Hearing From: Helen Child, Founder of Open Banking Excellence (OBE)

Home  ❯  Interview   ❯   Hearing From: Helen Child, Founder of Open Banking Excellence (OBE)

26th February, 2023 Chantal Swainston No Comments

Open Banking has long been one of the biggest opportunities in the fintech landscape. Today, we speak to Helen Child of Open Banking Excellence to hear more about what the future holds for Open Finance, how the business launched, and Helen’s goals to create better gender diversity in the industry.

Can you tell us a bit more about OBE, why you founded it and what the goals of the company are?

Open Banking Excellence (OBE) is a global community of banks, fintechs, policy makers, regulators and bigtechs. We recently launched The Global Open Finance Index, the industry’s first data driven view of Open Finance globally. 

I smile and, in truth, often pinch myself when I reflect on our humble and very organic beginnings.

It started with 38 pioneers in a room excitedly talking about Open Banking at the very early stages of the UK’s launch. There was an energy in that room and a real vibrancy – everybody wanted to continue the conversation. I had the microphone in my hand and when everyone said let’s do this again, I had to say yes. 

And from there, I really did think we would only host one more. I spoke to a friend Ruth Harrison who ran Thoughtworks IT consultancy. She’s an extraordinary woman – she didn’t miss a beat in helping another female, and generously lent us their super trendy offices, with obligatory table tennis tables and bean bags! 

It really goes to show that females are an amazing force when we get together: we’ve limitless potential and boundless energy. 

The demand for an independent and collaborative community conversation hasn’t stopped growing since then. It’s a phenomenal journey. An absolute privilege. None of which would be possible without our supportive sponsors. And the tireless dedication of the talented OBE Team, who support our global community in so many ways many people don’t see.

Can you tell us a bit more about the index?

The Global Open Finance Index is an industry first! It’s the single source of truth for benchmarking the progress of Open Finance across the world.

This pioneering project, delivered alongside our partners Accenture and NatWest and supported by the University of Oxford, the DIT, The World Bank and the amazing team at Innovate Finance

It is by far the most in-depth, data-driven view of the global state of play in Open Finance that has been produced to date. Built on the largest dataset ever assembled in the space, and given context by insights from more than 400 industry experts from 23 markets that we examined, the Index has given us an unprecedented foundation from which to draw our conclusions, and shed light on the key issues facing our sector across the world:

  • The role of regulation in shaping Open Banking ecosystems
  • The use cases that correlate with widespread adoption
  • The markets that are challenging the UK’s lead in the space.

We’re absolutely thrilled by the feedback we’ve received. It has been featured in The FT, CNN, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, which is an absolute credit to the hard work and resilience of the team that worked behind the scenes for months and months immersed in data models. 

If you’ve not already seen the interactive graphics we commissioned, you can explore them in chapter 16

And OBE has only existed for about four years, so it’s escalated really quickly from those early days. Did you see that coming?

I always knew that we wanted to have a solid values driven purpose. We didn’t want to be fluffy. We wanted to have some real substance as a business, to support the growth trajectory of our sector and to advocate for it. We’re now regarded as the global centre of community, of knowledge, and are driving change in Open Finance.

To maintain that position, we work hard to ensure all our contributions come from a position of experience and thoroughly researched insights. This approach helped us build our reputation. While we didn’t always see this coming, we’re certainly privileged to be where we are today. And never take this for granted – we strive to be the best we can. 

What was your biggest inspiration in creating Open Banking Excellence?

If you think about Open Banking, Open Finance, Open Data and beyond, we’re ultimately driving for better financial inclusion worldwide. It should be life enhancing. Our team is creating an exceptional platform, and content, to drive that conversation. All of that knowledge sharing, those partnerships, are all done to capitalise the adoption of Open Finance. Ultimately it makes for a fairer, more equitable world.

What have been the biggest challenges since you launched?

A major challenge we have to consider is choosing what we want to champion. There’s so much that can be done, and so many different causes to champion we could turn our hand to, but we can’t do it all.

Staying focused is key to not diluting our energy. We’ve all got limited time and bandwidth, and we have to choose our causes carefully. And wholeheartedly. 

For example, I’m very passionate about our “Pass The Mic” campaign we launched at the end of last year. We’re asking for both men and women to encourage the female talent around them to step forward and have their voices heard. From now on, we will make this very public pledge and will strive for a 50/50 split for all our Campfires. 

Years ago, my grandma was a suffragette. When I look back at what she fought for and where we are today, there’s been a huge step change. But there’s still so much more to do. We are not there yet…

According to Innovate Finance, “on average… the gender split in UK fintechs [is] 72 percent men and 28 per cent women”. But so often that doesn’t come through at a board level, or senior leadership, and it’s the same right down to product development. We think, how can these products be launched without being representative of society? Parity is so important, and in order for fintech to deliver for people, it needs to reflect our society.

Open Banking and Open Finance still has so much potential in the UK – what are you most excited about for the future of the industry?

Our Index shows that the UK has the uncontested lead in Open Banking, but that lead is in danger of evaporating if we don’t preserve it. In the words of Andrew Bowie, MP Exports Minister, “this global leadership represents a huge export opportunity for the UK in a sector where, according to Allied Market research, the global market will be worth more than $120bn by the end of the decade”.

The UK needs to be galvanised into action to ensure its market lead doesn’t evaporate. Because if we’re not a market leader, exporting quite simply is going to be much harder. 

And what about outside of the UK, what are the global opportunities?

Really exciting things are happening around the world. Just look at Brazil; they now have Open Finance, Open Insurance, Open Health – and that’s come in at phenomenal pace. That’s the adjective everyone uses to describe Brazil’s launch into Open Finance. 

And that’s leading to a boom for smaller countries. They are looking to make a difference to their economies and societies. Their decisions and drivers to enter Open Banking and Open Finance are predominately based on wanting to build a more inclusive society. What’s not to love about speaking to regulators to help them build a fairer more inclusive society! 

Do you think that more ‘open’ early stage regulation that smaller countries have is helping them to move quicker?

That is a common-held belief in the industry, but what the data says is that a regulatory approach will get you further and faster in a more sustained way. Leading with regulation, with use cases that have a clear purpose, will be more beneficial in the long run.I’d invite everyone to explore the data, to have fun playing with the interactive graphics in The Index. 

We’re championing the value of public speaking and publicity more broadly. Do you have an interview or an event you spoke at that was really valuable to you? What was it, and what did it do for you?

I’d actually like to think about this a little differently. I get a huge amount of joy from encouraging other women to speak, rather than focusing the spotlight on me. Supporting a female digging deep to overcome that all too common imposter syndrome and giving them the little nudge of supportive courage, they need to shine. This is what gives me immense satisfaction.

My best advice for women and non-binary people looking to do more public speaking is be the author of your own story. Your audience wants you to share your knowledge. That’s why they are listening. Nobody is willing you to fail. Everyone is willing for you to succeed. People want you to inspire them and inform them.  So go on – take a deep breath, prepare, prepare and then prepare some more. Shine and inspire other females to follow your lead…

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