The UK’s open banking body says the technology can help citizens during lockdown, when access to high street banks is limited. (Picture courtesy of Anna Shvets via Pexels).

The body leading the development of ‘open banking’ in the UK has this week launched an app store in a bid to help buyers navigate what it describes as a “daunting” market.

The Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) – which was set up by the UK government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to deliver open banking – says it has launched the ‘Open Banking App Store’ to help consumers and businesses access suitable financial products “that will help them weather the COVID-19 crisis”. The launch date has been brought forward, it says, because open banking can make life easier in lockdown – automating some transactions, for example, and thus cutting the daily queues outside high street banks.

Open banking technologies allow consumers and small businesses to connect bank accounts with authorised third parties. This can “help them better manage their finances”, says the OBIE, and its new app store is designed to help them “find the right open banking-enabled financial products”.

The app store currently has 69 apps listed, divided into 31 ‘Consumer’ apps, 29 ‘Business’ apps and nine ‘Technical Services’ apps. Categories beneath these three main tabs include financial safeguarding, personal finance tools, mortgages, accountancy and tax, e-commerce payments and identity verification. OBIE aims to add further products weekly.

An appermarket

Announcing the Open Banking App Store, OBIE’s ecosystem development director, David Beardmore – who joined OBIE earlier this year from the Open Data Institute – said: “Consumers and SMEs need more clarity than ever on how to manage their finances through this difficult time. With the number of banks and fintechs offering open banking-enabled products growing so rapidly, deciphering the advantages of each product can seem daunting. With the launch of the Open Banking App Store, we are enabling individuals and businesses to find the financial products that are best suited to their situation by helping them narrow down their options and see what’s out there. Better knowledge and greater awareness equate to more power in the hands of customers.”

OBIE says that it has begun to see user-search behaviour “maturing” in recent months, with terms such as “best open banking apps” growing in popularity. This, it says, suggests that there will be demand for a tool that allows people and businesses to compare offerings.

OBIE’s trustee, Imran Gulamhuseinwala, outlined his organisation’s priorities for 2020 at an event on 19 May, saying: “We are still in the very, very early stages of open banking. Pillar one is implementation. Pillar two is the ecosystem of authorised third parties that can build propositions on top of open banking. Pillar three is customer adoption.”

Gulamhuseinwala, speaking less than a week after the publication of an ‘approved roadmap’ for the final stages of open banking implementation, said: “In terms of implementation, I’d say that we’re 90% through.” The number of people using open banking technology in the UK surpassed one million at the turn of the year, with Gulamhuseinwala saying at the time that 2020 “will be the year when adoption of open banking financial services really takes off”.

OBIE was set up by the CMA four years ago. It is funded by the UK’s nine largest banks and building societies – Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Barclays, Danske, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, RBS Group and Santander – and its role includes designing the specifications for the Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) used to provide open banking.

A version of this article first appeared on our sister publication Global Government Forum

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