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Myths Vs. Reality

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Myth: Account aggregation is just screen scraping.

Reality: Screen scraping refers to the gathering of data via HTML. Account aggregators rely on pure HTML for less than 30% of the sites they support. Instead, they gather data via fixed format files, similar to what is provided in a direct feed.

Myth: Screen-scraped data, and other data gathered via Web sites, is inaccurate and unreliable.

Reality: There is almost no correlation between the data format and the accuracy of the data. Highly accurate data is available via Web sites, through HTML and fixed formats, as it is via direct feeds, but any methodology can also produce poor data quality. It is the rigor of the institution providing the data, and the sophistication of the aggregation technology, that ultimately determines data accuracy, not the data format.

Myth: FFIEC guidelines requiring two-factor authentication will make screen scraping obsolete.

Reality: FFIEC, a governing body for banks, thrifts, and credit unions, recently announced guidelines that require institutions to provide additional security for sites that provide account information. Some fear that institutions might introduce solutions, such as hand-held password-generating tokens, that would thwart account aggregators. However, tokens are expensive to maintain, and institutions are moving toward solutions that are less invasive and ultimately invisible to the investor. Account aggregators catering to the wealth management market have have been able to implement engineering solutions to all site changes stemming from the FFIEC regulations, and have taken proactive steps to insure that they remain insulated from potential adverse effects.

Myth: Account aggregation technology is okay for retail investors, but is not ready for investment advisors.

Reality: In fact, the opposite is true. Account aggregation is having its greatest success with investment advisors. Advisors require accurate data that can be reconciled in their accounting system, and firms such as ByAllAccounts have created reasonably priced offerings targeting this need. On the retail side, where investors can be equally demanding in terms of data accuracy, but much less willing to pay for the service, a sustainable business model has not emerged, and there has been a general lack of adoption among retail investors.

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