Introducing Xero Personal…

The anticipation is over – Xero Personal is now available! It’s such an exciting day for us, launching this new personal finance management product.

For the first release we’ve really focused on features to help you find out where your money is going and to identify areas where you can save money. There are tools to allow you to see your full financial position, then set up goals and track your progress towards them.

We’re passionate about where we might take Xero Personal and plan to release updates regularly, based as much as possible on what you tell us you want.

While available to Xero business customers globally from today, we will be staggering the release of the Xero Personal activation emails for New Zealand customers who sign up through the BNZ, where they also get automated personal bank feeds. This is so we can backload your BNZ account data and monitor the load so the user experience is optimal from the start. So if you are a BNZ customer and want to try Xero Personal we suggest you pre-register through BNZ Internet Banking as soon as possible. It may take up to two weeks before you’ll be completely up and running. But bear with us, it will be worth it!

Take a look at this short overview. Perhaps this will be the start of a change in the way you use your money…

A big thank you to the team at the BNZ who we’ve worked with for the last many months on this project. We appreciate your support.

While the big news is certainly Xero Personal, check out the release notes for details on other updates.

87 Comments

Shane
March 30, 2010 at 5:01 am

I can’t believe you can only create 8 custom categories. This has to be a product management decision as it canot be a technical limitation.

Dear Xero folks,

The product is great, but this makes it unusable. Please go have a chat with the guy who made this decision and tell him to try out a few competing products to get a feel for how people use Personal finanicial management applications.

Please please.

S

Shane
March 30, 2010 at 5:07 am

Sara,

Your defaults don’t do the following

Distinguish between Fuel, Car Purchase and Repairs.

Have anyway of categorising Furniture, Home Repairs, and related.

Anyway of distinguishing between Childrens Clothes, entertainment, etc and those of adults.

Anyway to indicate taxes, and break downs between tax and social insurance.

And so many more.

Just boot up good old quicken and see how it is done. If you want to keep your guessing accurate, I suggest use the Quicken category and sub category idea. It should be easy to guess the category, and let the punter define sub categories.

Shane
March 30, 2010 at 5:09 am

Ramsay Bell,

For a csv to qif converter try

http://xl2qif.chez-alice.fr/calc2qif_en.php

I have used it for years and it is great. One caveat though, the Microsoft Excel version seems a bit temperamental. Use the Open Office Version.

If that does not find it google calc2qif

Jared Roussel
March 30, 2010 at 6:06 am

I created an “Alcohol” custom category and Xero Personal has brought a new level of self-disgust to my life. Maybe I should make matters worse and drill down to further “Grey Goose & Soda” and “Maker’s & Ginger”…

James
March 30, 2010 at 8:17 am

Beautiful! I have had a play and the interface looks great. One thing I found confusing at first was the lack of currency unit. It would have been much easier to understand with a $ in front of my figures. When I went to set my goals I thought the first slider was for the physical number of goals I had to set because it only went up to 100. Maybe i’m just a little slow but a few $ signs would help.

Raoni
March 30, 2010 at 8:57 am

Hi,
I have just entered all my personal account since jan/2010 in Xero Personal……..and I have to say I can’t think a reason WHY I can’t create more than 8 categories.
It’s IMPOSSIBLE to manage any personal finence with this limitation. I also looked every buttom in the system and I can’t believe I can’t create a transaction other then importing OFX/QIF files…….WHYYYYYYY????
I really love Xero Bussiness, and I was really exited about the launch of Personal, but it’s impossible to use this system with this very BASIC functions……..
Please, change this things………I know you guys can make it!!!!

Thanks very much……..

Raoni
Brazil

Jared Roussel
March 30, 2010 at 9:15 am

Why no CSV? I’ve also had a big problem with my bank prefixing titles like “DEBIT PURCHASE” before the name of the merchant causing me to have to categorize each transaction manually. I know this is just another bank nightmare, but it’d be nice to have a solution for this since I think it’s a pretty common thing.

Jared Roussel
March 30, 2010 at 9:18 am

I actually like Xero’s approach to make Xero Personal simpler, so the 8 custom categories and the different approach without reconciling transactions doesn’t really bother me. But yes, not being able to split transactions just makes things glaringly inaccurate. I’d also like to see how much I’m paying in ATM fees.

+1 to Split Transactions

Andrew Haynes
March 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Great product. Initially I had some trouble with transactions coming in without payee details… but when i changed from uploading a .OFX file to a .QIF file it worked perfectly.

Uploading from CBA Netbank.

Would appreciate the ability to split transactions and fully customise categories, but the simplicity of the product is very slick. It would just be nice to have the ability to take things to the next level.

Is it really neccessary to restrict categories to 8 and not allow changes to the default categories?

My suggestion: If you want to maintain the simplicity of the product for low-end users perhaps these advanced features could be enabled by a tickbox in the settings. That way they would not be availiable to confuse low-end users unless enabled.

Martin Ryan
March 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm

@Andrew Haynes – I completely agree, there’s a bit too much bending to the lowest common denominator here. I was expecting something with the power of the Business version but it has been bubble wrapped too much. Being able to turn on more powerful features would be a big improvement.

James R
March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I imagine the restriction in the categories is so that the database has some value when aggregated amongst many users. It would be a wasted opportunity if we all categorised transactions to our own arbitrary labels. Xero only know what our transactions are actually for if we choose one of their pre-defined categories.
It will also be required for later releases when point of sale terminals are connected to the Xero network and send invoices and categories directly into my Xero. (but that’s probably a few months away…)

Smallfurrything
March 30, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Xero,

Firstly Xero Personal is a really good start. I know you have acknowledged the fact you still have work to do, so I won’t say any more about that.
I did however want to add my vote for the following ESSENTIAL features:

1. Higher category allowance and editable default category names.
I would choose this as preferable over Xero ‘guessing’ any day, although I understand why you made the choice.
You can always put in a similar rules system to the one in Xero business at a later date). I’d prefer taking a bit longer to categorise the transactions that be pinned into a reporting straight-jacket. For example. in the UK we don’t say we’re shopping for “Groceries” -that’s very American/Antipodean :-)

2. Ability to split transactions.
So when we nip down to Tesco we might buy food, hairgel and a DVD record recorder -not your usual impulse buy, but it’s feasable and supermarkets put them on the same transaction and I would want to track them separately. So unless I split my goods at the checkout I can’t seperate them in Xero Personal.

3. Accounting for cash.
Once cash is withdrawn, we want to know where it goes. I have the receipts, but nowhere to put them :-(
Quite happy for this to work via a “petty cash” account, although for non-business types not used to Xero that methodology might not be the most appropriate. Splitting transactions would solve this though.

4. Improve loans/investment functionality
I made loans to my business and someone else and Xero Personal ain’t geared up to deal with this. Admitedly it’s not something most people would use but there are a few calls for it and for it’s essential.
Also waiting for FAQ on dealing with repaying loans setup in Net Worth…

Overall, for £25 a year, I’m going to pay up and support it, as you guys have a good product and after reading the feedback from everyone and your good selves I’m confident you will sort out these short-falls.
Don’t get me wrong, they are essential to making this work in the market, but I’ve put our faith in you for the business edition and it’s paid dividends, so I’ll do it again here.

Keep it up and look forward to the next update.

-Smallfurrything

Daxter22
March 31, 2010 at 1:07 am

Without automated bank feeds I don’t see the point in this even though the interface looks great. I’m simply duplicating the effort each time to have to manually import statements. I devised an excel sheet which I have used religiously for years which I update each day and tells me pretty much all of the same information this does. Automated would be great, but right now I’ll save time (especially if you want to update every few days) with the old fashioned approach.

Jon Day
March 31, 2010 at 11:00 am

I had high hopes simply because I think Xero Business is superb and market leading.

Personal is not yet a viable tool – it does not come close to matching the features of quicken, money etc.

The key shortcomings for me are:
– categories – way too few, needs to be flexible not locked, too US centric
– the Xero guessing didn’t find any for me in a year of transactions
– lack of printing reports,
– default to the uncategorised page which is empty seems pointless / unintuitive
– no currency options – blank is a quick fix if you had removed the default $ in net worth! but currency signs as per Business would be a lot better
– feeds to UK banks and a UK focus is the key differentiator from the mint, etc competitors which are almost exclusively US based
– crashes/hangs when selecting the OK on import – no corruption but regular hangs which I have never experienced in Business.

Sorry, but will I pay after the trial ? Definitely not, unless quite a few of the shortcomings are resolved very quickly.

Wish I could be more positive as I love Business, but this looks good but fails to deliver so far.

Jon

Nora
March 31, 2010 at 11:42 am

I’m a newish Xero business user in the US and love it (in spite of my bank and Xero not playing well together), so I was really excited to see this product come out.
However, despite the ever-lovely UI and the ability to submit receipts to Xero Business, I feel pretty “meh” about it. I will definitely keep my eye on it, but in the meantime allow me to cosign the following requests:

*split transactions – fundamentally essential nowadays
*manual entries (preferably with uploadable-bank-statement reconciliation) – some of us still write checks now and then!
*being able to rename categories! And to have subcategories. (“Clothing and small purchases” makes *no* sense to me – “small purchases” is way too vague to be useful. Maybe you mean panties, and were trying to be discreet?)
*more kinds of account categories. Line of credit, for example?

Stuff I don’t particularly care about:
*automatic feed (would be nice, but not my highest priority)
*special cash handling (I’m happy to have a separate “cash” account, so long as I can transfer funds from one to the other in Xero)

I’ve been trying scads of personal finance products and NONE of them have all the features I want, so I know there’s no pleasing everybody. Any way to make dealing with multiple separate bank accounts easier (for me, it’s two business, two personal, two joint household, plus a few loans…) Looking forward to seeing the product develop.

Nora
March 31, 2010 at 11:44 am

sorry – meant to say: Any way to make dealing with multiple separate bank accounts easier (for me, it’s two business, two personal, two joint household, plus a few loans…) is bound to be a big hit with the many small biz folks who — like me — are done with Intuit.

Jared Roussel
March 31, 2010 at 12:52 pm

In response to Jon:

I don’t get how the software is US centric. Are you even aware that Xero is a New Zealand based company? I feel the exact opposite every time I see “organisation” or weird things like “Holiday” as a category. Nobody uses that wording here, so it’s very awkward in a way I don’t think that other English speakers understand. Some titles and wording in Xero are like speaking another language entirely.

Yeah I don’t really see how hard it is for Xero to let people add as many categories as they want. It does seem like a pointless limitation, but I don’t really think it as a dealbreaker. The reason why Xero is doing this seems that they’re trying to discourage people from using Xero Personal as a rough business accounting tool in combination with other invoicing software like FreshBooks. I don’t know why they’re limiting Personal so much that they’re killing off functionality though.

I don’t think Xero Personal is ever going to really have multi-currency options in it, so I think they just did this to eliminate the need to select a certain country that your account is based in. Again, not a dealbreaker, but how much does it really simplify things for them? Yes, they should probably take off the $ in net worth if they’re going with this fix… lol.

Banks are too antiquated to all be on board with automatic bank feeds. Don’t hold your breath. I actually like the approach that they’ve teamed up with BNZ instead of having the pipe dream that somehow every bank is going to be on board. The biggest problem for me is that many banks (in the US at least) have QIF and OFX only available through download using Microsoft Money or Quicken and not as a separate file download. This is a total bummer, and Xero Personal needs CSV support urgently.

I haven’t gotten any of the hanging you described. Could it possibly be with the size of file you are uploading? I have noticed some hanging when manually categorizing transactions though.

Overall, give Xero Personal time to work itself out, but it’s clear that Xero needs to change its strategy a little bit because the current functionality is not pleasing the users.

Jared Roussel
March 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm

And it appears that there’s some aggregation company that allowed Mint to do the bank feeds. I’m hoping that Xero gets on board with whoever these people are because I want to see the fall of that horrible company Intuit.

Tristan Marris
March 31, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I and others were really looking forward to this product release and have talked about it for sometime. Having automated bank feeds was the killer app for all of us and the major differentiator between it and other online products. Without this feature, I won’t be using it. Absolutely love Xero business and understand the complexities involved but disappointed in Xero Personals lack of automated bank feeds on launch.

Xero Personal update « Online accounting software news from Xero
March 31, 2010 at 1:41 pm

[…] been great to get so much feedback about Xero Personal. There’s definitely real passion out there for what we’re […]

Catherine Walker
April 1, 2010 at 3:50 am

Hi everyone – thanks so much for all the comments and questions you’ve put forward on Xero Personal, some of you have taken a lot of time to let us know how you need to use a product like this to manage your finances and we’re quite humbled by your interest. We’re taking all your feedback on board and as you know have already started making improvements by updating the number of categories you can create yourself – see the blog post Xero Personal Update.

Thanks again,
Catherine

John Birse
April 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm

In my days as a commerce teacher (back 30 years ago!!) we used to teach “Commercial Principles and Practice” which gave some foundation to basic financial literacy to an often bored and disinterested group of teenagers. Today the classroom is the internet and the small business owner the student needing the same foundation. Xero Personal could provide some foundation to basic financial literacy using the private rather than business finance as an initial learning environment. Maybe if we can start small and educate small business owners about the need to better manage their personal finances we can then transition them to better manage their business finances. I am encouraged by the “new breed” of web aware small business owners who get how great programming, the internet and being aware of your numbers improves their competitive ability.

Don Meares
April 14, 2010 at 7:31 am

This could be a fun way to keep up with accounts. I’ve been wondering since I started using Yodlee to collect and consolidate bank data here in the states I’ve found that it collects well but I can’t use the information in any way close to what I want. Could there be an approach that would use a site like Yodlee to collect data and then feed it to Xero where I would code transactions, build reports, etc. Could this kind of thing remove some of the barriers (not all of course) to the limitations of creating an interface for each bank?

Hannah
June 25, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Dear Xero:

Congratulations on Xero Personal! Having just spent the last 2 hours researching personl accounting options within NZ (which isn’t much), I’m really interested in yours. Unfortunately, all the other New Zealand banks are in the dark ages so I won’t be signing up quite yet!

On that note, there’s been a lot of frustration vented in this thread around the lack of bank interest (outside of BNZ). Reading your responses, it seems it’s a fair assumption the banks are not interested / just not making the information available, nothing to do with you guys.

Is there any pressure we as consumers can put on them, any suggestions you’d make? In other words, can we help make this happen if we’re so very keen for it?

Just thought I’d ask if you had any great ideas. I really look forward to using your product once the other New Zealand banks see the light.

Rod Drury
June 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Hi Hannah, we wouldn’t say there is a lack of bank interest. We believe most banks are very interested to see how we go. It’s a big shift in bank thinking to partner like the BNZ has with Xero. We’re pretty confident that this hybrid approach which connects traditional integrated online banking with innovative new services from companies like ours will become the norm in a few years. (We call it Banking 2.0 where Banks start publishing webservices for others to integrate their offerings into broader workflow solutions.)

We’ve still got a lot to do this year to create a compelling set of features that keep consumers engaged with their personal finances. We’re really just getting started. We have a solid upgrade coming shortly that completes some missing features and the team is already working on the next version after that which starts to take things to the next level.

So we think this is an interesting space that will actively move forward over the next year or so. The best way you can help is to use the product, give us feedback and tell your bank.

Cheers

Rod

Dave Jones
December 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hi Rod – Thanks for getting involved with the discussion.

I have been involved with a business account with Xero and have been very (very, extremely) impressed – not least with the bank feeds, which are a marvel of convenience. In light of this I started to investigate using Xero for personal banking and discovered that the feeds are strictly limited to BNZ.

Reading yours and Sara Goepel’s responses, it looks very much like you’re trying to give the impression that is the banks that are causing the hold up on a technical/service side. This is despite the fact that the following is a list of feeds already supported on the business side for quite some time:
ANZ
ASB
BankDirect
BNZ
Kiwibank
National Bank
Sovereign
TSB Bank
Westpac

The trouble with trying to nip an issue in the bud by “talking around something” in a blog, is it just begs for more direct questions to be asked publicly. Answering it the way it’s been answered above have makes Xero seem like an organisation with something to hide. If Xero is going to be so obviously cagey about something so public and so obvious, how much trust can we have with other aspects of the business in its quest for market ubiquity?

Back to the main issue – before people start switching banks for the “carrot” of BNZ bank feeds –

1) Are you ever going to allow other banks to have feed access?
2) If so, what time-frame does BNZ have exclusivity for?
3) Does the deal with BNZ put a muzzle on Xero for points 1 & 2?

If the answer to point 3 is yes, I think it would be nice thing for Xero to just admit it and let people have all the facts before they make any decisions about changing banks.

Rod Drury
December 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Hi Dave,

1) yes
2) BNZ’s exclusivity on bank feeds finishes in Q2, 2011
3) none outside this initial exclusivity period within the NZ market

Xero Personal is a reasonable investment and the competitive landscape is such that there are bank led solutions (which generally lack innovation) and other solutions that aren’t integrated at all with banks. We picked the middle ground and a new hybrid approach where there is tight integration between the banking platform and our own application. That requires a lot of investment from the bank as well.

The Personal Financial Management (PFM) space is different to business as banks don’t offer accounting software. Having to go alone as a PFM without bank support to us felt like a tough commercial business to get to scale. Many PFM’s have failed. People don’t want to pay much, if anything, for them so you need many many thousands of customers.

In addition the hybrid model we chose for Xero Personal required significant additional development between the BNZ and us. The previously existing business bank account feeds from BNZ and other NZ banks do not allow for seamless electronic registration and provisioning, which is a pre-requisite for the very high volume low touch PFM space. We can’t afford to be manually filling in forms for tens of thousands of personal users, so the feeds for Xero Personal were jointly developed as a new integration.

The PFM market is still working itself out and so far we don’t have other banks pushing hard to send us feeds so at this time working closely with our good partner the BNZ is the most sustainable model for us in NZ.

We’ll seek other partners in other markets and are also considering enabling feeds through Yodlee to give us a broader offering sometime in 2011.

Hope that answers your questions,

Rod

Dave Jones
December 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm

OK – thanks, Rod.

And yes, it does answer my questions excellently. I appreciate your candour.

Dave

James
November 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I just want to add my voice to the requests for bank feeds to Xero Personal.

I have tried Personal and would use it, but not if I have to manually download the bank data.

James

Ryan
January 10, 2012 at 11:27 pm

ANZ Money Manager has had this functionality for a long time. When will Xero have it?

Bill
May 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Rod, you stated on 29 December 2010 that BNZ’s exclusivity on bank feeds would end Q2 2011. Nearly a year ago. What happened??

Rod Drury
May 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Yes, we can take feeds into personal from any bank. Talk to your bank! Which bank are you with and we’ll chase this end.

Rod Drury
May 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Alastair is referring to the Yodlee feeds, which will provide access to thousands of banks. In our core markets of NZ,AU,UK & USA we are keen to build direct feeds but need you to make the demand known to your bank as it is a project for both them and us.

Shawn
July 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Is there a list somewhere of the currently supported banks for live feeds? For those banks not yet supported an ETA to a hyperlink to contact the bank might help people contact their respective banks earlier.
E.g.

BNZ Supported from Dec 2010
KiwiBank Not Supported – Estimated. Q3 2012 – Contact bankperson@bank.com to add your support
National Not Supported – Estimate unknown – Contact bankperson@anotherbank.com to add your support

Home Team Accounting
November 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

We have heard that other firms are migrating their clients to Xero so we are also trying to lead the way to using the Xero Personal too. The design is phenomenal.

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