Awkward Bedfellows: Xero and AIB

In PageFair I’m striving to automate as much admin as possible. This means figuring out for once and for all how best to handle startup accountancy in Ireland, stretching all the way from receipts and invoicing all the way up to on-demand management accounts and cashflow projections. After much searching I found Xero, a terrific cloud-based accountancy system. Getting it to play nice with AIB banking was another matter.

Allied Irish Bank is the bank we chose, and as our expectations of Irish banks go, we’re largely happy. A big shout out to business centre staff, who have always worked hard to help us out.

organgrinderHowever, AIB’s “Internet Business Banking” is a typically confusing online banking system, with theatrically obtuse security features that succeed at frustrating the user instead of the fraudster. At least it more or less works, unlike Bank of Ireland‘s corresponding system (which I’ve never successfully used without having to telephone a helpdesk to decipher unhelpful error codes). I’ve heard that Ulster Bank’s online banking system is great, but they suffer from a lack of branches – handy for those inevitable occasions you actually need to see someone.

When using Xero you can configure it to read from a bank feed so that it stays automatically up to date with your account. Whatever giant software megaconsultancy built AIB’s online banking systems saw fit to equip personal banking with this feature, but not the business banking system. Go figure.

Anyway, as a business client, you are left with the option to export transactions in CSV format. Unfortunately, AIB’s business banking system grabs defeat from the jaws of victory, producing only a very broken attempt at CSV. The process of importing this into Xero therefore involves tedious and error-prone hand-fixing the file in Excel or a text editor.

Thankfully, I found the people who could help. After some detailed online research I found ProfitPal, a Irish Xero accountancy firm who has been through all this before. ProfitPal has embraced the cloud. I had barely engaged with them before I was equipped with a new Xero account, a ReceiptBank account, a cloud-based file drop, and was also the proud owner of an Excel macro that did a valiant job at fixing up the broken AIB CSV format. Last night, with my vestigial developer instincts tingling, I couldn’t help tinkering with it a bit.

A few hours later, the result is now available to all at AIB2Xero.com. It’s a fully HTML5/Javascript based converter, meaning that you can use it to convert your broken AIB transaction histories into Xero-compatable files without any of your data leaving your computer. Best of all, you don’t need to deal with Excel. If you want to prove this to yourself, download the index.html file, open it and do the conversion locally with your network cable pulled.

You can use it online here, or fork it on bitbucket.

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Posted in Code, Enterprise, Ireland, Tech
4 comments on “Awkward Bedfellows: Xero and AIB
  1. Eimear says:

    Hi Sean, is it possible to feed personal AIB accounts to Xero? Can this be done online and if not, what’s the best department to speak to in AIB? Cheers

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for this information. Coming home to Ireland and using AIB business banking is like going back in time. The fact that i will be charged 65 euro a quarter to use this antiquated system is especially annoying. I phoned their helpline and was greeted by a sneering women who was talking to me like i was an idiot because i wanted my bank account to automatically reconcile with my accounting software. A concept that she obviously didn’t understand.

    I will have to to download the .out file and use this helpful converting tool. Thanks again. At least someone understands these issues even if the bank itself doesn’t have an idea about business needs of a small business user.

  3. Rowena Kellt says:

    Hi Sean, just wondering if you or anyone knows of a similar way to get Bank of Ireland to work with Xero? Am seriously thinking of leaving BOI because of their crap online business banking , but would like to not have to manually up load every transaction in the meanwhile. Cheers.

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