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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Covering aggregation firms for a few years now I decided to put their convenience claims of a “one-view snapshot” of my financial life to the test. As an avid user of online financial services, including online banking and bill pay at my credit union (IBM Southeast Employees’ FCU); online brokerage at TD Waterhouse (though I haven’t made a trade since 1999); and a handful of mutual fund accounts that I have online access to, I figured account aggregation could amass all of the scattered financial pieces of my life in one neat online bundle. Since 1998, my answer to account aggregation has been the portfolio aggregator function of my MyYahoo! portal, which allows me to view all of my mutual funds and stocks on one page, with not much hassle to set up. The downside is that this does not include any accounts from financial institutions. Yahoo! has since added full-blown account aggregation, but I wanted my foray into aggregation to come with one of my trusted financial providers, not a mega portal (sorry portal proponents!). The hunt for aggregation service began. The first stop was of course my credit union, IBM Southeast Employees’ FCU. Although I was disappointed my tech-savvy CU did not offer the service, I did learn that the service is on the way. I next journeyed through my online mutual fund sites scanning for any signs of aggregation. After just one fruitless stop I discovered that T.Rowe Price offered “Account Minder”, its version of aggregation, powered by Yodlee. As an existing online client of T.Rowe Price, signing up for AccountMinder was no problem at all. Then I finally found myself at what I have been told time and time again is one of the most important factors of whether or not members will become aggregation users – taking the time to add my accounts. There were five general categories I could aggregate from – Financial, Communication, Travel, General, News. I was there for one reason, and one reason only, my financial life. I’d stick to getting my news from the AP wire and my e-mail from my desktop. After selecting “finance” I was asked to search for my financial providers. I thought the chance of my CU coming up in the search would be slim, however IBM Southeast Employees FCU was quickly located by the search engine. I clicked on a link bearing the CU’s name and was asked to present my member number and password information (see graphic). I did and less than a minute later I was staring at my CU’s account information from one of my mutual fund sites! I went through the same process with my online brokerage account. Amazing. Aggregation was that easy! Not so fast. The process started to hit roadblocks. My next account to add was my Strong Funds mutual fund account. I searched the database as I had successfully done for my CU and online brokerage, but no Strong. Surely a mistake; Strong is a big-time fund company. I searched again and no Strong. I was now faced with a custom account set-up. Here the benefits of aggregation are not as immediate. I had to create a name for the account; choose an account category (finance), an account classification (mutual fund); plug in the estimated value of the account; and finally provide the URL for Strong’s site as well as my password. I was then presented three options. One was to “suggest” that my Strong account be added to the service; two, that T.Rowe Price notify me when this happens, and three, that I authorize Yodlee to go out and get my Strong information so it can be aggregated. I checked all three. After completing that process, I was notified that my account had been added to Account Minder, but not in the same manner as my two previously added accounts. Those accounts were providing the latest balances of my CU and brokerage account, the Strong fund simply had the estimated value I had inputted – it was not being aggregated. But I had heard of this. This is where the notorious screen scraping really comes into play. In a few days I would come back and my information would be scraped and aggregated like my other two accounts. A few days went by. I logged on to find no action on my Strong account. A few more days went by and still no Strong data. At press time, there was still no Strong data. When it worked, aggregation was great, and my experience may be an anomaly for the service as a whole, but until I see some action on my Strong account back to MyYahoo! I go. [email protected]

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