Open Banking has been a “slow burn”, but momentum is building and the lack of an overnight transformation of the industry was only to be expected. That was the view of Richard Rous, Competition and Regulatory Strategy specialist at Lloyds Banking Group.

 

Speaking on 10 September at a Westminster eForum conference on Competition in the Digital Economy, Rous said that industry engagement with consumers is still building, less than two years after data portability was introduced.

Rous – who led the implementation of the Competition and Markets Authority’s Remedies in Personal and Business Current Accounts (with a focus on Open Banking and the formation of the implementation body) – said that the industry’s focus on customers sharing data is a red herring. However, consumers will be attracted by companies that offer to help them manage their finances better, he suggested.

“We always reckoned it was going to be a slow burn. When we read reports that some organisation has said, ‘Oh, there are aren’t yet a million open banking customers’, I never thought there would be, 18 months to two years after the launch.”

So what has the holdup been in a sector that is often characterised as being fast moving, transformative, and disruptive?

“Without going into too much detail, the technical standards that support Open Banking aren’t even in force yet,” explained Rous, “and the FCA and the European Banking Authority have signalled extensions of the implementation of some of those standards.

“Some of them were critical in moving some of the incumbent FinTech firms onto the adoption of the API standard that is at the heart of Open Banking. And some of the institutional elements haven’t yet come into place.”

The market and consumers have got to “allow it to come to fruition”, he continued. “For me, the big thing that will kick it off is, are there actually firms that can offer a winning proposition?

“I don’t believe consumers are remotely attracted by the tagline that says, ‘Share your data’. But they could be attracted by the tagline, ‘I could help you manage your finances better’ or ‘I can help you find better deals’. You can sell people on the proposition, not on the infrastructure.”

The half-day conference explored the future of competition and regulation in the UK digital economy, in the wake of the Furman Review.

The first session of the packed Westminster eForum was supposed to be chaired by the Right Hon Sir Vince Cable, MP. However, Brexit and tumultuous scenes over the suspension of Parliament in the small hours of the morning forced Cable to pull out of the event.

Ironically, his place was taken by Jay Modrall, Co-Chair of the Competition Policy Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union – who, he joked with delegates, holds a Belgian passport.

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