Xero has a very useful feature that saves time and effort transferring your bank payments and receipts into your account system. If you’re unable to get a direct feed, it involves logging on to your online banking, downloading a statement in CSV format and uploading it in through Xero. This exercise works, but having a direct bank feed is much easier. The availability of feeds has been inconsistent over the years and Irish banks have been slow to act in relation to this matter. As a result, this has deterred businesses from using Xero as it wasn’t readily available. There are three main Irish banks for business banking: AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.
BOI (Bank of Ireland)
Bank of Ireland provides two systems: one designed for individuals and another for business. Banking 365 is a personal account for users whilst Business On Line (BOL) is for business banking. Banking 365 works efficiently with Xero and connects to your account, meaning that sole traders and self-employed people can get direct bank feeds. There was a problem for limited companies when it was insisted that they had to register with BOL. This left businesses feeling frustrated as not only were they being charged for using BOL, but the service itself had less functionality than the previous account they were using. This has now changed, and limited companies can choose either Banking 365 instead of BOL if they so wish. Banking 365 is free to use, while BOL is €10/month. To request a Banking 365 log in, you’ll need to contact your branch. The process takes a few days (the logins are sent by post), but once completed, you will be fully connected to Xero and it’s proved to be very useful for our clients.
Ulster Bank also has two systems: Anytime Banking and Bankline. Bankline contains more features than Anytime Banking and the service has more to offer businesses. Ulster Bank’s service is somewhat different to AIB and Bank of Ireland, as the system works the opposite way. Bankline integrates with Xero, whereas Anytime Banking doesn’t. One positive aspect to using Ulster Bank was that they never restricted or insisted that limited companies use one system over the other and this allowed users of Bankline to sign up as either an individual or as a business. Although Anytime Banking had no fixed fee, Bankline does charge a fee of €5 a month.
AIB (Allied Irish Banks)
AIB has two online platforms: AIB internet banking and IBB (Internet Business Banking). AIB Internet Banking allows direct feeds into Xero, whereas IBB does not. Previously, limited companies or businesses were only allowed access to the IBB platform. There were issues for users receiving feeds, resulting in businesses having to download and then upload bank statements, which was a constant source of frustration for customers. This is thankfully about to change, and AIB will shortly announce that limited companies can in future use AIB Internet Banking if they wish.
If you’re the owner of a business and your signature is attached to the account, you can now set up AIB internet banking and gain access to Xero. This has transformed the landscape in Ireland over the past six months in regards to feeding information from banks into Xero, through a process that is improving on a regular basis. There was an issue when a business had multiple amounts of owners yet a solution to this problem has been found. AIB will shortly begin to offer limited company business customers access to their system used by “trading as” personal business customers. This will allow the company directors to nominate a single user who will be issued with a registration number. Payments will be authorised by using a Visa Debit Card and a Card Reader.
This year has seen improvements made to all three banking systems. Bank of Ireland has changed a few aspects of their online platform and I assume this is due to the complaints submitted by their customers, which meant that changes were inevitable. Bank of Ireland no longer restricts limited companies from using Bank 365, which proved to be good news for us at Beyond, and for Xero. This resulted in users no longer having to switch over their accounts and BOL allowed them to continue using Business online whilst also being able to avail of Banking 365 for their businesses current account.
Ireland was always going to be a hard market to crack in relation to getting direct bank feeds and Xero themselves picked up on this issue a few years ago. The situation could do with improving, but we’re talking to customers and have a solution for them. At Beyond, we’re always happy to talk customers through the process and give them advice on how to get set up.