Evaluation Scotland Wales
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Open Banking for Good: Moving the Dial?

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

Open Banking allows bank and building society customers to securely share their transaction data with third parties that can use the data to deliver personalised services and tools. Open Banking for Good (OB4G) is a £3 million programme funded and led by Nationwide Building Society that aims to create and scale Open Banking-enabled apps and services in order to help the one in four UK adults who are ‘financially squeezed, in three key areas:

  • Helping the growing number of people who have irregular or unpredictable income to manage their regular outgoings.
  • Making it easier for someone to produce an accurate statement of their income and expenditure.
  • Helping people to practice and maintain good money habits.

In October 2018, Nationwide invited applications to OB4G for innovative products to tackle these challenges. Seven successful applicants (called Challengers) were assigned 4 charity partners, who were expert in the needs of the target users, to co-design a solution.
OB4G is one of the Inclusive Economy Partnerships (IEP) Financial Inclusion and Capability flagship challenge initiatives. In 2018, the IEP brought together business, civil society and government “to solve some of society’s toughest challenges, to help all communities and everyone within them feel they belong to and can participate in the UK economy” (HM Government)

The study

Nationwide commissioned the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre to conduct a two-phase independent evaluation of OB4G, of which this report covers Phase 1, the process evaluation, to capture learning about the design and early implementation of OB4G.

The study was carried out between January and July 2019, covering the period in which the programme was set up, and the phase of work in which successful Challengers spent around three months developing their concepts, conducting user research, and producing or refining prototypes.

The study comprised qualitative interview data from the seven fintech firms that successfully applied to OB4G (known at the Challengers); the four Charity Partners that helped shape OB4G and were partnered with the Challengers; and the OB4G team at Nationwide. Additionally there was a short online survey conducted with eight fintech firms that applied to OB4G but were not successful.

Key findings

  • The concept of OB4G: Participants felt positively about OB4G and saw it as qualitatively different to other fintech programmes in ways they hoped would increase the chances of positive impact on people who are ‘financially squeezed’.
  • Framing the challenges: Nationwide leveraged significant help from its wide network of charities and stakeholders with which it had fostered good working relationships over several years, in order to frame OB4G around three big challenges listed above.
  • The application process: The application process worked well and produced a good number and range of submissions (most but not all from fintech firms). Unsuccessful applicants would have valued feedback on their submissions and prompt notification of the outcome.
  • OB4G in practice: Nationwide’s OB4G team engineered a ‘safe space’ for social innovation that was effective from its perspective but wasn’t fully aligned with Challengers’ expectations. The team also facilitated co-creation between Challengers and Charity Partners that had very different ways of working. The evidence highlights different co-creation activities, some of which (e.g. user testing, data access) require more time and planning because they involve human research participants and potentially personal data.
  • Measuring impact: For Challengers, the benefits included a much deeper understanding of the challenges and target audience; funding to work on new socially useful ideas and prototypes; and brand association with a major building society. For Charity Partners, the positives included getting a close-up view of fintech design and development that meant they could have better-quality conversations with the sector; and being more informed about the potential uses and pitfalls of Open Banking for their organisations and service users.

Points to consider

  • Methodological strengths/weaknesses: This is a small scale qualitative process evaluation. Although the learnings are based on a small number of interviews, all Challengers and Charity Partners participated in the evaluation. However, response rates to the survey with unsuccessful applicants was low.
  • Generalisability/ transferability: This report is focused on the process of developing Open Banking products, which will be of interest to a more specialist audience
  • Relevance: This report is likely to be mostly of interest to financial services providers, fintechs and charities that focus on helping people with finances.

Key info

Year of publication
United Kingdom
Contact information

Professor Sharon Collard (Research Director) and Jamie Evans (Senior Research Associate) of the Personal Finance Research Centre, University of Bristol