The Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) today unveils the founding members of its ‘Open Finance Coalition’ who will collaborate to show the power of financial data for better SME and consumer outcomes.
Finextra sat down with CFIT’s CEO, Ezechi Britton MBE, to hear about the group’s fast mobilisation, packed roadmap, and lofty goals to secure the UK’s position as the globe’s fintech leader.
As recommended in the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech published in 2021, CFIT is mandated and supported by the Government, but led by the private sector to coordinate targeted fintech policies that aim to scale the sector. One of CFIT’s three key focus areas (as set out in the review) is that of ‘Inclusion and Recovery’ which see industry wide coalitions on key issues like financial inclusion, SME lending, Open Finance and Digital ID. These aim to bring together banks, Big Tech, data providers, fintechs and policymakers to solve the challenges of scaling solutions and creating economic benefits.
Britton explains that the coalition’s core focus is on establishing the control of open finance, and how doing so we can have “real demonstrable positive outcomes for consumers and SMEs both around understanding and awareness of their financial situations, particularly when compared to other cohorts around the country.”
He explains that CFIT is working with SMEs, aiming to ultimately give more access and control over their data, to unlock the £1.5 trillion that is held in SME bank accounts today. Consumers face a similar situation.
Given the vast breadth of areas and institutions that effective open finance necessitates, no single organisation currently has access to the breadth of firms necessary to progress the work that needs to be done. Therefore, the Centre needed to build a Coalition that represent a clear cross-section not only of financial services, but of all the associated verticals that draw-on or benefit from open finance. The initial organisations committing to the open finance coalition include:
The Association of British Insurers, Allen and Overy, Amazon Web Services, the City of London Corporation, Experian, EY, HSBC, IBM, Innovate Finance, iwoca, KPMG, Leeds City Council, Lloyds Banking Group, Mastercard, MBN Solutions, Monzo, Open Banking Limited, The Open Finance Association, Revolut, the Smart Data Foundry and Zopa Bank; with the support of the FCA.
“That’s the power of CFIT. We sit in an intersection between government and policy, regulation and industry,” Britton notes.
CFIT expects its coalitions to run anywhere from 6-12 months, but is targeting a six-month timeline for its initial Open Finance Coalition. Setting this tight deadline was very deliberate, says Britton, who is committed and confident about making tangible progress asap.
“If you look at what we've achieved, no one would have thought we would have been able to get this particular coalition of partners together and agree to participate in this activity in the timeframe that we have done. Normally you'd spend six to nine months setting up something like this, we've done it in two. That is the value of setting tight timeframes, otherwise, we'd be here in four years talking about the first coalition.
“The reality is, innovation moves fast, fintech moves faster, and we've got to move faster than that.”
“The key role that CFIT plays is really innovation through collaboration. By bringing everyone together, we’re able to create a level playing field that unblocks those barriers to scale and ensures that every financial innovation-focused company can grow, scale and do what it needs to do, to really put the UK at the forefront of global fintech. We want to see the UK as the number one destination for fintech startups and scale ups.”
Britton’s appointment as CEO was announced in February 2023, and since commencing in the role in April he and his team have been able to assemble CFIT’s initial coalition in mere months.
“If you look at the progress from when we announced to when we launched what we've achieved in that time, it's absolutely astonishing. We have spun up the organisation, built the core team, and we're recruiting at pace now.”
Britton says we can expect to hear about new senior hires soon.
“We've launched the brand, engaged with the ecosystem itself, started to bring in core partners, put the terms of reference in the governance structure around the core coalition in place. Importantly, we've decided on the fundamental theme of what that coalition is going to try and solve and we'll be kicking that off next week with our first set of meetings.”
“It’s all about action, not words. We've spoken enough. Everyone knows what the core problems are. And frankly, everyone knows what the solutions are, but there's never been anyone to actually lead on that. What we haven't really had in the UK is an organisation that can really bring everyone together and deliver on solving these issues, and start to lay out that roadmap for what future innovation and collaboration looks like in this space. This is why we chose open finance as our first coalition.”
He explains that progress has already been realised in open banking with the OBE becoming the OBL and the work coming out of JROC, “it's very clear that the direction of travel needs to go from open banking to open finance to open data and we're very much involved in that.”
“Fundamentally, this is about mobilising the ecosystem. It’s about creating the best outcomes for consumers and SMEs. We still want organisations to reach out to us and engage with us.
If any firm or institution was unable to participate in this first coalition, Britton encourages them to get involved for upcoming coalitions instead. “Engage with us, get to know us, and let’s find a time and place where you can get around the table.”
In a press release on the announcement, Andrew Griffith, MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury said: "The UK pioneered the adoption of Open Banking, which today is used by over 7 million consumers and businesses. Our vision is to build on this success, to forge a dynamic and inclusive financial data sharing market that is fit for the future. I am thrilled that CFIT will be doing just that, as it launches its initial Open Finance coalition. This first coalition unites industry leaders and will harness the transformative potential of financial data to deliver better outcomes for consumers and SMEs in the UK."
Jessica Rusu, executive director of Data, Technology, & Innovation, and Sheldon Mills, executive director, Consumers and Competition of the FCA, also stated: “Supporting competition and innovation to benefit consumers and businesses is a priority for the FCA. Open Banking and Open Finance have the potential to bring transformative benefits to UK financial services and will help the UK become more competitive and innovative. As such, we are delighted to support CFIT’s first coalition. We will assist the coalition through the sharing of our regulatory knowledge and expertise and our ongoing open banking work that is being delivered through the Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee.”