06 Mar 2023

Let’s stop asking people if they know what open banking is

It was recently announced that the number of open banking users in the UK has reached 7 million for the first time. The figures show that 1.2 million of these are first time users, demonstrating that more and more consumers and businesses are leveraging open banking for a variety of reasons, from access to cost-effective credit to building regular savings habits. 


But as with all previous milestone updates, I’m sure that won’t stop the critics from banging their drums. Facing negative criticism since its inception, open banking is still not met with open arms by many, down to the so-called slow uptake and perceived lack of impact it’s had on innovation. A lot of the divide sits within the ecosystem itself, with a number of very different stakeholders with contrasting agendas. A draft report to determine the future of open banking in the UK for the Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee (JROC) was leaked in AltFi earlier this year, detailing stark differences in industry views on the future of open banking. Some banks have faced criticism for dragging their feet. In true British fashion with most big decisions in recent years, opinions are split, with banks, TPPs and fintechs unable to agree.

Clearly the industry must resolve what the future governance of open banking looks like and Parliament must push forward the Smart Data Bill to facilitate new open finance use cases. This is key to unlocking greater adoption and ensuring that innovation is felt by as many consumers and businesses as possible. It’s also critical to continue to fuel the innovation we’re seeing led by a range of British open banking startups who are helping to digitise and grow the economy. But industry discussions in recent years on the lack of awareness and usage have plagued open banking and will continue to fuel the argument of the critics until perceived value by the customer is apparent. A lot of the progress is invisible or goes under the radar – consumers don’t realise new faster payments are down to open banking for example. So how do we prove the appetite and value is there?

It’s irrational to imply open banking isn’t delivering value

We’ve seen countless commissioned surveys by brands since the implementation of PSD2 asking respondents if they know what open banking is, which always generate headline worthy percentages indicating people are completely clueless. But often many can be using open banking without knowing what it’s called, or would find they have a need for it when the use case is explained without industry jargon. Granted, some of these surveys come from a good place with a call to action of what must be done to encourage adoption – but the figures still lay bare to fuel the critics.

It’s irrational to imply open banking isn’t delivering value, when we’ve seen the success of developments that go beyond the initial account aggregation use cases such as account-to-account payments. And now we know there are 7 million users, a number that keeps growing. The problem is that irrational claims are so much more convincing than logical ones and sell more papers. Could progress be moving faster? Maybe. But we should still recognise and embrace the growing number of users adopting it.

It’s all in the name

Part of the problem is the name itself and how we ask that question. The average person doesn’t know what open banking means. It’s intangible. But in many scenarios, the average person would respond positively if the use cases and the problems solved were explained clearly. Often customers don’t need to know, nor care, how something works generally – they simply need to see the value. So let’s stop asking them if they know what it is. And instead, let’s ask if consumers would benefit from automatic transfer rules that move funds from their savings account to their current account when they dip in their overdraft to avoid charges. Or whether they’d benefit from viewing their bank accounts, credit cards and pensions in one dashboard for a holistic view of their finances. You get the idea.

There’s something to be said in how we communicate the benefits of open banking to help build awareness and encourage usage. Open banking powers new propositions and services that solve real-world problems, the concept doesn’t solve it alone. In communication, it’s not enough to express yourself correctly, you need to make sure you’re heard correctly. Open banking champions must learn to communicate via compelling use cases, not as open banking – as for most customers, the name doesn’t need to enter their consciousness.

By Nicole Louis, Account Director

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