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Financial inclusion and Open Banking - epic fail?

Time to read: 5 minutes to gain a different perspective.

We are the lucky ones …

: : The school holidays are over…disappointment and relief are felt in equal measure. It’s time to reassess finances and establish the damage caused by constant trips to the local supermarket, day excursions to theme parks and, of course, the school uniform bulk buy. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, my wife and I examine the family spreadsheet, trying to re-balance our finances in anticipation of upcoming events such as birthdays and Christmas.

We are lucky – we have the ability to Bank, we have access to affordable and competitive financial products and services that allow us to manage our finances.

Who cares for the unbanked?

: : This is not the case for all of our society – below are some disheartening statistics from the Financial Inclusion Commission:

  • 1.5 million adults remain unbanked in the UK today
  • There are 13 million people in the UK who do not have enough savings to support themselves for one month if they experience a 25% cut in income
  • The UK saves less than almost any other country in the EU
  • The payday lending market has grown from £330 million in 2006 to over £2bn today
  • The pawnbroking market has grown from £296 million in 2007 to £821 million in 2012

According to a recent Nationwide Building Society article, one in four UK households, or 12.7 million people, are financially squeezed. The statistics do not make for great reading, particularly given the context of record UK employment figures and the UK's global economic G7 status.

Trust and scepticism

: : Those that follow my posts / blogs on LinkedIn and Finextra may have noted that I recently shared a World Economic Forum article regarding the banking system’s attempt to reduce poverty (World Economic Forum - Banking and Poverty). In response to the article, some readers expressed marked scepticism about the motivations of the article.

This raised a few questions:

  • A decade on from the global financial crisis, to what extent has trust been re-established between civil society and financial institutions?
  • To what extent do financial institutions, Regulators, professional services and technology provider strategies actually consider and appropriately reflect financial inclusion? and
  • To what extent have attempts by the above to expand financial inclusion – through products and services, solution offerings, corporate initiatives and programs; recognised, understood and appreciated?

Is Open Banking the answer, ... or an 'epic fail' in the making?

: : During a recent round-table event, a contributor described in colourful terms how Open Banking and the EU’s second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is similar to the story of Dick Whittington. The story goes that Dick was a poverty-stricken child who made his fortune in London and subsequently become the Lord Mayor of London; I guess the intent was to state that Open Banking and PSD2 can support financial mobility, for all.

I fully welcome Open Banking and Regulatory initiatives such as the Financial Services Authority’s Project Innovate that seeks to support disruptive business models, including those with a financial inclusion agenda.

However, and notwithstanding the previous, there is a ground swell of opinion that is beginning to question such initiatives. Some commentators have raised significant concerns over the complexity of the Open Banking set-up process - i.e. customers find the process difficult and as a result there are high dropout rates. Others are more candid - Open Banking in its current for will not change the oligopoly of the Competition and Market Authority 9 (nine)*. Questions, questions and more questions ...

  • Will Open Banking deliver the sought innovation and competition outcomes?
  • Specifically, will Open Banking deliver anything for the financially excluded?
  • Are Fintechs' and Banking market places (in its various forms) doing enough, and what incentives do they have to address financial inclusion?
  • What impact will digitalisation and advancements in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (Machine learning—Ethics, rights and conduct) have on financial inclusion, fairness of decision making, and recourse? and
  • In the event that Open Banking, PDS2, FinTech and innovative business models fail to suitably seek to address financial inclusion concerms – how wide will be gap actually become?

Opportunity and choices

Many of us have competitive and accessible financial product and services choices ..., many do not.

We have a wonderful opportunity via - Open Banking, PSD2, innovation, Regulation, technology and through corporate strategy to design and offer affordable / tailored financial products and services that will provide the financially excluded with creditable banking and insurance options. The question is:

Do we wish to spurn this opportunity and preside over an epic fail, or build a sustainable, inclusive and trustworthy financial ecosystem / marketplace that addresses financial inclusion matters?

About Ambrish: - Digital Strategy & Transformation // FinTech // Banking Marketplace // Thought leader

Ambrish is an accomplished, well-rounded financial services director with a 20-year career spent shaping and delivering business outcomes. Executive-board-level advisor at the intersection of business, technology and digital transformation. Please feel free to connect with me. https://www.linkedin.com/in/fsdirector/

 Owner of two Finextra community groups

Footnote - CMA9: *AIB Group (UK) plc trading as First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland (UK) plc, Barclays Bank plc, HSBC Group, Lloyds Banking Group plc, Nationwide Building Society, Northern Bank Limited, trading as Danske Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, Santander UK plc (in Great Britain and Northern Ireland). 

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