Open Banking: counting the steps towards a strong data infrastructure for the UK

Open banking gives consumers more control over data about them. This will change the sector and improve the services customers receive. Other countries and sectors will follow and build a better and more open future for data

null In the stairway towards a stronger data infrastructure, open banking is the next step. CC BY 2.0, uploaded by PROMaurits Verbiest.

By David Beardmore, Helen Desmond and Peter Wells

On Saturday 13 January Open Banking will become a reality for UK consumers as the first banks switch on the full capability.

For the ODI this is a significant milestone in building a better and more open future with data. Consumers are taking greater control of data about them, which in turn is changing how the whole banking sector operates and serves its customers. It will lead to better services. It’s early days for Open Banking but its potential is huge.

Open banking will help people make better decisions about all kinds of products and services, including mortgages, loans, overdrafts. It’s important to understand that people are in control of this – we decide what information we choose to share and for how long.

Open banking also signifies another important milestone: it is the next step in building the UK’s data infrastructure. It describes a set of rules, technologies and standards to help data to securely and openly flow between and connect with people, organisations and services. In much the same way as roads and railways allow us to reach every part of the country.

To enable innovation this infrastructure needs to be as open as possible while protecting privacy. Personal data, like bank transactions, is shared between trusted organisations under controlled conditions but other vital data, such as branch locations and bank products, must be published openly. Organisations can then combine these different types of data to build services that help people make better decisions.

Over the next few months we should start to see more services for us – whether we're a consumer or whether we run a small business – that can help us save money, and manage our money more easily. For example, personal financial management and budgeting advice – showing you where your money is being spent and where it’s coming from. Analysing how to make best use of the money you have. And services allowing a single view of all your accounts in one place – you might be able to open your bank app on your phone and see all your accounts, not just ones with particular account.

This will only be the first wave of change. Over the following years more services should emerge as the standard evolves and the sector becomes more responsive to customer's needs. We will also see more sectors and countries building similar data infrastructure and realising the benefits that it delivers. We are already building on our work to help get open banking started in the UK by working with other nations including New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and the Ukraine to start open banking initiatives.

While we are also working with many other sectors such as physical activity, public services, pharmaceuticals, and water, to build greater momentum for change. As other countries and sectors open up it will become ever easier to combine data, but with strong data infrastructure it will be possible to do this securely.

Data is moving from being scarce and difficult to process to being abundant and easy to use. Harnessing its value for economic and social benefit — in ways that support innovation as well as delivering social justice — is hard.

The success of initiatives like open banking are key to showing that it is possible, and that data plays a vital role in building a better and more open future for everyone.

If you have ideas or experience in open data that you'd like to share, pitch us a blog or tweet us at @ODIHQ.