Paul Marcantonio, Executive Director for the UK & Western Europe at ECOMMPAY, offers Finance Monthly his predictions for open banking and the fintech sector in 2021.
The UK leads the charge in open banking; 2019 bore witness to a surge of growth in the country’s open banking ecosystem, when UK open banking hit one million users, regulated providers hit 204 and there were 1.25 billion API calls. It is evident that open banking has played a significant role in consolidating London’s place as a global leader in the fintech industry, comparable only to New York. With Brexit looming, there are many unknowns on the road ahead for UK businesses and their ability to deliver open banking services to the wider EU market after 31 December. Will open banking be affected by Brexit? And what is the outlook for the UK fintech sector in the new year?
The Brexit effect
Many companies are worried about maintaining the smooth digital experience that the modern consumer now prioritises post-Brexit. Looking ahead, UK businesses will lose their ‘passporting’ rights to do business across the EU, with organisations in the EU suffering similar barriers when seeking to operate in the UK. To overcome this barrier, many firms have created bases in the EU, while companies are also applying to the FCA for temporary permission to operate in the UK.
In order to minimise the disruption to open banking services post-Brexit, the FCA has said that third-party providers (TPPs) will be able to use an alternative to eIDAS certificates to access customer account information from account providers, or to initiate payments. eIDAS certificates of UK TPPs will be revoked when the transition period ends on 31 December. This means that TPPs have a compliant way to access customer information and ensures any changes as the UK leaves the EU will be smooth.
Businesses are having to audit their suppliers, as well as their payment service providers, to ensure they have all the necessary licenses to operate in the EU. Many companies are also building separate EU entities so that they can function in the EU under any Brexit agreement.
Many companies are worried about maintaining the smooth digital experience that the modern consumer now prioritises post-Brexit.
The role of open banking will only increase after Brexit, since the open banking agenda cannot be achieved by existing major banks. Open banking allows banking services to digitise so that consumers gain access to more choice than ever before, and extends the market to new entrants able to offer products and services that banking incumbents do not.
Furthermore, regulatory intervention serves to foster competition in the finance industry and is evidently necessary. The EU Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) was brought in during September 2018, and brought open banking requirements in across the EU, going further than the Retail Markets Investigation Order 2017 (CMA Order) in the UK which mandated that the biggest banks provide customers with the ability to share data with authorised APIs. The CMA Order revealed how regulation can motivate banks to modernise their services, but PSD2 gives consumers more choice and protection in opening up payments to third parties so they can access a variety of options when deciding how to pay and with whom to share their data.
Consequently, PSD2 will be a crucial mechanism for the UK financial services industry in order to remain competitive in Europe and across the world. The UK will therefore need to ensure it complies with EU regulations if it is to cement its position as a leader in open banking and continue to let the sector thrive. This means the UK is likely to align with EU regulation where it meets the needs of its own internal market, and is predicted to use regulation as a blueprint for its own but adjusted to meet its separate needs.
The road ahead for UK open banking
Regardless of the nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU, many experts suggest the UK open banking standard is broader than the EU’s PSD2, and therefore has potential to be utilised as a blueprint for other countries worldwide. Although the route forward for open banking is not clear, what is evident is that open banking technology will carry on driving innovation and competition within the financial services industry, with the consumer able to access more convenience and choice.
The UK will make routes to economic growth a priority, which means open banking must play a major part in this. After the UK agrees technical standards and governance, open banking can present a competitive advantage via open APIs and enable the fintech sector to benefit from sustained growth into 2021 and onwards.
Learnings for businesses
The modern consumer wants efficiency, with services and products on demand. As such, open banking must be looked to when seeking to cater to the consumer. For example, cross-border payments, innovation around APIs, and automation, are all enabling companies to simplify complex payment processes, and make the experience quicker and easier, as well as allowing for easy scaling.
Payment solutions such as ECOMMPAY’s utilise open banking technology to enable consumers to initiate payments to merchants without the need for debit or credit card transactions, and are crucial in expediting efficient payments within and across borders, customised according to localised requirements.
Brexit has been on the horizon for several years now, allowing businesses time to establish contingency plans. As long as companies have invested wisely in their payment infrastructure, they will be in a good place to ensure sustainable growth for years to come.