As the financial sector continues to implement open banking practices and regulations, it’s time to look beyond the horizon to see where this evolution is heading in the near and distant future. Open banking standards are beginning to expand and address more sectors of the economy, which means open banking is shape-shifting into newer variations like open finance and open data.
With the open data movement, consumers will have the ability to grant and share access to every digital transaction, health record, or energy bill with merchants so they can receive customized services that meet their unique needs. In the most recent episode of the Mr. Open Banking podcast, I had a chance to sit down with Samantha Seaton to discuss the open data revolution and how it’s transforming the world.
A champion of financial wellness, internationally recognized fintech pioneer, and thought leader on diversity and inclusion, Samantha is also the CEO of Moneyhub, an award-winning powerhouse fintech company that provides solutions focused on open banking, open finance and open data. She is also a non-executive director at Charities Aid Foundation Bank, a founding member of Open51, a group which is transforming financial services for the digital age and an advisory board member at the investment platform, The Big Exchange.
Samantha shared her perspective with me on how banks will need to think differently to succeed in the open future, compelling them to revisit three fundamental tenets of banking: value, risk and trust. We also discussed the current open banking landscape, empowering consumers to own their data, the importance of building customer trust, and much more.
Generating business value from open banking investments
It’s been four years since the Competition and Markets Authority in the U.K. started requiring its nine largest banks to provide data access to third-party startups, which essentially marked the dawn of the open banking movement. There, and across other regulated regions around the globe, banks have incurred costs in order to comply with these regulations, which they’re now looking to recoup by generating real business value from their open banking investments.
Samantha noted that in the not-so-distant past, there was too much dominance by too few players in the market, which was not conducive to a healthy financial economy going forward. She believes that big banks will need a mindset change in order to continue providing value to their customers, and I couldn’t agree more.
“The banks are needing to change with the times. And that’s the thing that I see a bit of struggle with their investment. They want to establish value exchange in this new digital economy based on open banking, but I feel that they are looking at doing that the wrong way around. What I mean by that is I’d like them to think about what the value exchange with the consumer is, so their customer, rather than how they can sell anything and everything that they’ve got to anyone that they feel they can make a revenue stream from.”
The pressure to innovate
Creating value for customers of course requires some level of creative thinking and innovation—in any industry. The pressure for banks to continually innovate isn’t a new phenomenon by any means, but the pressure has intensified as burgeoning fintech companies in the U.K. and elsewhere continue to thrive and win over customers.
Samantha shared several great examples of up-and-coming fintechs who are really pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the box. She mentioned Suji, an app that uses open banking data to provide users with information about their carbon footprint against their spend and where they’re investing, as well as Nest, the largest provider of pensions for the mass market and self-employed people.
For the big banks, this kind of innovation and fresh thinking may be a little too risky for their conservative appetites. According to Samantha, this is a sign of the end of retail banking and the beginning of a new age for the banking world.
“Where I sit at the moment, I think the concept of retail banking is actually dead. I think it will take quite a long time to die, but I think it’s on its way out. I think we’re going to have institutional banks that will provide products and services at an institutional level, and then there’ll be a whole plethora of companies leveraging those products to service to consumers. I really do think the world as we know it has already changed forever. We just haven’t quite seen it yet.”
Empowering consumers to take control over their data
Next, Samantha and I switched gears to explore the other side of the equation: the everyday person who requires banking services. In the past, Samantha has been one of the staunchest defenders of customers having ownership over their financial data, and for good reason.
She compared the experience of banking to shopping for a new piece of clothing, noting that when you buy a new coat, for example, you know exactly what you’re getting, how it functions, and how it will improve your life. By contrast, the customer experience in the banking and finance sector is nowhere near as customer friendly or intuitive.
“That was what I felt was missing from financial services: this ability for a consumer to fairly easily digest what they’re buying, whether it’s right for them or not, what it will do once they’ve got it, and how it would work and operate. How it will protect them, where it won’t protect them. It’s never sat well with me. So, of course, roll forward to open banking and suddenly being able to put in the hands of the consumer a level of insight that’s immediate so that they can make more informed decisions was just for me, incredibly motivating.”
The question of trust
When it comes down to it, the financial services sector is largely dependent on building trust with consumers, but somewhere along the way, the public’s faith in big banks has dwindled. For growing fintechs, however, building a foundation of trust with their customers is essential to their survival.
“Personally, I think where the loss has been is that I don’t believe many consumers would think that a bank has their back. That’s where I think we’ve lost our way in this world. And it’s not just the banks. In general, I don’t think the consumer would really feel, ‘the world of financial services has my back, they’ve got me covered.’ I think to be fair to the consumer, I think they’re right. I don’t think the financial services companies have really had the customer at the very heart.”
For Samantha and the team at Moneyhub, the future is all about keeping the customer’s best interests in mind by rightfully putting the power back in their hands and improving access. The platform helps consumers gain control over their personal data so they can choose who can access it, how much they can access, and at what times.
Ultimately, the future of open data will not only empower consumers to better understand their own data and financial situation, but it will also simplify everyday processes for providers, which will free up more of their time in the long run.
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