I competed last week in a ‘Family Lip Synch Battle’, in a chalet on the Swiss-French border with a rendition of the Hokey Cokey, mimed in German. I now feel curiously qualified to comment on the UK’s position on the European Union.
The existential conundrum posed by das Hokey Kokey (“…in?, aus?, man schwenkes alles rum?”...) helped me analyse the relationship between HM Treasury’s Open Banking initiatives and the EU’s implementation of Payments Services Directive 2 (PSD2). Would we
be better off ‘out’ as a national banking industry, forging ahead with our own national plans without the tedious constraints of EU regulations? Or would staying ‘in’ help the UK economy and make payment services better for UK consumers and businesses?
Before deciding whether we are in or out on PSD2, we ought to understand what it’s all about.
The PSD2 Access to Account (XS2A) provisions seem relatively simple to explain, until you get asked about standards, technical specifications and how will enforcement work. An analysis of the Hokey Cokey is probably not the place to go into these details
so I'll leave that to better bloggers. The UK’s Open Banking initiative is even simpler in its concept - all banks should open up their systems via easy-to-use Application Program Interfaces (APIs), for the benefit of an international developer community that
is eager to create exciting new financial services tools to make our lives easier. For both PSD2-XS2A and UK Open Banking, banks and infrastructure providers will have to think differently about how they maintain their existing systems. They will need to embrace
‘openness’. Magic will need to happen.
So let’s come back to the perplexing question of whether the UK should be in or out.
We could start by putting our left arm in.
No full commitment would be required, for PSD2 and Open Banking it should be possible to do a trial. Then we could participate on concepts, the developer experience, specifications, guides etc. and help to shape the emerging ecosystem across Europe.
Left arm out.
Well we don’t necessarily need to agree with everything – say the current guidelines on strong authentication for online payments. We can always work to refine that later when we put our left arm back in again.
In, out, in, out and shake it all about.
Clearly an ancient metaphor for ‘disruption’. We need to agitate for change rather than waiting for change to happen – this is all about putting energy into co-operation and new ecosystems. It’s jolly hard work.
Repeat with right arm, left leg and right leg.
This process of creating an Open API banking ecosystem across Europe will be a gradual, phased approach. Expect many iterations and repetitions. Do not worry though – everyone else is feeling equally foolish about not knowing exactly what to do and in what
You do the hokey-cokey, then you turn around – that’s what it’s all about.
Er? The hokey-cokey - what’s that again? Well it probably derives from “hokus pokus” – it’s magic. It’s the bit where cognitive dissonance has been overcome and you accept that everything is different. You have embraced the new way of thinking and constructed
your new banking ecosystem based on Open APIs. Individual banks now provide magically unimpeded access to core payments and accounting systems.
And then you put your whole self in.
Yep – full commitment. Because if you are good at this Open API business, you will generate a load of new transaction volume from emerging service providers. And you’ll be helping your digital teams to create revenue-generating new propositions. So don’t
worry about the details, just get on with it.
So hopefully that’s all clear then. UK banking and Fintech industries need to be in, out and shaking it all about. We need to be in the EU so that our industry is building services that will be used and consumed by new businesses in the biggest possible
market (i.e. EU-wide and not just UK specific). We need to be out – in the sense that we are out, ahead; building an ecosystem in the UK that leads and shapes similar initiatives across Europe and beyond. And we need to ‘shake it all about’ – a lot of time
and energy will need to be spent in the next few years if UK Financial Services and IT industries are to maintain a leadership position.
And that - meine Damen und Herren - das ist die ganze Sache.