What the U.S. Can Learn From Open Banking Abroad


This is a guest post written by Shannon Flynn, managing editor at ReHack.com.

Across the world, open banking is creating opportunities for banks, fintech platforms, and individuals like never before. Open banking allows third-party sources to use a financial institution’s existing platform or resources to provide their own services. With consumer permission, open banking allows these outside sources to grow the industry and give power to the people.

However, some countries inevitably use open banking more than others. Currently, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia are two examples to follow. While the United States has made significant progress, it has a lot to learn from the countries that are leading this form of finance. That way, more opportunities open up for enterprises and consumers alike.

Where the U.S. stands

The U.S. is progressive in some ways with open banking. In others, it needs work. Notably, platforms like Venmo and PayPal expand on what’s possible for users. They allow you to make payments or transfer funds in the blink of an eye. However, compared to other countries, the States fall flat.

Big tech is currently a hot political topic due to the potential mishandling of user data. Though conversations like these are not uncommon elsewhere in the world, the U.S. needs to nail down some federal regulations. As of now, the U.S. still doesn’t have a federal-level law on data compliance. It’s up to each state to enforce its own regulations.

Brick-and-mortar locations may have an easier time following individual state guidelines, but the nature of open banking is inherently digital. These fintech services span across state borders, which makes compliance trickier without federal guidance.

For the country to proceed, the first step will be getting a universal law in place that shows banks and tech companies exactly how they must operate when it comes to compliance.

Engagement must increase

Open banking should welcome disruption. A country with a few centralized banks is one that does not allow for much disruption. Instead, only the top banks and tech companies have room to expand and create, leaving startups and smaller companies in the dust.

The U.S. has big tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft that each delve into new tech. For instance, Apple Pay and Google Pay let you buy on smartphones instantly.

The U.K. has an ideal open banking model that disrupts this lack of inclusivity. In 2018, the nation introduced the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2). This initiative put an emphasis on increasing competition and creativity in the financial field. Ultimately, this directive wanted to create a more equal landscape between banks and fintech companies.

Since its introduction, 300 fintech brands have joined the new finance-oriented environment in the U.K. In the States, new brands pop up all the time. However, whether or not they stick and make an impact is a different story. The competitive market must change in the U.S. so more open banking innovation emerges.

Transparency is essential

People want to know what goes on with their data. They want to know who’s using it and for what — which inherently includes when third-party platforms are part of the equation. In a survey, almost 40% of respondents would reconsider their selected features if it meant a third party required access. This mistrust is a product of poor transparency throughout the industry.

Saudi Arabia recently expanded on its plans to make open banking more accessible for fintech companies. Through this process, transparency becomes a key factor. The Saudia Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), the central bank, will create a new initiative that focuses on bringing consumers into the loop.

With the increased use of technology for banking, investing, and mobile payments, more and more people rely on technology daily. SAMA understands this need to combine financial and digital literacy, doing so through open banking. With consumer permission, third parties can use data to connect the financial institution with personal finance services.

The U.S. must use the same tactics of bringing transparency and functionality together through open banking. That way, digital literacy in the U.S. incorporates access to quick purchases, investments, and transfers alongside a better understanding of how companies use data.

Changing the U.S.

Apps like Venmo and PayPal are a good start to open banking. You’ll find that newer fintech platforms, like Robinhood, Acorns, and MoneyLion are popular resources alongside the countless startups launching daily. While nourishing open banking features and fintechs is beneficial, the underlying theme is the most critical — more regulation is the key to widespread adoption. With it, the U.S. can then fully see the benefits of this form of finance.

Shannon Flynn is a technology and culture writer with two plus years of experience writing about consumer trends and tech news.