Months of news around investment in smart data provisions from various government agencies, and an increasingly vocal push from the fintech sector to accelerate smart data sharing has resulted in a highly-anticipated initiative called the Smart Data Discovery Challenge.
A government-led coalition, which includes The Department for Business and Trade, Challenge Works, the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Smart Data Foundry, are on the lookout to find the boldest, most innovative ideas using Smart Data, within the UK.
The Smart Data Discovery Challenge will identify the leaders of the Smart Data space. The open call wants people and partnerships to share their blue sky-thinking for cross-sector smart data ideas that could benefit individuals, small businesses and wider society.
But first, before we get into the details, let’s take a step back.
What is Smart Data and what does that look like in practice?
Smart Data, a space which focuses on the quality and speed of the data being collected, enables individual consumers and small businesses to access and share their data simply and securely with authorised third parties. Although Smart Data is not limited to the banking sector, throughout this blog we will be looking at one excellent example of smart data in action – open banking – and how far we have come over the past five years.
Open banking – arguably the catalyst for the UK fintech success story – launched in January 2018. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) mandated that nine UK banks (dubbed the CMA9) had to enable third party providers access to banking data so that individuals and businesses can use that data for their own benefit.
A lot has changed within the finance sector since 2018, both technologically and economically. This in turn has changed the financial trajectory of the average UK consumer and business, all to varying degrees of success.
The many seasons the finance industry has experienced within a relatively short amount of time has forced the sector, and the public, to admit that five years ago there really were very few financial options for customers, that was unless you fit into a very particular set of criteria dictated by the banks. All in all, only a small proportion of the UK were getting their financial needs fully serviced.
It should come as no surprise that open banking has deeply influenced these conversations and the creation of essential services. Once you realise how underserved a whole market of potential customers are, you can never unsee it; open banking has had a huge hand in bringing these topics to light and 7.48 million people are now making the most out of Open Banking services.
Open Banking out in the world: Currensea and InvestEngine
It’s common knowledge that customers were not always satisfied with traditional banking services.
People want services that will fit into their lifestyle seamlessly, no matter the task.
Whether that was a global travel card, an opportunity to invest, or the ability to categorise spending to manage budgets, open banking highlighted the need for access to their services, and allowed fintechs to build products that work off the back of essential banking data that was once closed off to anyone but the bank.
Two recent examples that we have seen solving a specific need through open banking; first, the demand for a banking product to remove the fees people face when using their bank card abroad – Currensea. Voted the UK’s best-rated travel debit card, it enables its users to ‘make their bank work that bit harder’. While people can still spend directly from their bank account, by using the Currensea card on top of their bank customers save at least 85% on every oversea’s transaction.
Secondly, five to ten years ago, it was clear that a very, very small proportion of the UK population had access to investment opportunities. A lack of education around the potential good that derives from investing, and the complex language associated with explaining the risks were off-putting and made it a challenge to commit to.
InvestEngine, an exchange-traded funds (ETF) investment platform is democratising the once exclusive service through open banking. It allows users to set up a Savings Plan – essentially a regular payment into a stocks and shares ISA with the ability to increase or decrease that payment. It does this through Variable Recurring Payments – open banking’s new and improved version of direct debits – which make investing that much more accessible.
How can open data benefit other sectors?
Currensea and InvestEngine are just two examples of how open data is making a difference in people’s lives, showcasing just how important it is to be championing businesses utilising it. But the opportunities for better use of data go far beyond banking and there is huge potential in other sectors.
The Smart Data Discovery Challenge is particularly keen to encourage ideas that cut across sectors, including:
The challenge will also consider other potential data that might be unlocked from other sectors – such as telecoms.
It will foster individual innovators and partnerships to develop their initial ideas into feasible concepts with potential to move into development. The most exciting contributions will be supported with mentorship and guidance and the best will be rewarded with cash prizes.
The improvement of a customer’s financial life is at the heart of these collective initiatives, regulations and technologies. It’s vital for people outside of the fintech and financial services industry to understand the benefits and experience what offshoots of Smart Data, such as open banking, can really do in practice. Not only will this lead to future innovation within the finance sector, it will create better financial opportunities for businesses and individuals.
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