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HOW WILL REVOLUT’S MOVE INTO OPEN BANKING AFFECT US?

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OPEN BANKING

By Richard Mathias, Senior Technology Architect at LiveArea

Despite current uncertainty, the financial services sector is experiencing transformative change year on year. Innovation in banking has traditionally been a cumbersome process, but these new players have changed how things are done, applying lessons learnt in other industries to keep established players on their toes.

Among these innovators is Revolut. The company had a busy start to the year, tripling its valuation to £4.2bn, making it the most valuable FinTech start-up in the UK. But perhaps more significant was the company’s move into open banking, news which went somewhat unnoticed.

The implications of this announcement cannot be overstated, having the potential not just to transform personal finance, but the economy as a whole.

 

Personal finance meets convenience

To begin, the move into open banking makes Revolut the first provider to be authorised as an Account Information Service Provider (AISP), meaning it can now securely use UK banks’ APIs (Application Programme Interface).

In layman’s terms, it means they can now act as a single, unified interface for all of an individual’s or business’s financial information. Playing into rising demands for convenience, it makes it possible to connect external UK bank accounts to Revolut, giving consumers and businesses a 360 view of their balances, transactions and everything related to banking within a single application.

The implications cannot be overstated. One-in-four UK consumers have one or more current accounts – when it had previously been a pain to manage multiple accounts across different banks, account types and locations, these pain-points are effectively eliminated. Open banking will encourage consumers to be more agnostic with credit cards and savings accounts. It could well spell the end of bank loyalty.

 

Opening up new possibilities

Revolut’s announcement made it a pioneer even among challenger banks. Now all eyes are watching to see if the system of open applications works effectively.  And it’s easy to see why – theoretically, it will open the door for additional functions of AISP for other sectors besides banking.

In retail, we could see it applied to functions that have difficult relationships with acquirers and credit providers. For example, we could see the emergence of a single refund/credit company, delivery, or inventory buying application which looks at the entire market.

Here, it’s the digitally native challenger brands, similar to Revolut who are best placed to take advantage of these new functionalities. In contrast to high street retailers, these companies have fewer obstacles to innovation, enabling them to be much more agile when implementing new initiatives. Expect companies, like Asos, Boohoo and of course Amazon, to start testing the boundaries of what’s possible.

 

Prioritising security

While the announcement could be a kingmaker, it does come with risks. With APIs opened up to third parties, open banking makes organisations vulnerable to potential cyber adversaries as they’re no longer able to hide critical applications behind firewalls – so what would happen if they were to suffer a data breach?

The banking industry typically leads the way for security, but a huge amount of responsibility falls squarely on Revolut’s shoulders. After all, any stumble or misstep could result in severe financial and reputational fallout and halt open banking in its tracts. This means that API security is more critical than ever for the company to mitigate any potential threats.

 

All eyes watching

 Revolut took a gamble by moving into open banking. With  2019 going down as the worst year on record for breaches resulting in exposed data, security is of the utmost importance.

Revolut’s announcement makes it clear that the retail banking model as we know it is fading away. Open banking provides consumers with long sought-after convenience and flexibility, giving them easy access to multiple bank accounts under one interface and eliminating the traditional pain-points. Whether or not they make it a success is difficult to say, but all eyes are watching to see if the project yields the hoped-for results.

 

Banking

WHY THE TIME IS NOW TO BANK BEYOND BORDERS

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by Lili Metodieva, MD of Monneo

 

As our world becomes more interconnected, so too does the need for banking systems to follow suit. In the past, businesses and individuals were often restricted to banking in a single country, but the rise of borderless banking is enabling both to benefit from greater financial freedoms. In this article, we will examine why this trend is so important and explain how Fintech companies are helping to make it possible.

 

What is borderless banking?

Simply put, borderless banking refers to any bank account, which allows users to spend, send and receive money across different countries and currencies, without incurring heavy fees. The concept has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more people now working in cross-border job roles and with many businesses requiring capital in a different currency than that of their country of origin.

For customers, borderless banking is making cross-border financial transactions more efficient and cost-effective. Through its rise, businesses and individuals can gain easier access to international streams of capital, which is crucial in this current moment of economic uncertainty. In fact, 74% of companies say cross-border payments have helped their business to survive [1].

 

Where do IBANs come in?

International Banking Account Numbers (IBAN) play a crucial role in facilitating borderless banking. The globally recognised system enables cross-border transactions to happen safely, by providing each international bank account with its own unique 36-digit alphanumerical code. On account of this code, financial institutions can quickly identify where funds are coming from, as well as where they’re going to.

More recently, providers such as us have been able to deliver Virtual IBANs (vIBAN). Working alongside a network of well-established European and International banks, we’re able to offer businesses a single platform interface that consolidates the management of all IBAN accounts. In turn, our multi-currency service makes conducting global financial transactions incredibly straightforward.

 

How has Brexit affected borderless banking?

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of borderless banking and services related to it, but other developments, such as Brexit are beginning to stand in its way. Most notably, the drawn-out withdrawal process has seeded a growing reluctance amongst risk averse, larger organisations to settle transactions using UK bank accounts or IBANs, due to unfounded concerns around regulatory complexity.

Despite leaving the EU, the UK remains a member of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), so it’s unclear why these concerns around British IBAN accounts exist. Regardless, this unfortunate development must be addressed quickly as it has the potential to adversely affect the livelihood of businesses and individuals at a time of critical need.

 

What does the future hold for borderless banking?

There’s clear demand for borderless banking and borderless payments, but the discrimination of certain IBAN accounts represents a major obstacle, which could stand in the way of their widescale adoption. Moving forward, there needs to be a push towards borderless IBANs, which will make international financial transactions more reliable. At the end of the day, this is what IBANs were originally created for, so it’s important the current problems are rectified quickly.

To ensure this can happen, the industry needs protection and clarity from regulators. Likewise, it’s now time for membership organisations to stand up on behalf of the sector and lobby for the financial inclusion of businesses.

If the confusion regarding UK IBAN accounts can be sorted in a timely manner, businesses across the nation, as well as those further afield can look forward to a future of more streamlined and effective financial services. With this support, the diverse sector can deliver further access to innovative financial services and products, which improve outcomes for businesses and consumers alike.

As a sector, Fintech has the potential to provide vital assistance to the wider economy, particularly in an era of increased cross-border business. At Monneo, we’re committed to being part of that change and as a part of organisations like ‘Accept my IBAN’, are working towards reporting and ending IBAN discrimination.

[1] – https://www.mastercard.com/news/research-reports/2021/borderless-payments-report/

 

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Banking

IT’S TIME FOR BANKS TO SIT THEIR CUSTOMERS DOWN AND TALK OPEN BANKING

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Eugene Danilkis, CEO at Mambu

 

We are living in an experience economy, and banking is no different. Customers need innovative payment and finance management solutions. New entrants are edging into the landscape and challenging existing players. This should mean users have a better view of their finances and the tools they need to manage their money – but banks are failing to deliver.

Personal finances are a complex beast, emotional pulls are strong, and the worry of financial security is always on the mind. It’s the job of banks to be the shoulders customers can lean on and trust.

Open banking was supposed to take this to the next level, enabling banks to deliver personalised products and services based on improved data sharing and customer insights. But three years on, adoption remains sluggish. So, why is open banking failing to live up to its promise?

 

A missed opportunity

Open banking was introduced to the UK in 2018, but consumers are still mired in confusion as to what it means and how it helps them. According to Mambu’s global open banking survey, 61% of consumers say they’ve never used open banking, despite more than 8 in 10 using one or more mobile banking apps.

Eugene Danilkis

This is a problem for banks and consumers alike. Lack of understanding around the technology is hindering its adoption, despite this being in the best interests of both. By enabling the secure sharing of financial information, open banking creates an improved customer experience. Not only does this minimise friction and make online payments faster and easier, but allows for personalised services and greater automation, enabling customers to take advantage of tools like budgeting apps.

For banks, open banking is an opportunity to build innovative new products that will improve the customer journey, helping them retain accounts and acquire new ones. By collaborating with third parties, banks can hyper-target customers and build services that address specific user needs, increasing customer satisfaction and in turn brand loyalty.

It’s true there’s been a recent spike in open banking users. According to Juniper Research global, open banking users rose from 18 million in 2018 to 40 million in 2021. But this can be traced to the necessities of a pandemic rather than any sudden clarity in communications.

 

Putting customers at the heart of communication

Mambu’s research shows more than half of consumers (52%) have never heard of open banking. COVID-19 may have increased the uptake of the technology, but it hasn’t increased understanding among users.

So, what can banks do to encourage consumers to embrace open banking? Fundamentally, they must better educate their customers in terms they understand. This means talking to them like human beings, using clear and transparent language to simply explain the personal benefits open banking brings and why it’s really just smart banking.

The understanding gap between technology and terminology shows that consumer demand is there, but better communication is needed. Making sure consumers truly understand the tools they’re using, the control they now have over their finances and how open banking improves the customer experience is vital to dispersing the current fog of confusion. It’s the benefits of this technology that banks need to hone in on: customers ultimately care about what open banking can do for them and how it’s going to make their lives easier.

Centering the customer and their needs in this way will allow banks to fully realise open banking’s potential. The technology has already given them the opportunity to develop valuable services for customers that help build brand loyalty. But the industry has failed to put the customer at the heart of their communications and processes, and show them how much better banking can be.

 

Building trust

Key to reversing this trend is addressing consumer concerns around data privacy and financial safety. Yes, banks need to prioritise simplicity and clarity in messaging, but this isn’t an excuse to shy away from important conversations. Just because there’s an understanding gap around open banking doesn’t mean consumers aren’t switched on about tech and financial issues.

Mambu’s survey found nearly three in five customers have concerns about privacy and security in relation to open banking. So, it’s vital that banks provide reassurance and relevant information about data sharing from the outset if they’re to assuage these fears.

The industry can also encourage greater adoption by developing and improving open banking interfaces. Banks are the gatekeepers to how easily end-users can authorise certain actions, manage third-party access and navigate different open banking functions. If the interface is user-friendly, customers will have a better experience of the technology and be more likely to use and recommend these services.

 

Time to get talking

Customer communication is holding the industry back.. The ability of open banking to transform financial services is a concept that industry players are well-versed in. But the feeling isn’t mutual for customers.

Banks are failing to capitalise on the open banking opportunity by engaging with new and existing customers about what the technology can do for them. Debunking  common myths can open the door to increased growth and trust for banks, as they seek to open up new revenue streams post pandemic..

Make no mistake, open banking isn’t going away. But customers will if banks don’t get talking.

 

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