Machine readable statements: an investor's right?

I believe that American investors have a right to a monthly statement in machine readable form, without having to trust a third party.

PDF documents do not qualify as machine readable. Certainly printable, but PDF’s are very difficult to consistently extract the data accurately. A true machine readable document will have the values and also have a description of what the value represents associated with each value. This allows the investor to reconcile their statement on an independent accounting system. Unless you type-in every transaction from a PDF or paper statement, you are not really reconciling, you’re just trusting.

Also, investors should not be made to dig through website menus to find the download either; there’s no reason why an authenticated user shouldn’t be able to go to a universally accepted URL to have access to the downloads. In addition, investors should not need to trust or maintain any credentials with a third party. And obviously shouldn’t need to pay extra to get a machine readable periodic statement.

Financial institutions are taking away our ability to get paper, or charging for it [No more paper statements only electronic]. And one institution, Fidelity, is taking away statement functionality; they used to provide an html-based statement, but they removed that functionality from their site. html isn’t the perfect machine readable format, but it is reasonable to parse html. Fidelity has OFX capability, which is an API by which programs can query financial data that makes up a financial statement. But Fidelity is making noises that they’re going to shut down OFX functionality! Besides, their OFX capability is currently broken, as it ignores “as of date”. This makes it impossible to build a query that matches the paper statement.

It seems to me that we need, dare I say it, a law that compels financial institutions to deliver this functionality.

I wonder what Clark thinks about giving investors the ability to validate and reconcile…to do their own math.

Maybe I’m the last guy in the country to be loading my statements into my own system and doing an independent reconciliation? Does the rest of the country just page through the PDF and take it as gospel?

I wrote a letter to Kathleen Murphy, Senior Advisor to the CEO of Fidelity, but have not seen a response.

July 9, 2022
Ms. Kathleen Murphy
Senior Advisor to CEO
Fidelity Investments
245 Summer St
Boston, MA 02210
Dear Ms. Murphy,

As a retail customer, I’d like to make my wishes clear concerning periodic statements.

It is my opinion that investors in America have the right to a monthly statement in machine readable form, without having to trust a third party.

Up until September of 2021, I was able to access a machine readable copy of my monthly statement. The format of the statement was “html” and although that electronic format was less than optimal, at least it contained the complete information that matched the printed statement.

But the “html” format of the monthly statement was removed from the Fidelity web site. The PDF remains, but that is a print format that’s nearly impossible to parse. Thus, I contend that PDF is “printable”, but not “machine readable”.

There is a “csv” download remains an option, but that file is incomplete; the file lacks much of the data contained in the printed statement, so is insufficient in detail. It’s essential to have every starting and ending balance and every transaction that affects the balance. This file falls far short.

I also explored using, but that API is, providing incomplete data; the interface does not provide balances as of a specific date. Because of this fact, it can not be used to generate a monthly statement that matches the printed one. To be clear, if your technical people tell you the API includes an “as of date” as a parameter, you can tell them that the parameter is ignored, and the balance you get is “now”.

I would be glad to talk to you or someone in headquarters if they’re interested in details that are not clear.

Sounds like they need to supply an API. Part of the problem is … there is no industry exchange standard. FINRA probably needs to come up with a standard.

Establishing an industry standard is a great idea. Thanks for the response.

I don’t know much about FINRA, if they suffer from regulatory capture, as so many organizations have proven to be, they might not look out for the individual investor as much as the industry that’s captured them. Whatever group defines the standard, it should be putting the needs of the individual investor first, not the convenience of the financial services industry. It’s not rocket science. I’m sure there’s already regulation for what’s required in a paper statement. It’s just a matter of defining a format (probably XML) that includes all of the values in the paper statement regulations.

As an aside, Consumer Reports was looking for “bank horror stories”, and I wrote in with my beef with Fidelity machine readable statements in hope that the same people who are trying to defend us from unscrupulous banks, would help investors with the machine readable statement problem. Here’s the link to the bank horror stories page [ ]

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