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Working Up An Appetite for APIs in Australia

Open Banking in Australia

This week ACI hosted the latest installment of our #paymentsforbreakfast forums in Australia, with the early birds catching the open banking worm in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Given the similarities between the Australian and UK open banking movements, we enticed ACI’s UK-based Lu Zurawski (Solutions Practice Lead - Retail Banking) to Australia to share his learnings from being heavily involved in the UK Open Banking working group.

Lu’s first insight was that open banking is not a result of new technology. Open banking is not, in fact, an API-led movement – APIs themselves date from the era of Commodore 64s!

Open banking is about embracing the change that is coming to retail banking. There is a whole new world of propositions, which are more nimble and proactive than we have seen before – and regulators are committed to opening up the banking system to these new players. APIs are merely the dedicated communications channel to enable new and old participants to thrive in the new world of interconnected, open banking.

What opened my mind was Lu’s food truck analogy. For the uninitiated: A food truck is much like a fintech – it can respond to new trends much faster than a restaurant and with much lower overheads. It is fast and agile, ready to test and trial new ideas immediately. If the customers are willing to queue up for a new food truck, then it’s a winner and worth supporting. Traditional banks will never move as quickly and shouldn’t try and compete with the fintechs, but open banking and APIs will enable banks to work with fintechs like a large wholesaler would supply a food truck. Banks should aim work with many varied ‘food trucks’ – and if the idea develops new customer demands, then the bank should double down and embrace the fintech.

One thing we know for sure is that open banking is a global movement and it is not going away. The United Kingdom, Europe, Mexico, Hong Kong, Malaysia and now Australia have all begun the process of opening up their banks to the new world of shared data.

Perhaps this is a form of the sharing economy revolution, but we know for sure that the players that will benefit the most from this development are the ones that embrace change not just with the minimum viable product (such as a basic screen-scraping solution), but with a sophisticated API management strategy.

UK Open Banking went live in January 2018; however, six of the nine banks mandated to participate were not ready to share their data. This gives some cause for concern, and it makes me wonder if Australian banks will be ready in May 2019, given that the standards have not been finalized.

My advice for the Australian market? Don’t sit on your hands and wait for the standards. The time has come to embrace the concept of sharing data and benefit from a transparent and cooperative approach to competitors. Don’t wait for the business case – start getting your hands dirty, embrace the change and prosper. Get used to the idea of digital customer engagement… and get ready for May 2019.

 

Find out more about ACI how supports leading financial institutions and merchants in the Pacific regions: www.aciworldwide.com/pacific