Three considerations for successful data aggregation

The ability to aggregate consumer data from a broad range of sources is critical for financial institutions and technology firms that want to enhance the customer experience, provide cutting-edge offerings and maintain a central position in consumers’ financial lives.

There are multiple ways to aggregate data, and finding the right one requires a clear alignment between available capabilities and business objectives. At least three key considerations help determine success: reliability, adaptability and security. These should always be considered as part of a data aggregation implementation.

Reliability. Reliability is the foundation of any successful data aggregation platform. As an example, consider the mortgage application process. It is critical to have the right infrastructure in place to quickly and accurately access an applicant’s data or verify their assets in order to proceed through the application process. Data aggregation platforms can facilitate access to existing digital information, enabling the automatic population of forms and helping eliminate the need for customers to chase down and provide paper documents.

A process that stalls or requires several interactions for completion will result in a less-than-optimal user experience. In fact, such delays create a higher likelihood that the customer will abandon the process entirely and not engage with the interface more than once.  To ensure reliability, a data aggregation platform should have the necessary infrastructure to do three things:

  • Ensure data requests are processed quickly and seamlessly
  • Update and repair connections quickly
  • Triage issues in real time

Adaptability. Financial institutions need to be able to adapt how data is used in response to changing customer needs. An ever-wider range of personalized financial services offerings require access to data, and being able to support a growing number of business models is paramount. Meeting these needs could require the implementation of additional data elements to support new features or capabilities, or enhancing API structures to enable new and better ways to access data.

Regardless of the offering, financial institutions and technology firms must stay as far ahead of customer needs as possible. While adapting to new offerings is key, it is just as important – if not more important – to implement them quickly.  In today’s environment, a partnership with a data aggregator that can provide an expedited path to new offerings is critical; data needs to be available now, not later. Technology changes rapidly, and any implementation delay will shorten the market differentiation that new, exciting features can offer.

Security. Data is a valuable commodity, so it is no surprise that cyber criminals are continuously devising new methods to access and exploit it. Data is generally more secure when it is actively protected by the same partner providing the aggregation platform. As the number of handoffs and exchanges of data occur, the possibility of data being intercepted or corrupted can increase.  The sale of data to third parties by an aggregator can also create concerns and lead to negative customer experiences.

The loss of data or any activity that compromises it is a threat to a company’s reputation and even its business viability.

Providers with extensive data warehousing experience often have a good understanding of the industry’s unique business environment and many regulations that protect consumer data. There are several important questions a financial institution should ask of a data aggregator’s security protocols:

  • How is data protected and stored?What methodologies are used?
  • What are your data retention policies and what happens to the data when a customer terminates or deletes an account?
  • How is data transmitted?
  • Is your annual System and Organization Controls (SOC) report available for clients to review?
  • Is customer data sold to other parties?

In a competitive market, the proficiency with which financial institutions obtain data can be a deciding factor in their success and in customer satisfaction – both as it relates to current offerings and expanding to new solutions. The ability to aggregate data reliably with built-in adaptability and security will help financial institutions provide durable financial applications to enhance their customer’s experiences and earn their long-term loyalty.

Kevin Hughes is senior product manager for aggregation services at Fiserv.