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'Open banking' data will help Brits compare and switch accounts

The UK's competition watchdog wants better, personalised financial advice.
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Just as Ofcom is making it easy to switch broadband and mobile providers to inspire us to hunt for the best deals, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wants us to be similarly proactive about our bank accounts. Having completed a lengthy probe into retail banking, the CMA believes the secret to a more competitive industry lies in our data, and the sharing of it.

As it stands, less than 5 percent of personal and business customers move to a different bank each year. And that probably won't surprise you -- I know I set up my first account decades ago and have never had the slightest inclination to look elsewhere. The CMA hopes to stop this kind of apathy with what it calls "Open Banking," which it's requiring all relevant institutions to get on board with by early 2018.

The idea is to force all banks to share our financial data (via an open standard) with each other and trusted third parties -- all securely and only with our consent, of course. Company-agnostic apps and services being fed this data would then allow us to easily move money between different accounts across different banks -- in order to dodge overdraft charges on one particular account, for example.

With all kinds of information (including quality of service/satisfaction metrics) being pulled into a single platform, consumers would also be able to shop around for the best bank accounts, loans and other financial products.

The goal isn't just to create better comparison apps or simplify money management somewhat -- having an open data standard is supposed to result in smarter, more personalised financial advice. The kind fledgling, digital-first banks like Atom, Mondo and B are building reputations on, albeit a few years later and with no particular allegiance.

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