Open banking: The data sharing revolution set to save everyday Aussies time and money

Open banking is set to radically change traditional banking systems across the world, including in Australia. But what does this data-sharing revolution mean for you?

Open banking is set to revolutionise traditional banking systems across the world and has certainly been making waves down under. This new notion of consumer-centric banking has the potential to seriously change how you handle your personal finances so what better time than now to get a grasp of what it actually is, when it’s likely to be implemented and what open banking means for your future money management.

The current state of banking in Australia

Banking in Australia has certainly seen better days. There has been a growing level of distrust with some of our biggest banks that has been accelerated by headline after headline outlining various examples of misconduct over recent years. In fact, we’re currently in the midst of a Banking Royal Commission that is exploring the wrongdoings of our country’s biggest lenders.

The good news is that the Government is keen to change how banking works in Australia. This will include a massive change to credit reporting, as well as reforms to data sharing legislation within banking that will make it easier, quicker and simpler for everyday Australians to access the most cost-effective financial products on the market.

Comprehensive credit reporting, the first step

If you’ve kept abreast of the Mozo news coverage, you’ll know that comprehensive credit reporting (CCR) is set to change the way lenders assess your credit applications. Under the new legislation, lenders won’t just take into account your credit enquiries and defaults when you apply for a new financial product or line of credit, but will also be forced to take look at information like: 

  • The date you opened the account
  • The date you closed the account
  • Credit limit of the account
  • Type of credit
  • 24 months worth of repayment history

The idea is that, by taking into account a broader subset of data, a lender is now getting a more holistic, well-rounded idea of what you’re like as a borrower and therefore will able to offer you interest rates on credit that you genuinely deserve.

The move to a comprehensive credit reporting system is seen as the first big initial step towards an open banking system in Australia because it puts power back in the hands of consumers who have shown they’re responsible borrowers and the good news is that, it will become a reality in Australia very, very soon.

“The four major banks will be required to have 50 per cent of their credit data ready for reporting by 1 July 2018, increasing to 100 per cent a year later. This is a timetable the Government believes is entirely achievable,” Treasurer, Scott Morrison said when he announced the changes.

What is open banking?

If comprehensive credit reporting is the first step, open banking is the complete marathon, but it’s still all about data - your data, actually. We’re talking transaction records, account balances, credit card usage and repayment history. Right now, under the old school banking system, this data technically belongs to and is collected by banks and financial institutions and only they get to decide who sees it. But, all of that is about to change in Australia.

The concept

Open banking centres on the idea that you deserve to have complete access to the consumer data that is collected by banks and financial institutions. This is important because, with it, you’re better informed to make wiser financial decisions about the providers and products you choose to manage your money with. Essentially, you’ll be able to choose whether you want to share your data with other big banks, smaller lenders and other up-and-coming fintechs so that you can get the best possible deal when it comes to your personal finances.

The infrastructure

Open banking will take some legislative change, which is expected to occur at some point this year, but there is also some ground-breaking technology that needs to be built for the new system to get off the ground.

What an open banking system requires is for consumer data to be transferred from one bank to another (or a third party) instantly and in full, at your request. The technology required to do this is called an Application Programming Interface (API) and each bank will be responsible for building their own API. Once that’s done, these data-sharing mechanisms will be able to connect with one another and make up an open banking network that is capable of instantly sending and receiving consumer data.

Open banking as a concept

How did we get here - Australia’s open banking timeline

You might have only really heard of the term ‘open banking’ over the past six months or so, but it’s an idea that we’ve been curious about in Australia for a few years now. For a full rundown of how we got to this point, check out the timeline below.

  • December, 2014: “Hey, customer data is kind of important, we should share it." The Murray Inquiry (Financial System Inquiry) recognises the role data sharing has to play in creating new business, products and services that will improve customer experiences.
  • November, 2015: “Yep, customers definitely need access to their own data if they want to find the best deal.” The Harper Review into Competition Policy recommends that the Government find ways to improve individuals’ ability to access their own data so they can make better decisions when it comes to their money.
  • October, 2016: “Banks should be sharing data by July 2018.” A Review into the Big Four banks, known as the Coleman Report, strongly recommends that Aussie banks start to share customer data - even going as far as creating a timeline to get the ball rolling.
  • May, 2017: “We’ll call it the Comprehensive Right to Data.” Commissioned by the Government, the Productivity Commission’s Data Report, proposes a few reforms around how our economy uses data including a ‘Comprehensive Right to Data’, which will give consumers and small businesses access to their data.
  • November, 2017: “Okay, let’s do this thing!” After years of reporting and reviewing, the Government finally give the green light to introduce the Consumer Data Right across energy, telecommunications and of course, banking. Scott Farrell, a partner at multinational law firm, King & Wood Mallesons, will make a bunch of recommendations around how to get this thing going - open banking is on its way!
  • February, 2018: “This is what open banking should look like for us.” After three months of hard work, Scott Farrell delivers a 158 page report into open banking making a range of recommendations about the legislation, regulation, and security involved in open banking as well as calling on submissions from the players (banks, consumer bodies, fintechs) that are likely to be involved in the new banking scheme.

The benefits of an open banking system

With the big four banks soon forced to hand over consumer data, Australia is well on the way to adopting an open banking system in Australia, but what are the benefits you can expect as a consumer?

Personalised finance products

One of the biggest consumer benefits that will accompany the open banking movement is the personalisation of your finance products. A small (but ever-growing) group of lenders, like peer-to-peer lender RateSetter, have been early adopters of comprehensive credit reporting practices and already offer personalised interest rates and loans to their customers, but this will become an even more prolific practice once an open banking network is up-and-running. While CCR practices will certainly apply to home loan, personal loan or credit card applications in the near future - meaning you’re able to nab more competitive interest rates if you’ve been a good borrower in the past - open banking could even extend personalised financial products extend to things like your everyday bank or savings accounts. 

Easier to apply, switch and save

Switching between providers might save you a helluva lot of money, but the time and tedium surrounding the process often puts banking consumers off. Open banking APIs will soon streamline the application and switching process, however, so that you can instantly share your data, find out the rate or product on offer with another lender and potentially switch providers, all at the touch of a button and in a matter of mere minutes.

Increased competition between providers

In order to keep customers who are not just willing but able to easily access the best value financial products on the market, banks will need to consistently work to offer customers the best deals. This increased competition will likely lead to lower rates or more innovative products, which is a big win for the everyday Australian.

And it isn’t just the big banks that will be offering these deals. One of the other major benefits of an open banking system is a host of smaller, up-and-coming lenders and financial providers will now be able to compete and diversify the Australian banking scene. With access to consumer data, smaller lenders will have a greater capacity to assess borrowing risk and offer its products to more and more customers. Its just one of the reasons budding providers like neobank Xinja, are so excited about open banking in Australia. “At Xinja we are made for this,” they wrote in a recent blog post. “We are launching with APIs – partly so we can be completely transparent to the regulators, but largely so that our customers can have access to and control of their own data.”

Innovation

It won’t just be new banking providers who can benefit from an open banking system, either. There has been a host of speculation surrounding API-powered third parties that could help enhance consumer banking experiences in Australia, like budget tracking apps or banking aggregators. In fact we’re already seeing these fintechs access consumer data. Earlier this year, Pocketbook connected to Macquarie Bank’s APIs to provide its customers with real-time spending and tracking notifications. While this is a one-off relationship, when open banking becomes a reality down under, fintechs will likely launch, partner or build their own APIs so they can access your data, too. This means there could be a suite of new financial apps that could revolutionise your personal finance experience, making it easier to manage your money.

FAQs about open banking in Australia

When will open banking be available to me?

The Government will take into consideration Farrell’s report as well as the submissions from banks, organisations, fintechs and consumer bodies, first but whispers coming out of the banking industry suggest legislation will be presented to parliament in June 2018. After this, the report has suggested that the Big Four must have APIs built within 12 months of open banking being legislated, while other deposit-taking institutions and smaller lenders will be given a further 12 months to be ready to hand over data.

Do I have to share my financial data?

While the open banking system will make sharing consumer data really easy, you don’t necessarily have to share it with anyone.

Who will have access to my data?

To start with, your consumer data will live with the bank or financial institution that is collecting it. After that, it’ll be accessible by whomever you give permission to see it which could include another bank, competitor or budding fintech - the choice is yours.

What data is being shared, exactly?

The list of data that the Review into Open Banking has recommended is quite extensive and includes data from savings accounts, bank accounts, term deposits, cheque accounts, debit card accounts, transactions accounts, credit card accounts, mortgages, business finances, personal loans and overdrafts.

What if I have a negative credit history?

Credit reporting already exists in Australia which means a lender can already see your negative repayment history and open banking won’t change that. The good news is that comprehensive credit reporting will soon mean that a bank now has to consider your entire credit history, that’s all the good and all the bad, when approving your applications for new products.

Will my consumer data be safe?

The safeguards that will be in place in an open banking scheme are yet to be outlined explicitly. What we do know though, is that all parties handling the data will be subjected to the Australian Privacy Act and that a Data Standards Body will be set up to determine safeguards that will facilitate for the safe sharing of data which could include mechanisms like multi-factor authentication.

Where else is open banking used?

Australia isn’t the only country looking into open banking. In Europe, open banking has been legislated for and banks are currently building APIs, so it will soon be used there too.

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