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What Surgery Taught Me About Open Banking


My shoulder was hurting. Though I couldn’t pinpoint the cause, I knew the pain wasn’t normal. After procrastinating for far too long, I visited an orthopedic surgeon who prescribed a dose of physiotherapy. When the pain didn’t subside, an MRI diagnosed a tear requiring surgery.

My doctor was impressive. His explanation of my condition was so thorough that he put my mind at ease. During the consultation, he showed me the typical shoulder joint mock-up and pinpointed where the tear occurred. Not resting on his laurels, he googled my condition to find pictures of the damage and the repair. Post-surgery, he even sent some action shots of my shoulder joint from the inside. Surely there’s a selfie somewhere on his phone.

In truth, I was a little overwhelmed. I was bombarded with so much information that at times I just smiled and nodded. Initially all I cared about were two factors: my doctor’s ability and the success rate of the operation. After the initial conversation, the former gave way to the latter as my major focus. All I wanted or needed to know about were the results, that the surgery would work.

During the week-long recovery, I stumbled on an article about open banking’s image problem. A Canadian government commissioned survey showed deep-seated fear of the term, with some polled convinced that their data would somehow end up showcased to the public. When the benefits were explained however, the tone was slightly more positive. This isn’t an isolated case as a survey in the UK, arguably the fintech capital of the world, found that three quarters of Brits hadn’t heard of open banking.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel with my condition. In the medical world, I am a layman; all the research on WebMd doesn’t make me a physician so a granular explanation about the labrum’s role in the orchestra that is the shoulder joint is too much for me. All I care about is whether my surgery will make me better. The same applies to open banking. It’s a waste to collect views and explain the mechanics behind the scenes; communication and, dare I say it, security protocols won’t impress the public as those discussions are best left to industry stakeholders. Even explaining the basics of the concept won’t add value.

Consumers will only focus on results and how their financial situation can be improved. It’s not the detailed explanation of how open banking operates that will drive adoption. Rather, it’s how accounts can be seamlessly transferred between banks, how a snapshot of someone’s complete financial situation can be generated instantly, how new payment providers can make it easier to pay. You get the point.

This isn’t isolated to financial services. Take my Google Assistant or Siri for example; I am indifferent as to how either works but always delighted when they show the video of the piano playing cat on command. The product simply delivers. It’s also reasonable to believe that buyers of Teslas don’t scrutinize the inherent benefits of an electrical drivetrain as compared to an internal combustion engine. They love their cars because of how they run, not why.

As an industry, we should endeavour to implement open banking services seamlessly without focusing too much on sentiment or awareness. It’s the results that matter and the benefits are too promising to languish behind studies and surveys. The value will undoubtably manifest itself with the increase in customer satisfaction resulting from a slew of new services.


© 2020 by Abraham Tachjian

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.