Banks Prepare For Their Uber Moment

It has been a long time coming for the banks, and a part of you almost has to feel sorry for them. There they are offering free banking to the hordes who now expect everything to be done at no cost, and of course, in real-time at the press of a button in their app. The way technology is accelerating change must be frightening for any organisation relying on legacy systems that are about to be tested to the extreme.

The thing is, you see, it's not just changing consumer behaviours and expectations that digital is responsible for. In itself, this is still a big thing. When I talked with experts recently about what digital means for financial services, everyone agreed that the app was the new window to the brand, its new high street branch and it is here where they will be able to offer customer journeys unique, improved experiences. A seamless journey to log on and do your day-to-day bank with no clutter and an easy-to-use navigation system are the key attributes here. 

The thing is, the banks know this -- and in itself, it may not be enough to offer a nice, simple-to-use app like everyone else. OK -- so fingerprint ID may stick out now as a nice feature. Give it a year or two and everyone will be at it, at least for quick balance checks.

So the really big issue here is open banking. It's not something the high street names have voted for -- it has been forced upon them, and it's going to change everything. It is for this reason that I think it's fair to dip into the bingo buzzword hat and pull out the term "Uber moment." Digital didn't do this by itself -- it simply raised expectations and opened a path to new services.

No -- it's open banking regulations that will give banking its "Uber Moment." From the start of next year, banks have to be able to open up their data to be shared with other financial institutions. Then toward the end of next year, they have to do it for real. That treasured data has to be made available to rivals, fintechs, start-ups and challengers so a bank no longer has a monopoly on certain aspects of a customer's life.

The most obvious switch is that people will be able to access their accounts, perhaps held in different banks, through one website or app and switch money around in seconds, seamlessly. That third party, of course, may not be the customer's main bank account. We've already seen an erosion of brand loyalty brought about by aggregators. People are now open to opening a savings account or take out a mortgage with brands they have never banked with before if it makes better financial sense. Imagine what will happen when it really doesn't matter whom you sign up for a new service from -- it can all be displayed on the same page through one password.

This sharing of data will almost certainly open up new services that the banks would do well to foresee and run with themselves. At the very least, banks will need to make data easily available for expenses apps, and if they're not in the business of offering automatic accounting facilities by the end of next year, I'd be very surprised. Why manually import payment data and balances and so on when you could just have an accountancy app running within your main financial app or site, be that the high street name you've always trusted or some new, exciting start-up. 

There has to be real estate services here too. Not just for landlords, useful though that would be to have accounts and mortgages one the same page. No, I'd imagine estate agents could get involved and not only let you browse your next dream home or buy to let, they could instantly tell you which you can afford, which would get enough rent to cover a particular mortgage, and so on.

Financial life is about to be centralised through a single window, and that doesn't have to be just among the banks but also the people who spend with and the people we rely on for our future comfort. There's no more single relationship with a trusted bank with a couple of accounts here and there we'll log in to separately. We're about to get a smorgasbord approach. A single window with many possibilities.

Banks simply can't think they have done their bit if they make their apps nice and easy to use and open up their data to avoid fines. The real digital revolution is this single, shared view and then the possibilities this opens up for services that focus on what we do with our hard-earned money, not just where we store it. 

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