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Banks will be required to build application programming interfaces—sets of code that give third parties  secure access to their back-end data.
Banks will be required to build application programming interfaces—sets of code that give third parties  secure access to their back-end data.

European Banks Brace for Major Overhaul

Under an open banking framework, non-banking firms—from corporations as big as Amazon and IBM to start-ups—would be able create new financial products by utilizing the data of banks

European Banks Brace for Major Overhaul

Banks have long been at an advantage when it comes to data on their customers. From current accounts to credit cards, established lenders have access to vast amounts of information that financial technology competitors could only dream of.
In Europe, that could all be about to change. On January 8, banks operating in the European Union will be forced to open up their customer data to third party firms—that is, when customers give consent, CNBC reported.
EU lawmakers hope that the introduction of the revised Payment Services Directive, or PSD2, will give non-banking firms the chance to compete with banks in the payments business and give consumers more choice over financial products and services.
Britain's Competition and Markets Authority has set out similar plans to let customers share their data with other banks and third parties. With customer consent, UK banks will be required to give authorized third-party firms access to current account data.
Those regulations form part of a conceptual transition known as "open banking". Under an open banking framework, proponents say, non-banking firms—from corporations as big as Amazon and IBM to start-ups—would be able create new financial products by utilizing the data of banks.

What Does It Mean for Banks?
Banks will be required to build application programming interfaces—sets of code that give third parties secure access to their back-end data.
Those APIs serve as channels for developers to get to the data and build their own products and services around it. Such information could serve as a tool to understand things such as customers' spending habits or credit history, and could lead to the creation of new services.
"In a world of open banking, the customer can choose a provider in each part of the value chain. And each bank has to participate in the value chain as an earners' right to be there," Anne Boden, co-founder and chief executive of UK mobile-only bank Starling, told CNBC in an interview earlier this year.
Boden added: "You can't just assume you're going to have the end-to-end value chain. Barclays, HSBC and RBS, at the moment own everything in that value chain—the app, the back-end, they sell other products. In a world where everybody earns their right, you could have the app from HSBC and the back-end from Barclays."
Some European lenders are giving early signals as to what a post-PSD2 world will look like.
Spain's BBVA, Denmark's Saxo Bank, Nordic lender Nordea and Ireland's Ulster Bank have already published open developer portals ahead of the EU legislation. HSBC has also made early moves toward meeting the incoming rules. In October, the bank launched a beta version of an app that lets customers see all of their bank accounts—including those from competitors—on one screen.
That development—known as "account aggregation"—is set to be a key component of open banking, encouraging collaboration rather than competition.

For Tech Firms
Dozens of fintech firms across Europe are set to benefit from the updated EU directive, as banks' data will let them create new products. Several small lenders set up with the aim of competing with larger institutions are hoping to take advantage of the move toward a more open data infrastructure.
UK firms Starling and Monzo, for instance, want to make banking more like a "marketplace", by connecting consumers with a number of products and services—including those from other providers—within their apps.
Another fintech company, MarketInvoice, has completely shifted its business model, changing from a digital invoice service into a lender on the back of the EU regulation. Its CEO and co-founder Anil Stocker said PSD2 would let it access data on small businesses and use tech advances like artificial intelligence to enhance credit ratings.
Some believe that tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon and IBM could be primed to disrupt banking, especially once lenders are forced to open their data vaults to tech firms.

Hurdles
Some worry that banks will be slow to respond, and that some will be reluctant to comply. "Implementing open banking and making this happen is not something overnight. It's a tough journey for everybody," Starling's Boden said. Indeed, the transition toward PSD2 has not been without friction.
In May, several fintech firms and lobbyists moved to fend off plans by the European Banking Authority to water down its open banking rules by banning a technique known as "screen scraping"—essentially copying data from one interface over to another.
And in October, European authorities raided the offices of banking groups in multiple EU countries because they allegedly tried to prevent fintech firms from gaining access to customers' account data.
"In the UK, France and other markets, we saw the big banks suing start-ups like ours, trying to block them by any means," Daniel Kjellen, founder and chief executive of fintech start-up Tink, told CNBC.
Lenders in the continent pride themselves on good customer relationships that differentiate them from rising challengers.

 

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