Member Spotlight: Botkeeper

The best way to tell the FDX story is through the voice of our members. Welcome to the FDX Member Spotlight series, in which we sit down with some of the professionals from FDX member firms who juggle the responsibility of their day jobs with developing, integrating and implementing the FDX standard for the benefit of consumers and the entire financial services industry. We ask them about their experiences, goals and thoughts on the process.
Posted on 7/17/2020

Justin Whitehead, Botkeeper, Chief Technology Officer

Tell us about Botkeeper. How have you differentiated yourself in the marketplace?

Justin Whitehead: Botkeeper is a Human-Assisted Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform that automates bookkeeping, purpose-built for Accounting Firms, with a mission to deliver quality bookkeeping at an immense scale. Combining artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, with high-quality skilled accountants, we deliver a full-suite bookkeeping & pre-accounting solution to Accounting firms, and their clients. Our partners and client base receive 24/7 accounting and support as well as incredible insight into financials, powerful tools, and unlimited reporting.

It sounds seemingly straightforward until you immerse yourself in the details, nuances, and complexities of how businesses are run in this world.  There’s a reason why quality bookkeeping practices are small.

Our solution is born from the diverse talents and unique technology we’ve developed as part of this mission.  We leverage machine learning techniques to classify transactions.  We build data pipelines to assist with the collection and normalization of business systems.  We marry the best skills that people have to offer with machines to deliver a quality bookkeeping solution to an endlessly wide variety of clients.

How will the adoption and broad implementation of a common, interoperable API standard for financial data sharing benefit Botkeeper?

Justin Whitehead: Every business that has a banking relationship and bookkeeping, in part, is ensuring that business transactions reflect what you are seeing in your bank account.  So, financial institutions are a critical piece of the bookkeeping puzzle.

Almost as diverse as our client base is, are these financial institutions. The value of FDX is so much more than just common, interoperable APIs… the value is also enabling the ability to design systems and interactions that help keep client data (and the banks themselves) safe and secure.

In the consumer Fintech marketplace, consumers are permissioning and seeking to leverage and use their own data with different applications, but they rarely understand how their data gets from point A to point B. Given that Botkeeper generally operates in the B2B market, do you find that your business customers are any more aware of how financial data is moving through the ecosystem?

Justin Whitehead: Business owners will see a little bit of change but this will be most visible to the CPA firms (our primary clients).

The current status quo in the industry is that a business owner will share a bank account credentials with a person at the accounting firm and that credential will get filed away on a post-it note or a spreadsheet somewhere. The business owner is happy because they don’t need to mail bank statements each month. The accounting firm is a bit unhappy because this is an annoying manual process, one-time passwords are a pain, they get locked out, etc.  By the way, you should read this and rightfully have all sorts of alarm bells going off with respect to the security and scalability of this practice.

Alternatively at Botkeeper, we’ve developed technology to attack this problem differently and still deliver (where possible) the same delightful experiences to the business owner.  Common API’s to financial institutions protected with robust standards like OAuth2 enable timely access with no password sharing and no humans in the loop.  It’s safer, more secure, and more scalable for everyone.

What made Botkeeper decide to join FDX and what area of the organization’s work has been most interesting to you since you became an FDX member?

Justin Whitehead: The mission of FDX is to bring this common API standard to all financial institutions.  And while a lot of progress is being made to implement the FDX API, there is still so much work to be done to ensure that all financial institutions support secure access.  This is an existential evolution we must all get through together and that’s why we joined FDX.  Botkeeper is committed to being part of the solution for bringing mutual understanding between the needs of the banking and accounting industries and helping drive a path to progress.

What market developments around the FDX API and permissioned financial data sharing will have the biggest impact on Botkeeper in the future?

Justin Whitehead: Probably a little more “in the weeds” than you were looking for but… checks!  New businesses leverage credit cards pretty consistently and never think of writing a check.  But we all under-estimate just how many businesses out there still write checks, tons and tons of checks.  This isn’t specific to the FDX API but getting better digital representations of checks really helps enable manual processes to become electronic ones.

Finally, what concert or live music event do you wish you could have attended in person?

Justin Whitehead: I’ve lived in the Boston area for the past 3 years now.  One of my favorite bands from my college days was Guster… and they are a Boston band.  Would love to see them!