The CEO of the newly-established Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology says it’s a matter of ”open banking, not open season”

For Ezechi Britton, financial services innovation in the UK already “massively punches above its weight”.

Britton leads a body whose core aim is to position the UK as a global leader in innovation driving banking and financial services.

He sees innovation in the form of the growing fintech sector as the key driver behind the UK’s powerhouse financial services sector and one that is ready to take its place on the world stage. “Financial services innovation massively punches above its weight.

“Financial services are around seven to eight per cent of GDP in the UK. The innovation behind that is powered by fintech,” he said.

“We talk about finding new industries or protecting this and protecting that – fintech should be seen as a core growth industry and export industry for the UK.”

Britton is the chief executive of the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT). This was created as a key recommendation of the Kalifa Review of UK Fintech in 2021.

Speaking at the UK Fintech Symposium in Edinburgh, Britton provided attendees with a progress report.

Operating on a unique ‘coalition model’ CFIT pulls together industry leaders to tackle complex challenges facing the fintech and wider financial services industry.

The first coalition is focused on open finance, which is about securely sharing customer data with trusted third parties.

In the wake of progress made in open banking, CFIT aims to enable customers to achieve better access to their personal financial information while also supporting financial service providers to innovate using a wider array of data sources.

Regulators and consumers have good reason to be wary about ensuring consumer financial data remains secure, but for Britton the aim is “open banking, not open season”.

CFIT is a wide coalition that includes governments and regulators, industry, academia as well as consumer groups to ensure the user is at the heart of fintech technologies and the innovation in services they deliver.

“If you forget the consumer, what is the point of doing all this? Because it is consumers that have to adopt these products,” he said. Britton’s career so far enables him to bring a variety of perspectives to his role. Starting out as a computer scientist, he has been involved in investment banking, co-founded a fintech venture, led investment in the sector on behalf of venture capital and is the trustee of a third-sector organisation as well.

He acknowledges that tech needs to become more consumer-friendly. “Historically it has been designed to exploit data, not protect it. It is about building business models around protecting data and making that a valuable outcome.”

He also sees real opportunity for fintech innovation to make a meaningful difference to users of consumer financial services products, including loans and pensions.

“You’ve seen an illustration. What does that illustration mean? And none of it looks like you and you’ve got to try and apply that to your situation. This is what open data is supposed to enable. Rather than showing an illustration, I should be able to use your information to actually show the impact on your financial situation utilising this product.”

Tools derived from use of open data could also hasten customers switching banks, as data will be available for them to see the impact of moving between lenders – a key obstacle. Enabling customers to seek better, more suitable financial services will in turn enliven the banking market.

He said: “You then start to get mobility happening. And then innovation will be driven because we start to break down those silos and barriers.”

He also expects open data will enable lenders to improve services to SMEs, including microbusinesses and sole traders.

He highlighted that CFIT is a UK-wide organisation and employs staff across England, Scotland and Wales.

“Different ecosystems have different focuses, different flavours. The fintech ecosystem in Scotland is very focused on B2B, for example. You see different challenges, different expertise, different interests.

He added: “Being able to be part of that national conversation at an event like this is absolutely critical because this isn’t just about fintech in Scotland. This is about UK fintech.”