Earlier today, President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order that included a litany of policy objectives that are ostensibly designed to improve competition. While some aspects may fall short, one area that may please Open Banking (or Open Finance) advocates is the inclusion of easier bank switching for consumers.
The Executive Order fact sheet states:
“Excessive consolidation raises costs for consumers, restricts credit for small businesses, and harms low-income communities. Branch closures can reduce the amount of small business lending by about 10% and leads to higher interest rates. Even where a customer has multiple options, it is hard to switch banks partly because customers cannot easily take their financial transaction history data to a new bank. That increases the cost of the new bank extending you credit.”
The order “Encourages the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to issue rules allowing customers to download their banking data and take it with them. ”
One of the key aspects of Open Banking is that consumers own their data and NOT the financial services firms. This means the data is only accessible to firms that are approved by the individual. Today in the US, banks and other firms may sell that information to other institutions.
Siamac Rezaiezadeh, Director of Product Marketing at GoCardless, lauded the move by the White House to potentially encourage open banking. GoCardless is a global payments firm that seeks to remove the friction in the transfer process for businesses.
“This is the first step along the path to a truly competitive, open banking ecosystem in the US. The government has now recognized that customer banking data is precisely that — the property of the customer. Before, a more laissez-faire approach to open banking in the US meant that many banks had no incentive to provide third parties with access to customer data. This led to ‘closed banking’ and runs counter to the principles of innovation and competition that open banking is built upon,” said Rezaiezadeh. “What this Exec Order means is, in the near-term, more competitive retail banking in the US by making it easier for customers to switch providers. However, we hope that it will also spur innovation which will make it easier for third party providers to access customer data via APIs. This will enable even greater competition and really push the US down the path of open banking.”
Of course, the devil is in the details and it is not yet entirely clear as to what the Executive Order will mean for consumer control of their own financial data.