How data portability is transforming the financial services industry

By giving banks access to enormous pools of information, data portability could drastically improve customer relations within the financial services industry

 
Data portability will increase competition in the financial services sector, but it is vital that client data remains protected
Data portability will increase competition in the financial services sector, but it is vital that client data remains protected 

We live in a world of data and regulations, so it is not surprising that the two are having a large impact on one other. It is equally unsurprising that the two have fundamentally changed – and will continue to change – the financial services landscape.

Imagine a day in the not-so-distant future: you are on the train on your way to work, and you check an app on your phone that shows your spending patterns aggregated from all of your bank accounts. The dashboard identifies that you are spending too much on entertainment and are falling short of your savings goal.

Fast-forward a couple of hours, and on your commute home you learn from a social media alert that another bank has a much higher interest rate on savings accounts than your current one. You therefore use your mobile phone to go online and transfer your details and money in a matter of minutes to take advantage of the better deal.

This is data portability at its best. But how will it impact the financial services sector, and how can we take advantage of this?

Competition in the banking industry is severely hindered by the difficulties consumers experience when trying to take advantage of competitors’ offers

The changing face of data portability
In the banking world, data portability is a concept that completely changes its appeal in accordance with which hat you are wearing. From a client perspective, it opens a brave new world of services that don’t yet exist, as well as the opportunity to seamlessly switch to a service provider with the most attractive offer.

For fintech companies – which are agile and innovative by definition, but are still operating in the shadow of large corporate financial services organisations – it offers a window of opportunity to gain access to an enormous pool of historic data which they can then apply specific algorithms to, giving insight into individual customers and services and ultimately enabling them to provide a more competitive service.

By contrast, for large financial services corporations, data portability is a can of worms that goes against everything the industry stands for: client data security before everything, Chinese walls, and complete isolation of data from the outside world.

Impact of regulation
These contradictions are the result of a host of ambiguities regarding what exactly data portability is, how it is supposed to be implemented, and the ultimate issue of what client data is and who owns it.

Such questions are rapidly moving from the philosophical realm into the real world, as new data protection legislation – the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – is due to come into force in May 2018. GDPR clearly defines client data as data that helps to directly or indirectly identify a client, and swings the debate of ownership in a client’s favour. GDPR also mentions data portability as an individual’s right, but falls short of indicating exactly what it is and how it should be implemented.

Improved access to data will stimulate competition in the banking sector. Reports commissioned by HM Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority have been unanimous in saying that competition in the banking industry is severely hindered by the difficulties consumers experience when trying to take advantage of competitors’ offers. Data portability offers a solution to this issue, giving consumers the choice over who has access to their data.

By embracing data portability early, firms become a preferred destination when clients start hopping from one bank to another

Innovation is crucial
Another question that has arisen is what big banks (and other organisations that sit on mountains of valuable client data) need to do to prevent such data from being snatched and used by competitors.

At Brickendon, our experience of working with a diverse range of clients over the years has shown us that innovation is the key to staying ahead of the curve. The situation is the same for the adoption of data portability: embrace it early, and become the preferred destination when clients start hopping from one bank to another.

Organisations should be innovative in the way they mine data and come up with new services to offer clients. They should become agile to the extent that they can quickly replicate and adopt appropriate innovations brought to the market by their competitors, and should review their data models, untangle data infrastructure and update governance policies to clearly separate client data from proprietary data owned by the bank.

The goal should be to make it as easy as possible for clients to choose who they bank with, but ensure they are not bound for life by that choice. This a very important aspect of the customer experience, and will allow new and former clients to join (or re-join) the bank and be integrated easily into their system.

Back to the future
In the mid-1990s, Bill Gates was quoted as saying: “Banking is necessary. Banks are not.” There may have been more truth to this comment than anticipated.

The role banks play in the future of banking remains ambiguous and, to some extent, in their own hands. What’s more, the complexity of the road ahead is in effect a call to arms before the data portability issue officially hits the banking market with a tremendous surge of disruptive power.

Going forward, banks will need to employ top talent in areas such as regulation, data science and agile transformation. It will ultimately be an exercise of working side-by-side with the client to produce a uniquely tailored approach in order for the bank to become a top performer in an exciting – but ruthless and ever-more competitive – industry.

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