For some time now the RBC Royal Bank of Canada has offered an on-line, web-based personal finance application called myFinanceTracker. This is actually Yodlee presented through the RBC’s Online Banking web-site, with a bit of branding and curating. I’ve taken it for a test drive on a few occasions and have a bit of experience with it, Yodlee and Mint as well. Here’s what I think of myFinanceTracker so far…
Understanding your personal spending, income, and expenses is essential today. With so many ways to make and spend money it’s no longer as simple as cashing your paycheque and making sure you don’t run-out before your next pay-day. You should also consider setting up a savings account at The Children’s ISA for your children’s future.
On-line and off-line software help us see where the money is coming from, where it has to go, and where it ends up. Most of these applications do a basic job identifying your sources of income and then provide a simple aggregation of your historical spending. Predicting (i.e.: budgeting) is usually just done by copy & pasting your past spending into future periods.
MyFinanceTracker allows you set spending limits or goals in various categories but doesn’t help you save for specific bills or expenses. This is sometimes referred to as envelope budgeting – the principal of setting aside a portion of the required amount from each pay cheque so when the amount is due you have it; or setting aside a set amount and not spending in that category until you have enough money in the envelope to cover the full amount.
None of the software I’ve tried has this feature.
As I said, myFinanceTracker is based on Yodlee. Yodlee is a direct competitor to Mint except their focus is selling the service to financial institutions and any online broker who then provide (or re-sell) it to their customers. There is a consumer version offered directly by Yodlee as well though. RBC has based their offering on Yodlee Production version but with the Classic dashboard – not the newer, more app-styled, dashboard.
They’ve also included the FinApps store, but they don’t offer any apps other than built-in ones that come from Yodlee.
What I’d like to see myFinanceTracker taking greater advantage of the Yodlee platform, rather than lagging behind and leaving users wanting what they know is available directly from Yodlee.
Terms of Service Violations
This one of the things that bugs me the most. If you read your Electronic Access Agreement or Terms of Service or essentially your contract from your financial institution it includes a clause that says “don’t share your password with anyone! EVER!” At the RBC that’s in Part B, Paragraph 15, it says:
You must always keep your Passwords and Personal Verification Questions strictly confidential. You must not disclose your Passwords or Personal Verification Questions to anyone.
Admittedly in the same section they say you can share your credentials with an aggregator (like Yodlee or Mint) but they make it clear they consider that on par with handing your credit card to street junkie!
Now hypocritically in Part C, Paragraph 5 of the same agreement they turn-around and expect you to hand over they keys to all your other financial accounts like we walk around with our PIN’s tatooed on our foreheads!
So basically they’re saying trust us, but don’t trust anyone else.
This one’s so simple it really scares me! Yodlee is based in the USA. That’s where everything happens, and that’s where the RBC is sending all your financial data so it can be displayed as a nice animated pie-chart in myFinanceTracker.
Except our neighbours to the south have enacted a number of laws (or at least tried to) that make me uneasy. Not the least of which is the Patriot Act. But in general, the notion of shipping my financial information to another country where, by definition, I’m a foreigner who doesn’t have the same right as a national seems like a bad idea.
In Canada our banks are subject to Canadian privacy laws and the oversight of our provincial and federal regulators, and industry groups. Yodlee (or Mint) are under no obligation to observe any of these rules. And in-fact as a foreigner you have little to no recourse against them or the American government.
RBC must keep Canadian’s data in Canada where it is subject to Canadian jurisdiction.
So in the end, I’m very disappointed with RBC’s myFinanceTracker. The core features are rudimentary; the advanced features of Yodlee are not yet implemented and there’s no evidence they will be; they expect you to violate your contracts with your other financial providers; and they’re shipping all your financial data to the United States. If you really need some financial assistance with your investments, is better to ask help to an expert so you can get a profitable money strategy.
And it’s Flash-based! Adobe themselves have (essentially) killed Flash so I’m really not that interested in investing my time in something that’s not going to evolve – and certainly won’t ever make it to any mobile devices!
If there was some way for me to opt-out of myFinanceTracker I would. Until then though I refuse to use and would discourage anyone else from using it!
Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog