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Interview: How Jortt leverages open banking to automate SMB accounting

We spoke with co-founder Hilco de Roo about the company's adoption of open banking, how they and their customers are benefitting, and working with YTS.

Hilco de Roo is co-founder at Jortt, a software company that leverages the power of open banking to further automate accounting for small businesses.

The company is seeing rapid growth of 40 to 50% per year, with a big reason for that being the opportunities presented by open banking. In this interview, we discuss Jortt’s journey so far, how they are working with Yolt Technology Services (YTS) and their plans for the future.

YTS: Welcome Hilco! Maybe you can start by telling us about Jortt.

Hilco: Yes thanks. Jortt is a software company that automates bookkeeping for small businesses. Our focus is on businesses with 1-5 employees, which is the biggest group by number in the Netherlands, so our target market is 1.5 million small businesses in the country.

Most of these small businesses work with bookkeeping software and often also have an accountant to advise them. But they don’t have a lot of time or resources to spend on understanding how to do their own accounting, or even if the information that is being supplied by their accountant is accurate. And no matter if they are doing their own accounting, or their accountant is doing it for them, there is manual work involved, manually downloading their bank transactions through MT940 and uploading them to their accounting systems, going through manual processes for VAT declarations, and so on.

Jortt automates the vast majority of these processes and makes accounting a positive, even exciting experience for users.

YTS: How do open banking and YTS fit into this?

Hilco: The entire Jortt system rests on open banking. With open banking connections through YTS, we can pull all our customers’ account data in real time. And this enables us to start automating accounting processes from the moment customer onboarding begins.

The entire Jortt system rests on open banking. With open banking connections through YTS, we can pull all our customers’ account data in real time.

YTS: Can you elaborate on the onboarding process specifically?

Hilco: Yes, sure. Our onboarding process is simple, and within a few steps, up to 40% of our customers’ transactions are already booked automatically. We ask standard administrative questions including your email, password, and your company name, so we can check with the Chamber of Commerce that you exist and what type of company structure you have. This is followed by if you have staff, if you need to pay VAT, and if you have a company car. The next question is to link your bank account, and while your connection is being made and data imported, we ask for a company logo to buy some time. Within a few minutes, your bank data is imported, and 40% of your administration for the year is already done. The onboarding flow would not be possible without the open banking connections and real time data supplied through the YTS API.

YTS: Very interesting! So that data point shows a key benefit for your customers. What other tangible results are you seeing for your customers, and your business?

Hilco: The real-time data underpins the whole system and with it we are able to automate many things that customers or their accountants normally do manually. This includes collecting bank details and invoices, quarterly VAT declarations, annual reports, income tax declaration, and so on. Based on our own data and surveys, we have found an 88% reduction in time over the year spent through our automations. So that is a huge benefit. There are other benefits though too. Because the data is direct from the bank, accuracy is close to 100%, compared to 95% for a person.

We have found an 88% reduction in time spent on accounting over the course of a year, due to our automations.

Open banking has also had a big impact in terms of our business. Before our PSD2 integration, our sales were steady. At that time, we were automating as much as we could, but customers still had to manually import MT940 files, for example. But once we were able to make these real-time connections with YTS, we could focus on automating much more, and our sales began to grow much faster. We are moving up the ranks in terms of how many customers we serve, and grew 50% in the last year. Currently, we have 50,000 end users. But as our addressable market in the Netherlands is 1.5 million, we still have plenty of room to grow.

YTS: How was the collaboration with YTS?

Working with YTS removed a lot of potential headaches for us. There are three parties involved in these open banking, us, YTS, and the banks, and as a launch customer, there are always challenges. There was a good relationship between our developers and YTS’s developers and we solved the problems together. That helped us get things moving quite quickly.

YTS: Would you have an opinion for most companies on whether it is better to buy or build open banking connections?

I can only talk from our point of view. As a team of twelve, it makes more sense for us to focus as much development resources as possible on improving our solution, and outsource what is already built by others. This is particularly true with open banking connections, since there are a number of problems that YTS needs to solve for many customers that we would otherwise have to solve only for ourselves, including maintenance, active monitoring of all connected banks, and - if we decide to expand in new markets - the connections that YTS has already built.

The other side for some businesses is having a PSD2 license. Credibility matters a lot in accounting, since you are dealing with sensitive financial data. And since it takes time to develop, if you are a start-up credibility is even more important. So we decided that for our business it was worth getting a PSD2 license ourselves, so that everyone knows we are regulated by the Dutch central bank and are therefore a trusted partner. But again, that won’t make sense for everybody.

YTS: What are your plans for the future?

The first order of business is to automate 100% of accounting tasks for our customers. The target for next year is to leap from 88% of the accounting workload automated, to 99%. And we have a number of new features in the pipeline too, such is implementing a real-time advice module, which shows you how much your tax deduction will be if you invest in certain areas.

The other thing that is interesting is that there will be a change in EU tax regulations in July which will standardise accounting for every country, which means we can expand into Belgium and perhaps other markets in Northern Europe quickly.

Find out more

Jortt is one of the early movers in open banking, showing what types of innovation are possible, and transforming their business. The possibilities offered by open banking are still being discovered. If you’d like to discuss what you can achieve for your business, contact us.

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