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What Is Open Banking In The UK?

I am profiling banks in the UK as part of an effort move forward my API Stack work, and populate the Streamdata.io API Gallery. One significant advantage that banks in the UK have over other countries in the EU, and even in the US, is the help of Open Banking. To help profile the organization, I’ll just borrow from their website to define who they are and what they do.

The Open Banking Implementation Entity was created by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority to create software standards and industry guidelines that drive competition and innovation in UK retail banking.

In 2016, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a report on the UK’s retail banking market which stated that older, larger banks do not have to compete hard enough for customers’ business, and smaller and newer banks were finding it difficult to grow and access the UK banking market. To solve this problem, they proposed a number of remedies including Open Banking, which defines API standards that are intended to help level that playing field.

The role of Open Banking is to:

  • Design the specifications for the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that banks and building societies use to securely provide Open Banking
  • Support regulated third party providers and banks and building societies to use the Open Banking standards
  • Create security and messaging standards
  • Manage the Open Banking Directory which allows regulated participants like banks, building societies and third party providers to enroll in Open Banking
  • Produce guidelines for participants in the Open Banking ecosystem
  • Set out the process for managing disputes and complaints

This approach to standardizing API definitions is the type of leadership that is needed to move API conversation forward in ALL industries. I know in the US, many enjoy viewing regulations as always bad, but this type of organizational designation can go a long way towards moving an industry forward in a concerted fashion. Doing the hard work to establish a common API definition, and play a central role in helping ensure each actor within an industry is implementing the definition as expected.

I’d like to see more organizations emerge that reflect Open Banking’s mission, in a variety of industries. Many companies do not have the time, expertise, or desire to do the homework and understand what needs to occur on the API front. Speaking from experience, there is’t a lot of vendor-free funding to do this kind of work, and it is something that will require public sector investment. In my opinion, this doesn’t always have to be government led, but there should be industry neutral funding available to move forward the conversation in a way that benefits everyone involved, without a focus on any single product or service.