Steve Smith
Steve Smith Aug 1, 2017

Working the numbers: How data aggregation will impact digital banking’s future

Once considered the only option to complete financial transactions, the traditional bank branch has been augmented by the era of online banking. More than 90 percent of consumers under the age of 35 actively use online banking, while 27 percent would consider using a branchless digital bank.

What has powered this transition? 

It’s digital transformation driven by the cloud, mobility and big data. And I believe it’s safe to say that data serves as the keystone to financial services innovation. Accessing the wide range of data for any particular organization or individual requires data aggregation.

Although digital banking has come a long way in just a few short years, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. From 401K retirement savings to credit cards, from investments to loans, consumers typically have too many accounts—with all their data—to keep track of. Data aggregation has the power to change this.

In fact, data aggregation now plays a central role in spurring the rise of digital banking and all the services and capabilities that surround it. In fact, data aggregation can fundamentally change the way customers manage their finances. The process is ushering in a holistic approach to financial services, where we have an open financial web that can transform the banking experience.

A smart path to financial intelligence

A recent survey from Survata and GOBankingRates revealed that nearly half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Making matters worse, U.S. consumer debt has ballooned to $13 trillion. Given the less-than-ideal financial situation many consumers face, more must be done to simplify financial management—and fast.

Short on time as well as financial education, today’s consumers face a common struggle: tracking down and staying on top of information scattered across multiple accounts. And in a financial services market ripe with complexity, figuring out how to do just that isn’t always as easy as it should be.

With so many accounts at their disposal, consumers often find it hard to get a comprehensive view of their finances. By collecting information from each account in one central location, data aggregation offers consumers richer insights to make better financial decisions.

A data mandate: More control  

Whether it involves a social security number or recent transactions, customers want control over how their information is used. In 2016, a record number of Americans fell victim to identity theft. Financial services organizations that aim to win consumer approval must stay conscious of where such information is shared as well as how it’s protected.

The absence of data standards has also created a degree of hesitation among organizations that want to share customer data to foster industry-wide collaboration. Until regulatory and security concerns are addressed, financial services organizations will remain wary of data sharing.

Yet, withholding data also has its downsides.

Credit markets often rely on a limited set of consumer data inputs for credit scores. Without a full set of information, such markets can have trouble pinpointing an accurate score. This uncertainty doesn’t bode well for financially fit consumers largely invisible to the credit market. A credit score factors into just about every major purchase a consumer makes, including cars and homes. And if it proves inaccurate or falls short due to insufficient data, consumers could find themselves out of luck once it comes time to sign on the dotted line.

Yet consumers can harness data aggregation to realize greater value from their personal information. Data aggregation seeks to empower consumers who have historically relied on financial services organizations to create a financial picture based on chosen information. Through a user-permissioned data sharing model, the consumer gains more power.

The shift in authority could set the scene for a frictionless lending process and new financial services, as well as a better credit picture. Rather than rely on a prescribed list of third-party inputs to calculate their credit score, consumers can permission a more complete view of their data through a single platform. Whether they review existing data sources or select alternative information, consumers will enjoy a newfound freedom that sheds light on their actual financial fitness. It’s better for the consumer and for the lender.

The ultimate deposit: Better banking decisions

In expanding on the limited consumer view, banks can use data aggregation to draw insights from an array of financial accounts and transaction types. This complete portrait of a financial situation will help organizations better predict consumer financial behavior, which sets the stage for a more meaningful and engaging relationship.

Financial services organizations are even using such information to map out their next moves. All too often, banks struggle to choose which new products their customers really want. With a data-driven approach to product development, banks can help eliminate these concerns.

Data aggregation is shaking up how finances are managed. As it alleviates much of the frustration that stems from traditional processes, this new approach to banking enhances the consumer experience.

Meanwhile, financial institutions are leveraging both aggregated and shared data to gauge consumer sentiment and gain a deeper understanding of their customers. If the numbers truly speak for themselves, then data aggregation allows them to speak loud and clear with a focused, unified voice.

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Steve Smith is the chairman, CEO and co-founder of Finicity, based in the Greater Salt Lake City area.

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