Open Banking: Threat or Opportunity?

Fábio Rosato
November 13, 2023
min reading time

Open Banking: Threat or Opportunity?

Traditional banks are facing significant challenges due to the emergence of digital banks and fintech companies. These new competitors leverage advanced digital technologies to offer more agile and user-friendly services. They heavily utilize data to gain insights and deliver personalized products, posing a threat to the conventional banking model.

Recent regulatory proposals in Open Banking by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) promote the controlled sharing of bank data via Banking APIs like the FDX standard. This regulatory shift towards Open Banking platforms is anticipated to impact financial sector operations, enhancing competition and efficiency. Over 200 members participate in the adoption plan for a new API standard for Open Banking in the U.S. 

What Are the Changes for Users After All?

Open Banking, through the use of Open Banking APIs, places individuals, rather than banks, in control of their data. By enabling customers to choose when to share information with alternative channels (such as other banks, fintechs, or a third party service provider) it allows them to explore new product offers or added convenience, like personalized credit offers, or additional payment options at checkout. Customers can leverage their data to streamline their financial management within a single application, eliminating the need to download multiple apps, they can also share their financial history with other banks or fintechs, giving them the opportunity to craft and offer new, hyper personalized deals.

The potential for innovation and new solutions, particularly in core banking data, is remarkable. Chip serves as an example of an app linked through open banking APIs directly to banks. They use that connection to analyze a users' spending behavior by looking at financial transactions across bank and credit card accounts. Using an artificial intelligence algorithm, the application automatically invests funds without affecting the user's daily activities, in essence, Chip autonomously allocates funds for the user, simplifying the process of personal financial savings and generating net new business for banks.

Open banking may increase competition, yet for early adopters, it can also create a competitive edge through lower operational costs, which can translate into lower consumer prices, providing an "unfair" advantage. Open banking ecosystems also drive innovation in embedded products and services, creating opportunities for new revenue.

Open Banking: Threat or Opportunity?

While traditional banks often view Open Banking as a significant threat and regulatory overreach by the CFPB, the truth is that a wide range of opportunities awaits exploration alongside the clarity provided by regulations. The benefits of open banking will depend on the strategic positioning adopted by each financial institution. The following examples illustrate three distinct positioning approaches:

  • A financial institution wants to meet regulatory requirements to the minimum extent required, allowing third-party providers (TPPs) to perform payment services and access crucial information about the products and services offered. This includes access to customer registration and transactional data, ensuring regulatory compliance with the rule proposal outlined by the CFPB.

  • A financial institution sees the opportunity presented by open banking as a chance to increase revenues or add extra value. This means using Open APIs as a net new channel to expand the distribution reach of its banking products, backed by a revenue-generating and customer-centric business model. As open banking matures, it moves beyond just regulatory compliance and transforms into a mechanism for generating revenue.

  • The financial institution embraces open finance and adopts a service platform approach (BaaS - Bank as a Service), enabling other companies to build an entire open banking ecosystem with their institution at the center, providing solutions through open banking APIs.  Banco Topázio is a great example of an open banking as a service platform.

As CFPB regulations shaping open banking are taking shape, financial institutions can focus on updating existing products and legacy financial services for faster integration into a revenue-generating open banking framework.

This strategy positions the institution ahead of future regulations by proactively establishing tech, legal, and security foundations in place. Essentially, providing a competitive advantage, allowing the institution to actively participate and enhance its digital experiences.

The Four Pillars of Open Banking

The Open Banking initiative can involve various operational aspects. However, four foundational pillars are essential:

  • API exposure: In the midst of ongoing regulatory changes, the data and transactions made available through Open Banking don't automatically give data providers a competitive edge. Rather, it's those who use the data effectively who can improve their business. When deciding which open banking APIs to offer, the main objective should be to choose those that create value around customer needs.

  • Strategic partnerships: Through Open Banking, banks have a chance to form important B2B partnerships, going beyond just connecting with fintechs. The goal is to integrate with partners to make the most of customer data and services available through open banking APIs. At first, these partnerships should focus on the same business segment or customer group already connected to the bank, using the partner's network to maximize product and service reach.

  • Security: A foundational aspect for any bank, alongside liquidity, fostering trust, and credibility, is data privacy in financial services. When revealing financial data and transactions, prioritizing security is key. Encryption technology plays a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive information during data transmission. For Open Banking API consumption, authentication and authorization mechanisms, akin to other digital channels in banks, are required. Regarding open data in Banking APIs, the terms might suggest exposure of customer information, but this is misleading. Access to data is tightly controlled and secure, with only authorized entities permitted to access it. The access granted to third-party providers (TTPs) can be revoked at any given time.

  • Governance and compliance: This involves establishing legal frameworks for data and open transaction providers to handle liability in case of security breaches or unauthorized transactions. Ensuring transparency means informing customers—whether individuals or businesses—about how their data is used, controlled, stored, and audited. API governance is crucial to maintaining detailed transaction records, specifying who accesses Open APIs, when, where, and through which device and application. Managing consent for financial data access is another aspect, where third-party providers (TPPs) need explicit permission from the account owner to access data and transactions, through consent management.

Banks initiating these measures will be much better prepared to grow their business through open innovation, particularly if CFPB regulations are put into effect. By proactively setting up the required technological infrastructure, and developing an API-First strategy, early open banking adopters can truly disrupt the financial landscape in the U.S.

Is Open Banking Intended for Banks Only?

Open Banking, driven by API integration for banks, is set to shape a more open and interconnected financial services landscape. This will unlock fresh business opportunities for both banks and non-depository companies, particularly in sectors where financial transactions are central to the business model.

The perception of open banking, enabled through Open APIs, is currently shifting to that of a new opportunity. Adopting a fresh outlook beyond regulatory hurdles is key to securing a competitive edge in this rapidly evolving financial environment.

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