only PocketSmith because we’re genuinely the sum of our parts.

Future of Data Connections

So that’s our side of things. Everything is set and we’re ready to run. Give us a reliable source of data, and we’ll get it into PocketSmith.

The banking world is slowly beginning to catch up with this idea too. Open banking in Australia shows signs of not making the same mistakes as PSD2 did in Europe, which in itself is constantly improving. CDR legislation is planned for New Zealand which will mean consumers will have legislated control over sharing their data that companies hold on them with third parties.

The best in breed at the moment are new aggregators — like our data partner in New Zealand, Akahu — who make use of bank’s APIs to allow users to access their banking data. The technology means far more reliable feeds than those offered by traditional methods, with the same level of access afforded to the bank’s mobile apps. And even better, these aggregators mean that transactions appear in PocketSmith in near real-time.

Love that Akahu is so easy to use, and I love the on screen tips you’re now using. Keep up the great work!

No matter what the future holds for consumer data access, Data Connections is primed and ready to get that data into PocketSmith.

Please migrate to Data Connections right now!

It’s the beginning of the end for legacy bank feeds. They will continue to operate while people migrate to the new system. You can’t add any new legacy bank feed connections. We will not investigate any reported issues with legacy bank feeds and recommend that anyone experiencing problems move over to Data Connections.

We’ll be sending out weekly email notifications to people who’ve not migrated to Data Connections over the next four weeks. Legacy bank feeds will stop working at the end of the sunrise launch period, at around the end of September 2021 the middle of October 2021. At this point, everyone will need to re-link their accounts.

But for now, we recommend that everyone migrate to new Data Connections! We can’t wait to have you on board.

James Wigglesworth profile image

James is the CTO and co-founder at PocketSmith. He loves tech from software to hardware to music, and is passionate about technology being a net-positive in people’s lives. He lives off-grid with two humans, two axolotls, two rabbits, one dog, and too many possums.

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