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How HSBC is preparing for open banking

Scott Carey | Oct. 25, 2017
HSBC was the first to publish an open banking API last month, and it has already built a new mobile banking app.

"We must have a rock-solid and secure set of APIs and we won't launch any APIs into the bank where we aren't comfortable about the security," he says. "At the same time, part of the value of this initiative is to try and accelerate innovation and value for customers. So on top of those APIs we will innovate fast."

HSBC announced that it was the first major UK bank to release an aggregator app at the end of September, allowing the selected users of the HSBC Beta app to see all of their accounts on one screen, even if they are with one of 21 rival banks. The 'test and learn' environment is being used to develop a new mobile banking app which it plans to release for customers in early 2018.

Some features of HSBC Beta will be familiar to users of banking apps from more agile fintech startups like Monzo and Bud, the latter of which is already partnering with HSBC.

These features include Safe Balance, which shows customers how much disposable income they have before the next payday, and a Spend Analysis tool, which categorises spending, adds tags, notes and photos to transactions and analyses patterns for more informed financial decision making.

A lot of the thinking around new services for customers at HSBC has been heavily influenced by Richard Thaler's nudge theory. The behavioural economist posits that even in the presence of complete information, people don't tend to act rationally, and that counts for finances. As Knott put it: "We can build people reminders and insights to make better decisions on how they are living their financial lives."

In terms of the technology stack, HSBC is one of the more adventurous banks when it comes to the cloud. That doesn't mean that it is ready to move core account and transaction data to the cloud though.

The backend systems that hold accounts and ledgers are centrally managed and held in two private data centres, and will be "for the foreseeable future" according to Knott.

It's his team's job then to get that data from the backend "through pipes to the frontend" in a secure and robust way.

Knott expects the bank to have to implement this approach across more geographies in the coming years.

"The solution we have used to build the plumbing is replaceable across markets and our expectation is that other regulators will follow suit," he says. "This is a natural evolution of the trend of digital banking to respond to customer expectations, this is just the next phase."

Luckily for Knott: "The underlying plumbing is the same everywhere, the question is whether those regulators will take open banking as a template or will come up with another set of regulations."


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