Thanks, but you can keep midata

19.11.12 Chris Errington

I was intrigued to see the recent article on Finextra entitled “UK govt tells banks to hand over account data to customers” http://www.finextra.com/News/FullStory.aspx?newsitemid=24292 .  The article touches on a government initiative set to provide UK consumers with access to the current account and credit card transactional data that banks hold on them.

I followed the thread to the ‘midata’ website http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/consumer-issues/consumer-empowerment/personal-data#Business .  Apparently, as a consumer I am really missing out on all the rich data held by my bank that would, if I only had access to it, change my life – sorry, I mean provide me with ‘Better Choices: Better Deals’.  The UK government is responding to this strong (?) demand from consumers for data – and they may even legislate.  Oh great.

I’d come this far, so now off to the underlying UK government website to find out more.
Time for the government paper http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/consumer-issues/docs/b/11-749-better-choices-better-deals-consumers-powering-growth.pdf ; issued by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills and Cabinet Office back in April 2011.  Note: apparently, there really is a ‘Behavioural Insights Team’ at Cabinet Office.  OK got it, the downtrodden Consumer needs more information across a wide spectrum of areas and credit card spend is just one of them – it’s not just about banks.

According to the report Foreword, “In some areas, businesses know more about customers’ spending habits than they do themselves – with detailed knowledge of how they use their phone, or how likely they are to go over their overdraft limit.”  The majority of people that don’t know what they spend their money on seem unlikely to suddenly download an App and bank data to find out.  Those that do know what they spent their money on will feel a little lost on the need – as I do.

Anyway , I stick with it and we are off into Crowdsourcing (I am feeling decidedly Groupon’ed at this point) and of all things Energy Performance Certificates (and how they could be improved).  OK, so it’s really not all about banks.  Just feels like a lot of bank admin for little benefit.

Seriously, does anyone actually want to gain access to this rich bank data, load it into an App and analyse it to death just to discover they are spending too much with Tesco?  (other
than the bank and companies looking to sell product of course).  What may have started as a likely way of ensuring Credit Cards were competitive on fees (i.e. pointing out annually just
how much you spent on them, giving the Consumer a move prompt) seems to have turned into a strong demand in the consumer market for all the data held by banks.  Is it a real demand and are people really going to use it?

This whole subject was discussed at Innotribe this year at Sibos in Osaka.  I subscribe to the idea that banks can engage better with their customers through [Big] data analysis and that there is a big opportunity for banks in the new normal / social networking.  But I remain to be convinced that the Consumer will be that excited to learn that they can now obtain 12 months of bank transaction data stick it in an App and discover what they spent their money last year.

As far as I am concerned, you can keep midata thanks. But as with all these things, I'll give it a go for the community and report back.  Wonder what data standard they will use this time....EDIFACT (like HMRC)?