Open Banking was launched with lots of fanfare, but are banks and consumers banging the drum?

Where does Open Banking stand now? In the latest HolyWally sponsored podcast, Vuk Zlatarov of Poddster, speaks to Mirna Sleiman, founder and CEO of Fintech Galaxy.

Open Banking is presented as the future for the financial services industry, there to right all wrongs and deliver the consumer into a new world of shared data and happy experiences. But, has it delivered? Mirna Sleiman, founder and CEO of Fintech Galaxy, spoke to the host of The Change Officer’s Future of Financial Services series of podcasts, Vuk Zlatarov, and considered, where does Open Banking stand now?

First things first, Mirna is a big fan of Open Banking, believing it to be the natural evolution of traditional banking.

Open Banking promises consumers that they will have authority over their own data and decide how it gets to be used, and by whom. The great benefit of this increased consumer agency can easily be seen in the speedy development of innovations across the industry.

This ranges from innovative ways of calculating credit scores to new ways of analysing financial behaviour. This increased value for the consumer would be impossible without consumers having the right to decide who gets to use their own data.

Seismic changes

The seismic changes came about because traditionally, banks have held a monopoly on their customers’ data. But, with the digitization of banking and the rapid flow of information made possible by the internet, things have started to change.

Whether you believe that banks themselves have harnessed these changes, or that fintechs led the way, it's true that the financial services industry recognized that the traditional way of offering financial products had inherent limitations. The switch to digital infrastructures was both pragmatic and economical for banks around the world.

The main result of this has been that more people have access to banking products and brands that were previously unavailable to them. Although many have framed Open Banking as a fundamental departure from banking and the way traditional institutions offer financial services.

Mobile wallets

There has also been a rise in the role of mobile wallets in banking.

Take what has happened in sub-Saharan Africa. Here the rate of new mobile wallets doubled the rate of new bank accounts being opened. This is due to the physical limitations of brick-and-mortar banks, but it also opens up new possibilities for consumers in the world.

Mobile wallets, in conjunction with Open Banking, can allow banks to gleam more information into consumer behaviour than ever before. With more data points, credit providers can afford to give out loans to more members of the population reliably and with acceptable margins.

Mobile wallets are thus a key step in helping underbanked populations access more utility from their financial service providers simply by shining a light on how they behave.


The magic grease behind Open Banking is Application Programming Interfaces, or as they are know simply, APIs. While most companies have built them into their technology, they come into their own in the banking sector.

APIs allow different websites and applications to communicate with each other quickly and efficiently. For instance, APIs allow online ticket websites to easily process your payment, they allow you to order rides on an e-hailing platforms like Uber and a whole host of other transactions we usually take for granted.

Open Banking is unique in that it gives the consumer authority over who gets to authorise their APIs. But, as we have seen many times, some banks do not understand the true value of Open Banking and so it remains an underutilised asset.

Unlocking the True Value of Open Banking

As Mirna explains, some key players within the financial ecosystem still view Open Banking as a box to be ticked on a checklist; an obligatory service that needs no further development. However, to unlock its true value, two crucial steps must be taken.

Firstly, banks must expose their APIs and ensure that they are compliant with the relevant regulatory framework. Much of the world follows the UK in this regard, however, different rules apply to institutions in different regions. This is the first, most basic step.

Secondly, is where the value comes from. This step can be summarised simply as “aggregation”. Mirna further explains how opening APIs alone will not make anybody happy. But if banks, consumers, and fintechs can collaborate then innovative, profitable solutions may arise that satisfy the needs of all involved parties.

Who is Leading the Open Banking Charge?

In many regions of the world, multinational platforms such as Facebook and Google have a clear head start in the race to capitalise from Open Banking. However, Open Banking in the middle east and sub-Saharan Africa has a different flavour.

Mirna describes how telecommunications companies in the region have a clear advantage over other players due to the rate of mobile phone penetration and other factors. With the uniquity of telecommunications, the only other people who can compete are conglomerates such as supermarkets which are already deeply interested in consumer data and behaviour.

Challenges to Open Banking

One of the most poignant criticisms of the digitization of banking is the very real sense of alienation experienced by consumers. Many consumers appreciate the human interaction that often comes with banking. People like to sit down with another person who can explain their options and help them make the best decision for their financial situation.

As Open Banking seeks to accelerate the digitization of banking, Mirna suggests that banks need to be keenly aware of the human element and aim to preserve it even as we shift towards an increasingly artificial environment.

The future of Open Banking

The launch of Open Banking promised a great deal and whatever you might feel as to its effectiveness some 15 years on, it has created a narrative and stream of dialogue that’s hard to ignore. It’s impactful has been huge.

And whether banks, or the consumers of financial services products take to it, or understand what its all about, is immaterial. Open Banking is here to stay.

It represents a distinct yet organic shift in the way that financial services are delivered. From dramatically reducing the cost of transactions to greatly improving the customization of your banking experience, Open Banking promises a bold, new world of banking for many.


HollyWally is proud to power fintech discourse through The Change officer. To find out more about how HolyWally’s digital wallet platform can increase your businesses revenue, visit HolyWally - A White-Label Digital Wallet Platform.

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