Open Banking could provide a model for ‘Open Everything’ in the UK, according to one of the strategy’s key advocates.
Alan Ainsworth, Head of Policy at the Open Banking organisation, was speaking at the Westminster eForum on the UK’s National Data Strategy, which is due for publication later this year.
He said, “Why not extend this to ‘Open Everything?’ Why not use the methodology, the frameworks, the ecosystem, the engagement we talk about, to enable the consented and secure sharing of data between all good actors and providers of data – as long as the customers want that data to be shared?”
In Ainsworth’s view, “smart data” should be at the core of other regulated sectors, including Energy, Utilities, and Telecoms, which he said are now working to create a “harmonised approach to the consented, secure sharing of data”.
He revealed that Open Banking recently achieved one million users – a significant if unspectacular number two years into the programme – with 70 account providers voluntarily using Open Banking standards.
Speaking about the slow burn of consumer uptake in what is apparently now a ubiquitous market, Ainsworth admitted that early implementations had been “clunky”. However, the number of API calls is doubling every three to four months, suggesting that momentum is building.
“What we found out when we started this process was that just providing the API and the technical spec was not sufficient for a good customer experience,” he explained.
“So if you want people to use services provided by a third party, you need to make sure that the third party can access that data easily and simply for the customer – without the customer spending three days trying to give their consent.
“You also need a trust framework. […] If you’re a bank you need to know that the third party is regulated and that it is the third party. And you need to be able to do that within the API flow, so you need some sort of digital identity certificate that says, ‘This is Third Party X’, and you need to make sure that they’re still regulated by the FCA.”
A mechanism to demonstrate conformity with standards was also missing from early implementations, he said. All of these issues have now been rectified.
Ainsworth was critical of the lack of clarity from government on its data strategy. “I don’t know exactly what the public policy agenda around some of this stuff is.
“On market incentives and value of data, we have created an ecosystem here, based on provision of data, because of the regulatory mandate ‘for free’. But clearly for it to work effectively, you need to have a mixture of that ‘for free’ bit and a market incentive for sharing that data commercially.”