As Intuit's Quicken options for Mac users continue to falter in the wake of a stripped-down Quicken Essentials release and the company's ongoing efforts to make the more fully-functional Quicken 2007 compatible with OS X Lion, other personal finance software firms have attempted to step into the void.
One of the more successful companies has been IGG Software with its iBank software, which is available as both a Mac application and a companion iPhone app. IGG Software has been teasing a few tidbits about its work on an iPad application over the past few months, and as noted in a new blog post today, the company appears to be making significant progress in moving toward the release of iBank Access for iPad. The forthcoming app will serve double duty as either a companion app to iBank for Mac or as a standalone personal finance app.
Among the most significant features of iBank Access is "Direct Access", IGG's new service that will provide users with significantly more options for automatically importing account data from their financial institutions.
After you enter valid credentials to log in to the bank’s website, you are given a list of accounts that you have at that financial institution – with the option of choosing which accounts you actually want in iBank. For example, many folks might have a checking, savings and even credit card all at the same bank and in the last screen you would be given the option to choose which of these you might not want to import. Most users will link all of the accounts. When the accounts are created, iBank imports available historical transactions associated with each account and even does some automatic categorization.
Here is where the beauty of our new aggregation system really begins to shine. Each time you launch the app, it goes out and fetches any new transactions. Unlike iBank for Mac, however, there is no separate window that appears where you have to manually verify which transactions to import. The new transactions just automatically appear conveniently marked.
In an effort to learn more about iBank Access and IGG's broader iBank efforts, MacRumors spoke with IGG's chief architect James Gillespie, a nearly 15-year veteran of Intuit who joined his brother Ian's company in 2008 to oversee iBank and other projects.
With the change to Direct Access for automatic syncing of information from over 5,000 financial institutions, iBank Access represents a paradigm shift for IGG in that it will require a small monthly fee ("in the range of a fancy cup of coffee") in order for users to take advantage of the service. Users who choose to manually import their transactions will not need to pay the monthly fee, but IGG believes that many will find the service worthwhile. Gillespie says:
Internally, people who have used it are very excited and love the experience. We plan on offering some sort of free trial so that everyone who wants to, can try it out. If people like it, then great - they can sign up, if they don't, then that is fine too. This is not something we are pushing for everyone, just for the people that want to import from their banks and not go through the Mac.
The new Direct Access capabilities will also eventually be making their way to iBank for Mac, increasing by tenfold the number of financial institutions able to feed data directly into iBank. For those users who prefer the existing OFX import solution, it will remain available.
Gillespie also notes that IGG is working on iCloud compatibility for its iBank products. MobileMe's iDisk service has been a popular method for iBank users to keep their data in sync, and IGG will continue to support iDisk syncing until Apple discontinues the service at the end of June. The transition to iCloud will be a relatively straightforward coming from iDisk, but will enable IGG to make further enhancements to syncing capabilities down the road.
We also asked Gillespie about the impact of the Mac App Store on iBank sales. iBank has been available in the Apple's marketplace for Mac software essentially from day one, and Gillespie notes that it has become the second-largest distribution channel for iBank, behind the boxed software and ahead of IGG's own download store. But sales have been increasing across the board, suggesting that Mac App Store sales are not cannibalizing other distribution channels and may indeed be helping to bring increased visibility for the company.
Finally, Gillespie shared details on some of IGG's recent hires, which have included two former Intuit employees who were core members of the team that led Mac software development and TurboTax for iPad development during their time there. With IGG providing them with a new home focused solely on Mac and iOS applications, the company believes that it has the right team in place to continue challenging Intuit in the personal finance software market.
iBank Access for iPad is still under development and IGG has not yet promised a release date, but the company is intending for it to launch sometime this summer.