Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How Quicken should work - data in the cloud

Quicken is immensely useful. Without it, I'd have no idea where my money is and where it's going, because I'm pretty financially irresponsible by nature. It's a lifesaver. But when I'm not at home, physically sitting in front of my home computer where my Quicken data is stored, I'm lost.

The problem? Plain and simple, there's no way to review or make changes to my data remotely. Okay, at least not for me. The premier version of Quicken has a service that allows limited remote access to data, after authorizing the application to allow data sharing with Quicken.com, but it's still a stop-gap solution, because the 'real' home of the data is still the home computer, and transactions aren't automatically synchronized.

So here's what I propose - I want a web-based personal finance application, entirely location independent, with my data stored 'in the cloud'. I want to be able to access it from any internet-connected browser, and I want the encryption and security to be top-notch, just like my banks' websites. Now I'm imagining this as a Quicken product because I like Quicken's easy interface, I trust Intuit with my data, and I already have years of financial transaction data stored in Quicken's format. But a trustworthy third party could make this happen too. (Google Money, anyone?) I know you guys have a working relationship with Intuit already...

For true remote accessibility, I want a mobile-friendly interface too. If I'm away on vacation, or on my lunch break at work, I'd like to be able do a quick reality check with my phone to see whether buying that flashy new trinket would keep me from being able to pay next month's rent, or to check up on when next month's XYZ payment is scheduled to be processed.

While we're at it, and to make remote access even simpler, I'd also like to see fully automated account synchronization. I have accounts at multiple banks, a couple of different credit cards at different institutions, and investments at yet another. Quicken is great, because it allows me to see all of this data tracked in a single place, with a good user interface. But should I have to invest 15 minutes every time I want to update and review my accounts? When I sit down to review my financial status every day, I don't want to have to log on to my bank and credit card websites, download my transactions, open them in Quicken, etc. etc...I want to see an accurate snapshot view, a simple dashboard with a clear projection of my immediate financial future.

Of course, by concentrating so much personal data onto a single server and automating secure authentication processes, there would be some big security risks. Some big technical challenges would have to be addressed, and fair warning would have to be given to any users of such a service that doing so could endanger their privacy. Understood.

But as a consumer, I'd like to have the choice of whether to take those risks in exchange for greater convenience. At the moment, I'm stuck without any choice at all.

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