Money minder nets balances

A NEW Internet tool is letting people gather all their account balances in the one place.

The process, known as account aggregation, requires users to identify their accounts and provide their user identification and passwords.

The aggregator uses technology to troll the Internet for account balance information and serve it up for the customer. The process is also known as screen scraping.

The types of “aggregated” products include bank account, brokerage account, credit card, reward program and email account information.

Non-bank organisations such as NineMSN and AMP have entered the account aggregation area in an attempt to boost their services.

The service is slowly catching on worldwide. In the US, the big account aggregators Yodelling and Vertical One have about one million customers between them.

Australians are slowly catching on to the service but are believed to be a little bit behind the US in taking up on-line banking.

AMP e-business leader Denis Rowe said about 80 per cent of on-line banking service users only checked their account balances.

“People are using the Internet more for information than transactions,” Mr Rowe said.

“Instead of having to go to each of their financial institution sites, account aggregation brings all these balances to the one page.”

AMP has two account aggregation services on the market. The first, My Portfolio, aggregates all of a customer’s AMP product information. The second, Account Minder – provided by Vertical One – handles the customer’s other banking and financial needs.

Mr Rowe said the AMP was using its account aggregation to boost customer service.

“We are not visible to our aggregation customers. We simply facilitate their link with Vertical One,” he said.

“Aggregation allows customers to see all of their information in a convenient place.”

– Lawrence Scott.

NineMSN business manager finance category Caroline Borge said her organisation’s account aggregation system was due for launch at the end of the month.

“It runs along the lines of making the most of your time,” she said.

“We’re trying to help users make the most of their time.

“Watching the US market, we’ve seen an education process to start with. The first stage was getting users into on-line accounts. From there it’s getting them into aggregation facilities.”

Suncorp Metway marketing manager on-line Lawrence Scott said the bank had conducted a pilot that proved very encouraging. It is investigating launching a full aggregation product in the first half of this year.

“The Internet is a convenience. Aggregation extends that convenience further by allowing the customers to see all of their information in a convenient place,” Mr Scott said.

Mr Rowe said the typical customer to use an account aggregator would be a high-wealth individual with enough on-line accounts to make the service worthwhile.

Ms Borge said NineMSN was chasing the medium end of the market – those people who would be more prone to use the Internet for banking and other services.

“Later on we’ll attack the higher end of the market such as the financial planning sector,” she said.

Despite the benefits offered by account aggregation, there are concerns linked to the privacy of the service.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton said while account aggregation had great application for simplifying people’s financial lives it also put in the hands of businesses entities some very powerful information.

“Any organisations considering setting up account aggregation facilities will be covered by the Privacy Act,” Mr Crompton said.

“I would urge anyone in the financial services industry to pay close attention to the Privacy Legislation coming into effect on December 21.”

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