Convert Scanned Bank Statements to Excel

A few weeks ago I got an email from a user in Australia, it read “I uploaded a bank statement and nothing happens How do I see the converted file?”. I took a look at my Grafana dashboards and figured out this user had uploaded an image based PDF, probably a scanned bank statement. I’ve replied to quite a few users telling us that scanned documents don’t work. I fished out a reply from my sent folder and sent it to this user.

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They make a really good point, our website says we convert PDF bank statements to excel files and that’s what she’s uploading. I send them another message explaining why it’s different.

I then leave my house and go for a run. Midway through my run it starts to rain heavily and I wait under an overpass. While waiting for the rain to stop I get a reply from the user telling me they are “devastated” it wont work.

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At this point I notice this user’s email signature has a phone number on it, so I think “hmm, I’ve been thinking about using optical character recognition software to process image based PDFs, why not call up the user and see if they can wait a week or two for me to code in the feature”. So I call her phone number, she’s in Australia and I’m in Hong Kong so the phone call is going to be a little bit expensive for me.

“…Hello” she answers suspiciously

“Hi, I’m Angus, we’ve been emailing each other about the bank statement website”

“Where are you calling from”

“Hong Kong”

“Oh okay”

We then talk about her situation, she has a lot of clients that are sending her paper statements and getting through them manually will take her a very long time.

“I think I can process them, but I’ll need two weeks to get something ready. Can you wait that long”

“Yes yes yes!”

We talk a bit more about covid and Australia and then I hang up and finish my run. Over the next week I play around with OCR software code something basic together for her to try out. I email her and she tries it out, the funny thing is she actually uploaded a text based document!

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We talked for about 11 minutes so I think I’m looking at a 11 * $7.2 = $80 phone bill. It was worth it though, going forward I’d like to call up more of my users.