Earlier this year, UK Open Banking celebrated three years. Since 13 January 2018, regulated third-party providers have been able to integrate with bank APIs to access customers’ financial data, in an effort to break down the barriers standing in the way of seamless data sharing.
The overarching goal of this new regime was to give consumers and businesses greater visibility and control over their finances, with technology at the forefront of this mission. Specifically, the pioneering Open Banking initiative was created to enable financial technology (fintech) providers to bring innovative new propositions to the SME and consumer market.
By extension, the users of Open Banking would benefit from products that were better suited to their unique financial situation, enabling them to compare available products in order to find the best deals on the market.
So, as we reflect on three years of Open Banking, the question is: how much progress has been made, and what’s in store for the future?
Increasing collaboration through innovation
The introduction of a new requirement for all UK-regulated banks to allow customers to share their financial data with authorised third-party providers introduced a new era of collaboration within a previously segregated market.
Joined by one overarching mission – namely, to drive innovation and deliver the best possible customer experience – large banks and fintech startups began forming valuable partnerships. Thanks to more efficient data sharing, incumbents, for instance, have been able to integrate propositions developed by fintechs into their own platforms, in an effort to better meet the evolving needs of the customer.
The benefits to the customer are evident: a more interconnected and open financial ecosystem, which enables them to browse available products and access the right services for their needs.
Since its inception, Open Banking has served to shift the power to the customer and increase competition within the sector. By utilising new apps and digital platforms, banking customers now have access to a fuller and clearer view of their finances. This allows individuals to budget more effectively, switch products more easily, and generally make more informed decisions.
Since the initiative was launched in 2018, Open Banking adoption among UK consumers and businesses has surged. While generating awareness about its benefits has been a slow process (a recent PwC study found that only 18% of consumers were aware of what Open Banking means for them), the COVID-19 pandemic has driven Open Banking usage.
Today, over two million users utilise Open Banking-enabled applications and services. This number has doubled since January 2020, with the pandemic likely having a strong influence on the rate of uptake.
As disruption took hold and personal finances took a hit, many people turned towards online banking and money management apps, in search of tech solutions that could bolster their financial confidence. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, almost one in five (17%) of UK adults have started using an online banking service to help with their money management goals, with this figure rising to 45% among 25-34-year-olds.
Without the advent of Open Banking, the accessibility and value of such solutions would be questionable. After all, many of these fintech solutions use Open Banking to connect directly to users’ bank accounts to provide a more tailored service.
At the same time, it has also enabled financial services providers to obtain an accurate and up-to-date view of an individual’s financial situation, as well as their past and present behaviours, in order to deliver more personalised guidance.
How will Open Banking develop?
Open Banking today generally covers personal and business current accounts, credit cards and online e-money accounts. In the future, the concept will extend to cover all financial markets – from pensions to investments and insurance.
Now that we have built the underlying infrastructure, it will become easier to build on top of this. More complicated use-cases of Open Banking will begin to develop, with competition from non-traditional players such as fintechs and challenger banks stepping in to provide a range of new services – particularly within industries that previously strayed away from large scale digital transformation.
As the ability to let information flow between applications continues to improve, new products and iterations of existing offerings will be built, integrated and modified at a much greater speed than before. We will shift away from a closed banking system to one that encourages new aggregators, service partners, and payment providers to add value to existing businesses models, and in doing so, create a range of new customer-centred financial services.
Examples of innovations that we are already seeing include services that provide personalised advice to banking customers looking to improve their credit score, and applications that enable employees to save directly from their salary.
We’ve come a long way in the Open Banking revolution, giving consumers and businesses greater control over their financial lives and the ability to choose products and services that work best for them. As we progress further towards Open Finance, this initiative will give customers greater influence over a wider range of their financial data, and offer access to enriched financial services.
Ammar Akhtar is the co-founder and CEO of Yobota, a London-based technology company. Founded in 2016, Yobota has built a fast, flexible, cloud-native core banking platform, which allows clients to create and run innovative financial products. You can follow Yobota on LinkedIn and Twitter.