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February 9, 2016updated 04 Sep 2016 10:26pm

UK banks urged to release open data and API to aid consumer choice

News: Open Bank Working Group report gets government support.

By Charlotte Henry

The Open Banking Working Group (OBWG) has today unveiled its report into the future of open data in the banking sector.

The report calls on banks to make their data, including information about products and services, available as open data. It says that this will allow comparison tools and similar services to be built, helping customers get a better service and value for money on products.

As well as data about products and services, this would include data regarding bank transactions that individuals and businesses will be able to choose to share in a secure fashion.

The group also said that there should also be an open API for banking. This will allows services to be built using bank and customer data.

It also recommends that a minimum viable product for the Open Banking API should be launched by the end of 2016, and that personal customer transaction data should be included on a read-only basis from early 2017.

The OBWG said that there will need to be an Open Banking Standard as framework to make sure that the data is not only secure, but that the way in which it might be shared is actively governed.

Co-chair of the OBWG and Barclays‘ Head of Client and Customer Experience (Personal and Corporate Banking), Matt Hammerstein said:

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"Banking as a service has long sat at the heart of our economy. In our digitally enabled world, the need to seamlessly and efficiently connect different economic agents who are buying and selling goods and services, is critical. The Open Banking Standard is a framework for making banking data work better: for customers; for businesses and; for the economy as a whole."

Gavin Starks, CEO of the Open Data Institute and OBWG co-chair said: "The work of the OBWG and the Open Banking Standard demonstrate the powerful result of leaders coming together to wrestle substantial challenges facing the banking sector. I have been impressed by both the speed and depth with which the group has created a detailed framework and continued leadership in this area will set

"UK banking apart, it will also set precedents across many sectors: a strong data infrastructure will be as important to the UK’s economy today as roads have been to our success in the industrial economy for over a century."

Ultimately these open data tools could save consumers money. For example, switching an overdraft facility is estimated to save people an average of £140 a year, according to an investigation from the CMA in November 2015.

The report has received a warm reception from the government. UK Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin said: "I welcome the findings published by the Open Banking Working Group today, which encourage the use of APIs and open data in order to benefit customers and businesses.

"We look forward to continuing to work with industry over the coming weeks to establish how these recommendations will be taken forward. With FinTech week later this month we are on-track to cement the UK’s position as the FinTech capital of the world."

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