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UK govt tells banks to hand over account data to customers

19 November 2012  |  9883 views  |  9 London - Big Ben

The UK government has warned banks that it is prepared to legislate to force them to hand over current account and credit card data to customers who request it.

The threat relates to the midata project, which is designed to give Brits more access to, and control over, the data that companies hold on them so that they can get greater insight into their own spending habits and improve buying decisions.

Lloyds Banking Group, MasterCard and Visa are among the big firms in the finance, energy and telecoms sectors to voluntarily back the project, promising to give customers who ask for it their data in an electronic machine-readable standard format.

However, with many companies yet to commit, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has warned that, following a consultation over the summer, it is now preparing to legislate to force the handover of data in three 'core' sectors: current accounts and credit cards, the mobile phone and energy.

Jo Swinson, employment and consumer affairs minister, says: "'midata' is all about putting power into the hands of consumers. Many businesses reap huge commercial benefits from the information they gather from consumers' daily spending patterns. Why shouldn't consumers also benefit from this by having access to their own data to enable them to make better choices?"

The government argues that midata could help people manage money in an easier and more time efficient way, with banks developing services and applications which offer a full picture of accounts, bringing data from different providers together into one place.

Alison Brittain, group director, retail, Lloyds, says: "Lloyds Banking Group welcomes the 'midata' initiative as a means of helping consumers take greater control of their finances. We have for some time provided our customers with the ability to download current account and credit card information as we know how important this is in helping customers make informed decisions."

In addition to the money management aspect of the project, midata aims to help people accomplish tasks like seeing which energy and mobile tariff suit them best; comparing the prices and seeing the health benefits of their food across stores; and keeping up to date with the latest films, music or shows tailored to their previous choices and personal tastes.

Comments: (9)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 19 November, 2012, 13:58

For banks that don't already do this, it should be a simple add-on to online banking, as it's just presenting the same data in another format (classic XSLT use case, if you've gone that route). My gut feeling though, is that, although legislation can force availability of the data, driving take-up will quite another matter. A case of, "We built it and nobody came".

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 20 November, 2012, 10:05

Another step towards 'customer managed relationships', turning CRM inside out by putting the power to hold and share data in the customers hands. I look forward to a world where I can choose to share my data with organisations who want to do business with me - offer me a current account, a credit card or an insurance quote - instead of spending hours filling out paper, online or over-the-phone forms.

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Masha Cilliers
Masha Cilliers - iBe TSE - London | 20 November, 2012, 10:20

I think it will be a welcome move if the consumers can get and use their own data in order to receive relevant offers from the suppliers on an 'opt in', or 'asked for' basis.  Now the consumer just gets a lot of marketing noise not often related to his real needs.  I imagine that would drive more competition in financial services, utilities and telco sectors which often price their services in such confusing ways that  consumers dont really understand if they are on the right package, fees etc.  Looking forward to hearing more about the actual implementation of it!

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 20 November, 2012, 16:30

Great direction!

What could be most fundamental here is an understanding of how consumers would act differently if presented with "account data" in various forms. The solution is not to simply give people access to data from one or more of their various accounts, but rather to give them information that is always-on, real-time, transparent, customer controlled and integrated. Furthermore, such information must not be only about accounts, but also about how their identity data is used to potentially determine approval of new applications, interest rates, fraud analysis and more. The process of transforming decades-old payment and financial services systems to enable such capabilities is what we call the Customer-Driven Architecture. 

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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 21 November, 2012, 10:02

Not sure what I'm missing here but don't customers already have access to all their data periodically via monthly statements and on-demand via portals? If "electronic machine-readable standard format" is the operating term here, I've been able to download statements in industry-standard formats (e.g. CSV, XLS, QIF, OFX) from all my banks for several years now. I do agree that the same is not always the case with TELCOs and UTILITIES. And given that this article mentions, "Lloyds Banking Group, MasterCard and Visa are among the big firms in the finance, energy and telecoms sectors", the outlook doesn't seem bright there: Quite funny that three financial services companies have to provide cover to the lack of any telecom or energy company!

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 21 November, 2012, 16:45

There are some utopian views above, based on what commenters would like this to be, rather than what it is. miData wants to compel companies to make available transaction data to consumers. However, as James Van Dyke points out, it's not transaction data that delivers on miData's promise, but the behind-the-scenes decisions on pricing. In other words, being compelled to tell customers, "we charge you a high rate of interest because we think you are a poor risk". I think there'll be more than a few tears on the road to this particular Utopia.

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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 21 November, 2012, 18:25

@FinextraM: TY for putting things in perspective and providing the clarity that eluded me so far. Let alone interest rate, when a loan is rejected, bankers will simply tell applicants, "system decision". If they can't own up their decisions, they should at least be forced by legislation to share the underlying data with customers. Having said that, it's not going to be easy to draw a clear line between what must be shared and what can be held back as trade secret. We certainly don't want IT-savvy customers demanding to see the source code of the system that denied their loan application!

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 21 November, 2012, 18:58

I'd like to this observation: we should be skeptical of the inevitable assumption that financial sector providers will be placed at financial hardship through a government requirement that they provide data to end-users. Here's why: the release of data to end-users often creates new business opportunties for providers of managed services, because data recipients often find new transaction information to be of limited benefit in raw and unevolved form. Individuals have more 'feeds and speeds' of raw financial data than ever before, yet I believe that this doesn't neccesarily place individuals at a superior financial management position than in the past. Dashboard-like solutions that balance notification, integration and  easy-to-manage control capabilties will be increasingly required, and this creates new product capabilties for those who provide or enable financial services capabilities. Certainly this should translate to differentiation or even direct revenue through acquisition, fees, reduced costs through channel optimization (especially through mobile and social) as well as loyalty. 

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 28 November, 2012, 16:18

It would be useful to consumers if there were a standard machine readable format for describing FS products. Making a full set of these descriptors available via an API (even an RSS feed!) would make the data much more open to comparison engines.

As a simple use-case example, let's say your PFM application (Quicken or whatever) subscribes to a portal that aggregates these feeds from various banks. On opening your PFM, it would prompt you to move money from a low-rate account to a new, higher rate account that's just come on the market.

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