Adoption of the open banking initiative will further enhance innovation in the banking system, writes Hamid Ayodeji
Innovations in the banking system over the years has been explosive. These have seen financial institutions introduce solutions to make banking seamless and efficient.
Open banking is one of the initiatives introduced in the banking system in recent time.
This initiative addresses the challenges confronting many bank customers especially those with multiple bank accounts.
Such customers have to visit the branches of each bank, or use their different mobile apps before they can access or use their money in any of the different bank accounts.
But open banking addresses this challenge by creating an arrangement that gives the customer the opportunity to share his financial details in different financial institutions with approved third parties, hence making it possible to access and utilise those details via third party apps.
Under open banking, banks open up their application programming interfaces (APIs), to allow third parties to access financial information needed to develop new apps and services.
This provides account holders greater financial transparency options. APIs are a set of codes and protocols that decide how different software components should interact. They essentially allow different applications to communicate with one another.
According to PwC Nigeria, “Open banking means that no matter how many accounts and financial products a customer has, he/she can view and manage them from a centralised location. Open banking lets customers have increased control over their data while supporting the innovation everyone yearns to see more of.”
As a result, the Committee of E-Business Heads, (CeBIH), identified open banking as a critical factor in its quest to boost electronic payment growth through collaboration and innovation.
“As industry practitioners, we have identified digital partnerships and open architecture as a major recipe for accelerating growth in payments,” CeBIH Chairman, Stanley Jacob said at the annual retreat of the group held in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
CeBIH comprises the upper echelon of electronic business industry practitioners in all banks, with the objective of promoting e-banking services in line with global best practices, whilst driving adoption through right policies, standards, technologies and public awareness.
According to Jacob, CeBIH believes that with open banking, the industry would, “merge to surge,” saying there would be free flow of data following best practices and the cost-to-serve would be considerably lowered for the customer.
“We are working closely with the Trustees of Open Banking Nigeria, we are also advocating that the regulators continue to create an enabling environment for this to thrive, the overall objective is to create more value around the payment lifestyle of the customer and build an ecosystem driven by a healthy co-opetition,” he added.
In line with this mission to drive this initiative in Nigeria, the CeBIH annual retreat, with the theme, “Payment 2020plus: The Next Frontiers of Payments,’ featured a session on open Banking which discussed its prospects and requirements in Nigeria as well as benefits for customers and service providers in the electronic payment ecosystem.
Open Banking started in United Kingdom in 2016 when the United Kingdom Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) directed the nine biggest UK banks to allow qualified third-party providers access to customer-permitted data. The directive came into effect on January 13, 2018, with implementation based on the use of standards and systems created by Open Banking Limited, a non-profit created especially for the task. Presently there are 202 regulated providers who are enrolled in Open Banking in the UK. Many of them provide financial apps that help manage finances and also consumer credit firms who use Open Banking to access account information for affordability checks and verification.
Following the example of the UK, about 47 countries have also launched Open Banking initiatives either through collaborative efforts or through legislation. These include Nigeria, where Open Banking Nigeria, a not-for-profit group was formed to drive the development and adoption of Open Banking standards in the country.
Driving the global trends towards open banking is the way it empowers bank customers to get better deals and the accompanied opportunities for collaboration and innovation among industry players.
Speaking about this at the CeBIH retreat, the Chief Digital Officer, Sterling Bank, Olayinka Oni, said, “Open banking is a collaborative way in which you have to share your data. The sharing of the data is at the discretion of the customer not necessarily anybody else.
“So the customer is the one saying I want to share my data with this particular person and I am able to enjoy whatever service that person is offering.
“So whether I bank with Bank A or Bank C, I want a situation where I am able to then say, all of my information that sits in these several banks, present it to me and even match that data into a single point. The customer is really in control and it is basically ensuring that the customers can to control their destiny”,
“Open banking will drive new iteration of services as well as enable all kind of faster payment and easy payments. Customers will then be able to provide their accounts data and make it fluid and available as required. It means I can share my personal data and basically use it to drive authentication services.”
Speaking further, he said, with Open Banking customers will be able to communicate with the banks through Google, Alexa and other internet based cognitive services.
Open Banking, according to Ope Adeoye, a Trustee of Open Technology, will facilitate the partnership needed to drive innovation in the e-payment space, especially partnership between Fintechs and banks
He explained: “In trying to do partnership with banks, it is so hard to execute a partnership with Bank A and think you can do the same with Bank B equally easily. You probably have to go through a painful process bank to bank. By the time you do that with 23 banks, it will probably take you four to five years to get your product or initiative to the market.
“The thinking then is that if such common standards existed, then innovation can move faster, and this pain is not just on the Fintech side, even the banks as well.
“As a bank you will like to partner with a vendor, and when you think of the fear of backing it internally, IT, operations, those things just slow you down as a bank.
“So my thinking is that if we have Open Banking in Nigeria as well, a lot of the innovations that we thought were not possible within the time that you have, you can now free your mind as an organisation to explore those things.”
Speaking on its benefits, Oni said, “The customer’s needs are diverse and often times as banks we cannot create all of these solutions as it were but though open banking I can definitely serve my customers a lot more.
“For example in UK where every bank is expected to sign on to open banking, no matter what the need of the customer demand will come from, there would be somebody solving that problem in the market and because maybe I am Barclays Bank, and I have joined open banking, then my customers will be a lot more be potentially satisfied.
“With open banking, banks would then be able to then explore market opportunities, which we may not have potentially exploited. This can truly help us extend ecosystem players potentially. We would actually increase the pie.
“Right now we are all fishing within this old over-banked customers but I think if we really use this to drive our financial inclusion agenda, what will happen is that we would increase the pie as it were, and obviously all of us will be bigger. Ultimately it will drive revenue stream”
Achieving Open Banking in Nigeria
A major barrier to achieving open banking in Nigeria is misconception about its meaning, especially among banks.
Speaking on how Open Banking Nigeria (OBN) is addressing this challenge, Ope Adeoye, said: “While there is a misconception that open banking equals PSD 2, that it equals force everyone to open up and partner with anyone who come knocking down the door, we think we can self organise, define some standards, define some kind of trust based rule that says every bank is independent, every bank is just connecting to a set of standards and every bank can chose who they partner with, the rule under which they partner with those people, the commercial terms under which they partner with those people, and define that as a basis for open banking in Nigeria.
“So that whenever the regulation comes, it will be hard for such regulation to then say, ‘by force open banking should be like this.”
Also speaking in this regard, Oni said: “We have to do a lot of engagement. The OBN has been doing a lot of advocacy, and a lot of that, with partnerships with several other quarters including deposit money banks, will then only form the efficiency around some of these things.”