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Looking Back at the Open Banking Expo 2020

The Open Banking Expo has been running its new ‘Digifest’ virtual event this week, from the 24th to 26th November. Designed as their response to the continued lack of in-person fintech events, this Digifest event is taking place over 3 days on a virtual platform.

The Digifest agenda features more than 60 speakers in total, hosting 40 sessions across the wider financial services market. The speakers are a mix of innovators, disruptors and visionaries, with expertise in Open Banking, Open Finance, or both.

Event attendees have been able to hear from experts including Open Banking Implementation Entity’s Imran Gulamhuseinwala, the Financial Conduct Authority’s Alex Roy, chief operating officer at Monzo Sujata Bhatia and former Revolut exec and newly appointed chief executive officer at Allica Bank, Richard Davies across the three days.

Other businesses represented at the event include the likes of RBS Group, ING, Curve, Tide, Iwoca, HSBC and DNB Dutch Central Bank. FICO were the headline sponsors for the event, and they were joined by OpenWrks, the banking aggregation platform. OpenWkrs chief commercial officer, Steve Bradford expressed his excitement in the current state of the Open Banking industry “Over the last six months alone, we have seen Open Banking users double to two million. While this is a time of crisis, it’s also clear that it’s the catalyst necessary to encourage people to understand what they can afford to save, invest, borrow and repay, using the power of Open Banking.”

One of the most anticipated panels at Digifest was “The race to payments supremacy”. In this session, panelists were discussing who would emerge as front-runners when it comes to Open Banking payments, and how fintechs would be able to respond to consumers desire for immediate personalised financial products, and to do so at scale without any compromises to data security and product superiority.

The event was moderated by Joe McGrath, Editor, Open Banking Expo Magazine, and the speakers were: Nathalie Oestmann, Chief Operating Officer, Curve; Luke Massie, Chief Executive Officer, Vibe Payments; Ed Adshead-Grant, General Manager and Director of Payments, Bottomline; and Adrian Smyth, Head of Payment Innovation, NatWest.

One first question posed to the panelists was with regards to how you start an open banking project in the payment sector. This question was first put to Ed Adshead-Grant, who replied that he thought that there are three things you need to need, which are “money in the business to start, you need bandwidth, which is one of the biggest challenges, and some human capital, some know-how.” According to Ed, once you have those three things nailed down, you can start to look for suitable business use-cases in this sector.

Luke Massie agreed with Ed’s view on this topic as to the importance of those three requirements, adding that due to the speed that Open Banking is moving right now, you really need to execute quickly once you have those requirements covered. He also pointed to the competitiveness of the industry, along with the fact that once Open Banking becomes more developed, it will provide an infrastructure, so that “payments is fast becoming a commodity and account to account payments is something that a lot of people are going to be able to offer as a service.” To stand out from the competition, you will need to innovate, which is why the third of Ed’s points, the need for strong ‘know-how’, is especially vital.

Another panel debate, this one hosted on the second of Digifest, focused on the status, impact, and future of Open Banking, titled “Cometh the hour, cometh Open Banking”. With increasing levels of financial hardship, only magnified by the recent Covid-19 crisis, there is a real opportunity for Open Banking to step in and make a real difference and impact. The question is, however, how it goes about doing this effectively. Tackling this debate were Merlyn Holkar Policy Officer, Money & Mental Health; Chris Pond Chair, Lending Standards Board; Gareth McNab, Social Innovation Lead, Nationwide; and Duncan Cockburn, Chief Executive Officer, OneBanks. The discussion was moderated by Faith Reynolds, Independent Consumer Finance Expert.

First up for debate was the subject of people’s financial situation, and the impact that Covid-19 has had on it. Chris Pond admitted that many people will be struggling right now, with one in four adults reporting a direct negative effect on their income as a result of Covid-19, and one in five already being unable to meet one month’s expenses in terms of savings before Covid-19. This means, Chris says, that “much of the population was already very fragile when the pandemic hit and not well equipped to meet that extra challenge.” Chris also had an opinion on the role Open Banking has in this particular situation, pointing out that “Five million people say they have little or no confidence in their ability to manage their money. And so Open Banking could act in the same way that Google Maps does for those of us who have no sense of direction could help us manage our money more effectively.”

Gareth McNab also had an opinion on the financial hardships being faced by many people during the virus outbreak. He stated that it was “a shame that it took a global pandemic to wake the world up to the needs of improving people’s financial well-being and genuinely doing so across the whole spectrum,” but that he was pleased that innovative products are being designed now to improve the lives of people who are financially struggling. He pointed out as well, that you can’t build a vulnerability strategy on the back end of a poor product, and that  “you need to build products that work for people whose circumstances change.”

That number of people with changing circumstances is likely to be very high in this current period, but it was good to hear that financial service companies are embracing the challenge of providing products to help these individuals.


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