You couldn’t convincingly suggest that the mainstream press has so far encouraged its readers to take up open banking, even if it’s often only the headlines that do the damage. Chris Skinner looks at outcomes further down the line.

Finally, just over a week ago, open banking came into the UK, and open APIs into the European Union. I’m sure you all know what this is all about by now, but just in case, it’s the regulations that force banks to share data through APIs – plug and play software – with trusted third parties, if the customer gives permission.

This means that other firms you like, such as Amazon and Facebook, can leverage this data and allow you to send money and gifts to friends and family with a simple click or swipe of an app. You no longer have to log in to a bank system and enter new payee details with account numbers and sort codes; just say “send that £1:50 to Joe and £900 to Anne”. And when I say “just say”, I mean it, because banking can now be incorporated into Siri, Alexa or Cortana.

All well and good, but in a move I’m fairly sure was carefully orchestrated by the banking community, nearly all of the mainstream media greeted the launch of open banking with fear and scaremongering. These headlines illustrate it well:

Even The Financial Times jumped on the bandwagon:

Be afraid … be moderately afraid. Open Banking arrives on January 13, allowing “third-party service providers” to access data from your bank accounts online, if you give permission. It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?

Although, after that opening line, the article does a good job of explaining that it is safe and secure and potentially a good thing. However, it started with such a negative tone, and with the ADD world we live in, this is likely to be all the reader remembers.

In fact, the problem is that nearly every article I’ve read has greeted the development with a negative headline, even if the mainstream content is more balanced. As a result, no consumer is going to think open banking is a good thing, and with two-thirds of UK bank customers avoiding mobile banking, and a third even running scared of internet banking (because they think it’s insecure), I really cannot see how consumers are going to adapt to and accept the benefits of open banking. Nevertheless, the fintech community are far more advocates of the new regime:

Note that to find the positive spin on open banking, I’ve had to seek out more business or niche news channels than the doomsayers of the mainstream consumer media.

Heavyweights and lightweights

My take on this is that you have two camps battling with each other: The mainstream banks with the mainstream media, and the fintech community with the tech and niche media. Unfortunately, the latter camp will never win out if they’re not safe and secure in the consumer’s head, and more than this, offering something that’s a compelling reason to change.

In fact, the most likely outcome of open banking and open APIs is that the big players will try to leverage more against their competition through data, and the internet giants will gradually step in with possible partnerships with the niche fintech community, to create that compelling switch reason.

For example, if Facebook is savvy enough, it would pick up with Stripe, TransferWise, Zopa and others to look for ways to make it easy for you to respond to their in-app advertisers, games and purchases, and make it easy to get anything you want with a swipe. Add on to this that it’s social and sharing, then I should be able to donate to friends’ causes or pay my mates with Messenger.

Amazon and Alibaba are the two most likely global players who will get this first, not forgetting the other guys: PayPal, Tencent and more. It’s these heavyweights working with niche lightweights that will change the game through open banking, and in the meantime the ill-informed, carping journalists can continue to kiss the banks’ backsides.

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here. Image by Leremy, Shutterstock.com

About the author

Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is an independent commentator on the financial markets through the Finanser, and chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club, which he founded in 2004. He is an author of numerous books covering everything from European regulations in banking through to the credit crisis, to the future of banking.

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