Banking & Finance

Who do you trust? An interview with Ralph Bragg

Mr. Open Banking - Who Do You Trust? - an interview with Ralph Bragg

The following article is an adapted transcript based on the audio recording of Season 3, Episode 7 of the Mr. Open Banking podcast. The audio version is available here.

When people first learn what open banking does—which is to say, enabling them to securely share their financial data—they often follow with a rather obvious yet completely valid question: 

Is open banking something I can trust?

That’s what the most recent episode of the Mr. Open Banking podcast is all about: Trust. How can we trust the data sharing ecosystem upon which open banking is being built? 

To answer that, a good place to start is with a better understanding of exactly how trust operates in the open banking world. For that, we could not ask for a better teacher than my most recent guest on the podcast.

Who do you trust?

Ralph Bragg has been at the technical forefront of open banking initiatives around the globe since the inception of the movement. He is an internationally renowned expert in open banking, technical standards and trust frameworks. 

In 2016, Ralph co-founded Raidiam, a company with a very unique specialization creating the world’s smartest, most trustworthy data sharing ecosystems. As a pioneer of open banking security, he created the official security profiles used by both the UK and Brazil, and designed the trust framework and accreditation platforms that sit at the heart of both ecosystems.

Ralph is a strong advocate of the benefits of open data, not only for consumers but for national economies, as expressed in his published papers on trust frameworks for such audiences as the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Central Bank of Brazil and the Australian Banking Association representing Raidiam. 

Ralph is a vocal member of numerous consumer, fintech, and security advocacy and standards development bodies, including the OpenID Foundation and the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA), where he is considered one of the foremost global experts on how to build ecosystems we can trust.

What is a data sharing ecosystem?

To kick off the episode, I asked Ralph to share his perspective on exactly how we can define a data sharing ecosystem.

“A data sharing ecosystem, as we like to define it, consists of a number of participants that all have to come together to serve a particular role and to serve a particular function in order to enable data to be shared between holders of that data that are usually acting as custodians for owners of that data, people like you and me and potential service providers or data consumers that wish to build propositions to ultimately serve the benefits of consumers that is enabled and empowered by that data.”

Why is trust so essential?

In keeping with the theme of this episode, Ralph also shared his expert perspective on why trust is such an essential piece of the open banking puzzle.

“Fundamentally, without trust, nothing happens. And that’s true both within the digital world and the non-digital world. The establishment of trust is all about establishing relationships. So defining a trust framework, which is really about codifying the relationships and the interactions and the roles and responsibilities that exist or should exist in the interactions that need to take place between participants is absolutely critical.

“Trust is vital for all of the services and interactions that we have on a day-to-day basis.”

In other words, a solid foundation of trust among all parties within the data sharing ecosystem provides certainty, allows us to engage and feel confident that the information that we’re sharing can be relied upon because it’s secure. 

Ralph elaborated further, explaining that even if it’s invisible, a trust framework is a crucial component of any data sharing ecosystem. 

This concept can be applied to something as simple as downloading an app from the App Store, or something more complex like open banking.

“A trust framework fundamentally is a set of technologies, standards, rules, protocols and services that are there to ultimately enable trust and secure relationships. And that trust framework is a critical part of any data sharing ecosystem, whether or not it’s written down or not. They are there when you download an app from the App Store. You have trust in the App Store.

“You are interacting with services that require secure communication, encryption, confidentiality, message, integrity. So you are relying on a trust framework, but you don’t necessarily know that it is there. And the same applies when you’re engaging with open banking.”

For an ecosystem to thrive, the trust framework needs to underpin and support the integrity of all the relationships within the structure—no matter how complex that structure may become over time.  

From open banking to open data

When it comes to the future of open banking, many experts have hinted that open banking is just the first step in a broader metamorphosis that is set to take place in the coming years. Open banking is only phase one in the shift to, well, Open Everything.

Ralph predicts that as the movement continues to unfold, the ecosystem will shift to an “open data” model, which will enable us all to make more informed, data-driven decisions and co-exist in a data democracy. While historically, data has been locked up and essentially hoarded by a select few institutions, the future will see a democratization of data and a more egalitarian approach to personal finance.

“We are starting to see networks emerge to solve problems that we never really imagined when we first started this whole journey. And I think that is ultimately where we are headed.

“People will be able to gain insights into their digital footprints and extract value from information that’s been locked up and inaccessible to them that hopefully will be able to gain insights as to what they do, what they have done that they could potentially use to influence all sorts of decisions about what they do in the future. I do believe that is the path that we are on and it’s certainly the path that I’m trying to walk.”

In conclusion

It goes without saying that trust is fundamental to the very concept of banking. Trust is what makes the whole idea work. You put your money with the bank because you trust them to take care of it, and the bank only lends you money if they can trust you in return.

Suddenly, as they struggle through their own digital transformations, banks who thought they were in the business of managing money are realizing that, in fact, they are in the business of managing trust. To succeed, they must be custodians of all their customers’ data, not just that special kind of data known as money.

Thanks to well-defined trust frameworks, and the open standards that drive them, we can finally begin to build an Internet we can all trust.

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