The Financial Data Exchange, an nonprofit industry consortium dedicated to unifying the financial industry around a common standard for secure and convenient consumer and business access to financial data, this week confirmed that it had added 25 new members in the second half of 2019.
The addition of new institutions to the network, which includes Ally Financial, Discover, MassMutual and TransUnion, moves the needle closer to a scenario where a consumer can seamlessly and securely connect to third-party apps once permission is granted. The Financial Data Exchange, established in October 2018, supports the FDX API standard, through which rules are set forth on how to request data; which data is returned and the format; and how data is encrypted.
According to the consortium, the goal of the initiative is to unify the industry around a common interoperable data standard rather than a patchwork of data-access tools, which are often plagued by inconsistent data connectivity, quality and governance. It’s also a means to mitigate the security risks of credential sharing, which is a way in which third-party apps “screen scrape” user logins and passwords to access customers’ account data. To do that, consumers share their bank credentials, so fintech providers can log in on their behalf and provide the services the consumer wants to use.
The additional financial institution members bring the consortium’s total membership to 82, a development that helps consumers securely share data with third-party platforms, but Don Cardinal, managing director of the Financial Data Exchange, acknowledged that it’s an ongoing effort.
“We’re gaining on them, one financial institution at a time, and one app at a time, and we’re getting there, but it’s a process,” Cardinal said. “There’s a whole ecosystem that has to move along.”
Ron Shevlin, research director at Cornerstone Advisors, told Bank Innovation that the moves can be interpreted in the context of Visa’s Plaid acquisition and could signal a willingness on the part of institutions to set forth their own parameters on API-based data access.
“It’s an offensive rather than a defensive move,” Shevlin said. “It’s to say, ‘let’s develop standards for data sharing and collection and put the right controls in place.’”
Cardinal said that according to data from the American Bankers Association and aggregators, there are currently 80 million data-sharing connections live in North America; around 12 million of those will be governed by the FDX API-based standard by April. He added that such transformative changes will likely take time, reminiscent of the transition from magnetic stripe to chip card technology.
Though bringing a diverse set of institutions together to implement a unified set of standards is a challenge, Cardinal said there is broad recognition across the industry about the necessity for secure data sharing frameworks that don’t involve credential sharing.
“This isn’t going away,” he said. “[It’s about] how to get off of this legacy technology as quickly as possible, and as safely as possible.”
Other members of the Financial Data Exchange include: Bank of America; BB&T (now Truist); Capital One; Charles Schwab; Citigroup; Experian; Fannie Mae; Fidelity; Finicity; Envestnet | Yodlee; and JPMorgan Chase.
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