Barry O’Donohoe, Co-Founder and COO
It appears that progress on Open Data in the UK is a bit like waiting for a bus. Nothing much appears for ages then suddenly three come at once.
The long-awaited report from JROC landed on the same day as the Smart Data Council was announced and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons. Not to mention it also being the first day of IFGS!
It suddenly feels like there’s cause to be optimistic about the UK’s developments in Open Data, as should be the case given this is where it all started. We finally have some answers to the questions on what next for Open Banking and a conduit for exploring how to make full use of those capabilities in other sectors.
So, what to make of JROC’s conclusions.
Firstly, it’s great to have the report and there’s clearly been a lot of work put into writing it and developing a detailed action plan and timetable. The direction of travel outlined is very encouraging and what we’d hoped to see. They’ve considered the SWG and Trustee End of Implementation Roadmap summary reports and the wider market developments taking place. It’s also useful to understand how the Data Protection and Digital Identity Bill is intended to fit into the regulatory framework and create the powers for smart data schemes.
The vision and three priorities based around developing the ecosystem, unlocking the potential of Open Banking payments, and adopting a model that is scalable for future data sharing propositions are spot on and where the focus needs to be.
The report has certainly received a mixed reception. While many have welcomed it, there are plenty of others who have expressed frustration with the slow speed at which progress is being made and that the report doesn’t deliver much new content. The big question is therefore whether the thinking outlined in it has gone far enough and is the timetable for the actions sufficiently ambitious?
When we think about where the UK currently is compared to other countries such as Brazil, we can see a clear difference in the speed at which developments have taken place. The UK has quite rightly earned the right to proudly pat itself on the back for being the first to take the step into Open Banking, but in the meantime Brazil has quietly and confidently leapfrogged us and just got on with it. Brazil quickly moved from Open Banking to Open Finance, and according to Chicago Advisory Partners who also play an integral role in the ecosystem’s operation, Open Finance Brasil has now become the largest data sharing and financial service ecosystem in the world based on the sheer volume of institutions and number of transactions. For example, the UK now is hitting 1.2 billion API calls a month compared to Brazil’s two billion. And whilst the UK ecosystem is home to about 350 live participants, Brazil has 900. Plus, Brazil recognised early on the potential of the capabilities for other sectors and implemented Open Insurance.
The debates over governance structures and funding models are not new – not to Open Banking and not to the financial services industry. For instance, the payments sector has undertaken reviews and cost benefit analyses galore on these very questions over the last couple of decades. The report would have been truly progressive if the Committee had spent the time working with the owners of these actions getting the work done rather than simply agreeing what to do. These are the answers that we all need to really move the debate on from where it’s been stuck for the last 18 months.
In terms of the Roadmap, this provides a collection of valuable actions to improve current processes and embrace future opportunities. The timetable stretches out longer than ideal, particularly given how long we have already been talking about what’s needed, and we would encourage earlier delivery or implementation where possible.
In many cases, the capabilities to deliver what’s required already exist. From Raidiam’s perspective, we have the experience, standards expertise, and technology to provide the UK with what it needs to operate the most robust and secure ecosystem, and do it cost effectively. We have delivered ever more sophisticated and responsive ecosystems elsewhere in the world with top class conformance monitoring since our origins of designing the UK’s Trust Framework. The capabilities are ready to be re-imported back into the UK and would immediately address many of the identified technical and interoperability issues.
This sudden flurry of progress is hugely welcomed and it’s in our collective good to do what we can to keep that wave of optimism riding high. The motivation amongst a broad range of stakeholders to get cracking and see the results is there so let’s take advantage of that and not waste more time. We stand ready to help get the UK back on track in its rightful place as a global leader in Open Banking and beyond and ensure the benefits are felt downstream by consumers and businesses as soon as possible.