But as with any emerging technology standard, progress is littered with both milestones and speed bumps. Below I will outline some of my key observations from working with leading players in this space.
Open Banking will reshape the global financial services system
It is no longer a question of if Open Banking will continue to evolve, but a question of how quickly it will accelerate. As Open Banking’s remit continues to expand, it will fundamentally change how we use financial products.
Open Banking can be used to assess a consumer’s creditworthiness, for example, by opening the doors to novel products aimed at supporting financial health and inclusion.
The complex world of credit scores will be simplified through the transparency Open Banking provides. Authorised Open Banking fintechs can securely access a customer’s bank account to see incoming and outgoing transactions, providing a foundation from which to accurately assess users’ credit scores and personalise services accordingly.
Personal Financial Management platforms (PFMs) like Money Dashboard are leveraging Open Banking technology to provide their clients with insights into transaction behaviour. Its retailer clients, such as supermarket chains, benefit from a better understanding of what their customers spend their money on when they are shopping at other stores. Its investor clients, meanwhile, use the data to predict how companies are operating in order to decide whether to invest in a stock.
Another example of a company paving the way forward is Bud – which is demonstrating what is possible through Open Banking-powered personalisation and AI automation. Banks use Bud’s products to automate lending decisions and perform more accurate affordability checks – improving risk assessment while delivering more tailored services to their customers.
From Open Banking to Open Finance
In the future, Open Banking will evolve into Open Finance, meaning that data-sharing will not be limited to transactional bank account data only. Other types of (financial) information will become accessible to authorised third parties, creating a more interconnected financial ecosystem.
Crypto wallets, pensions, insurances, mortgages, stock trading and other wealth management accounts – will all become accessible to facilitate easier exchanges of data, helping providers to establish a comprehensive digital overview of a customer’s financial position and encourage continued innovation.
These benefits will not be limited to retail customers. Another important area of expansion will be to use Open Banking solutions in the B2B space. Highlighting the potential use-cases, McKinsey estimates that merchants collectively spend $100 billion annually on transaction fees. Through account-to-account (A2A) payments, Open Banking players are already enabling the direct transfer of money between accounts without relying on third-party intermediaries or payment cards – offering a real-time and cost-effective solution to the problem.
Overcoming the biggest challenges
There are three main obstacles on the road to Open Finance:
1. Access to data
How do we make it easy for providers to access data from a broad range of financial institutions? Technological integrations (APIs) must be built to support the efficient flow of data, but building integrations that work with each financial institution is a tedious and fragmented process. To facilitate this, data and API standardisation needs to be implemented in order to make the task of providing access to data across the whole ecosystem simpler.
On the other hand, the reluctance of institutions to share highly valuable customer data will restrict access. This means regulators will need to step in – as they did for Open Banking – to create a legal environment that opens financial data for third parties to access through standardised APIs.
2. Analysing the data
Making sense of huge volumes of data is already a gargantuan task, even when it “only” covers Open Banking data. This becomes even harder if data from a wider set of financial products is considered. Fintechs will need advanced categorisation engines and other analytical tools to structure and analyse the information they receive.
Fintechs and companies can have access to all the Open Banking data in the world, but if they cannot create a way to analyse it, they will struggle to draw out any valuable insights. Leading providers like Money Dashboard have already done the legwork when it comes to data analysis – its Open Banking categorisation engine has been trained on over 10 years of data, which allows it to accurately classify consumer transactions. Other providers must follow suit if they haven’t already.
Whenever personal information is shared, it is crucial to have a stringent compliance framework in place, to prevent any breaches or misuses of data. This, however, is not the challenge – the real challenge is ensuring that regulation protects the consumer, without stifling innovation.
In order to achieve this delicate balance, regulators will need to have open and constructive dialogues with Open Finance providers, and together create an environment that nurtures innovation without threatening data privacy.
An M&A outlook
Open Banking is still a relatively early-stage technology, so we will continue to see a lot of investor activity in this space, with the market expected to grow to $43 billion by 2026.
Companies with an innovative product and state-of-the-art tech will have no problems raising funds. For instance, UK-based Bud raised $80m in June to continue to scale its AI-based Open Banking platform and expand internationally.
In the M&A space, we expect to see an increase in activity as small, unprofitable companies (who have developed good technology) might decide to look for a buyer as Venture Capital funding becomes harder to access. Some of the industry’s largest players could also merge in order to consolidate the market, create synergies and expand their reach.
Notably, Apple’s recent acquisition of Credit Kudos, which develops software that uses consumers’ banking data to make more informed credit checks on loan applications and is a challenger to the big credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)., signals interest from further afield. With more and more businesses making inroads into financial services, M&A activity in this space is heating up.
Having advised on a number of M&A and fundraising transactions in the Open Banking space, Royal Park Partners have seen first-hand the impressive leaps companies are making to transform Open Banking and increasingly Open Finance into a positive and productive tool for customers and businesses. In the future, Open Finance will provide the infrastructure to connect all financial products that consumers and businesses use, while also providing access to innovative new solutions.
The digital imperative for financial services firms cannot be understated. In order to ensure their (and their products’) relevance in the future, they will have to embrace Open Banking and Open Finance technology.
About the author: Ricardo Falter is Fintech M&A Associate at Royal Park Partners.