Tech

What is Open Banking? Everything you need to know but were afraid to ask

You'll be hearing a lot of talk about Open Banking, which is set for take off this Saturday. Here's everything you need to know about it but were afraid to ask.

What exactly is Open Banking?

The markets watchdog told nine of the biggest banks that they must open up the information they hold so that it can be used to create new products and services. It's designed to promote greater competition but also brings banking into the 21st century.

After a year of work between banks, startups, regulators and more, they have come up with the technical standards to make that happen.

There are many companies which already get customer information from screen scraping – you might log in to your bank through an app that you want to give access to, in order for it to analyse your finances.

But Open Banking will make it as simple as clicking a button, via what's known as an application process interface (API), and it's hoped the ease with which it can now be done means that more companies will them to make create innovative financial services for consumers.

So, what actually happens?

Saturday 13 January was the deadline by which banks had to make access to certain data possible. Some banks have been given a little longer as it has been technically challenging, what with the legacy technology of banks.

Around 40 firms have applied to the Financial Conduct Authority to become third parties which are allowed to use the banks' APIs and get access to the data. Just a handful are expected to be approved by Saturday. Some firms already regulated by the FCA will be able to get started.

That means there is unlikely to be a hugely significant amount to show in real terms: it is essentially day one of having the tools available.

Zopa is one of the few which said that from Monday, users will be able to verify their income without having to upload bank statements.

Are there risks?

Data can only be shared with express customer permission.

There has been some concern that there has been little to no communication with the public about being able to do this however, with fears that they might be alarmed at the prospect or misunderstand it, especially at a time when the public are being told to take better care of their personal information.

Some are also worried that a lack of awareness means the whole thing could fail to take off – there is after all a lot of acronyms and jargon words. Others believe they may just learn about it when they happen to try a new app, or not even notice at all, simply finding it easier to use or more useful.

Either way, there is still some uncertainty about how successful it will be and what barriers may need to be overcome in the wild.

What happens next?

Many companies will start working on creating innovative apps, bots, and other fun online things to try and make handling your finances as fun as using Facebook and as simple as ordering an Uber.

There was more funding handed out during the Budget to fund further development of Open Banking and other banks and financial institutions are understood to have already signed up voluntarily to start developing their own APIs

Opening up data in this way also forms part of PSD2 – Europe's new rules on payment services that include the same goal for open information. Some hope that as one of the first countries to create technical standards for Open Banking, the UK can set the standard beyond its own shores.

The question remains as to how banks will adapt to this competition. Some believe it will relegate the banks to becoming the dumb pipes or rails, on top of which others can build consumer facing businesses with slick designs and intuitive features.

Banks, of course, will be trying to stay ahead of the startups and build exactly the same kind of things to keep customers within their own walls.

Customers, perhaps not straight away but in time, can expect to benefit from new services as they battle it out.

It may not be quite a "big bang" moment, but more the start of banking beta.

Original Article

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