After an eventful week for the UK’s economy that included Thursday’s delivery of the government’s much-anticipated Autumn Statement, the dust has now settled to give a clear view of where the interests of policy makers cross with those of industry stakeholders. 

The statement put a large emphasis on driving more innovation on top of what the country has already achieved in terms of supporting businesses, particularly in the technology and finance sectors. 

One particular highlight that grabbed the attention of the industry was the publication of the Future of Payments Review – a consultancy paper launched at the start of July that explores the views on the UK’s payments landscape of financial institutions, merchants and fintechs. 

Chaired by Joe Garner, former CEO of Nationwide, the review sets out to guide the financial sector towards prosperity in an environment that otherwise “lacks vision and clarity of priorities”, as Garner puts it. 

Open Banking

A key factor for the future sustainability of the UK’s financial sector according to the review has been revealed as the adoption of Open Banking, where progress should be accelerated due to “a number of benefits” for consumers and businesses alike. 

However, the paper also identified that there is currently “a gap” between the implementation of the technology and consumer protection, with the latter trailing behind as an “afterthought” when it comes to faster payments. 

According to Ben Ruffels, VP Public Policy of Volt, there is a delicate balance yet to be made between future Open Banking frameworks and how they serve the customer, with the best approach to that being deeper collaboration within the sector. 

“There was a lot to welcome – and for fintechs to chew over – in the Autumn Statement and Future of Payments Review,” Ruffels stated.

“Open Banking in the UK is at a critical juncture. Our future framework must protect the foundations of the world-leading ecosystem we’ve built, while unleashing collaboration between banks and fintechs that will catapult it forward.

“We must get this balance right. If we do, we can take real-time payments to the next level, and turbocharge their adoption by merchants and their customers.”

National Payments Vision and Strategy

As mentioned previously, one of the review’s conclusions is that the financial sector lacks a clear structure to strategically identify and follow up on its priorities. This could spell trouble for an industry whose goal is to be the leader in the global payments landscape. 

Therefore, one of Garner’s top recommendations is the establishment of a National Payments Vision and Strategy, which seeks to individually resolve key ambiguous areas such as, among others, the roles of respective government and industry bodies, and the importance of resilience and safety relative to customer convenience.  

This would in term release GDP growth by narrowing down the financial industry’s vision on priorities and introduce better aligned initiatives for the whole of the sector, rather than making compromise at the cost of clarity of direction. 

Evgeniy Ivantsov, CMO of FYST, believes that Garner’s proposed approach will have significant benefits for the wider real-time payments infrastructure, and pointed out some of the frequent pain points that merchants have to face with no clear strategy in place.

He said: “Open Banking has the potential to revolutionise the retail and P2P payment landscape. 

“Merchants have long been dissatisfied with increasing scheme fees from traditional card payments which makes a compelling case for alternative payment journeys through Open Banking. The importance of leveraging Open Banking not only as a solution posed by card fees but also as a means by which to improve user experience cannot be understated. 

“We welcome the government report’s call for a National Payments Vision and Strategy to simplify the complex payment environment. Open Banking is a catalyst for innovation, with a focus on consumer protection and dispute resolution which is a win for everyone.”

Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee 

The issue of merchants having to deal with high card fees was also raised by Pat Phelan, CCO of GoCardless, who welcomed the review as a step in the right direction towards the adoption of alternative payments. 

“The Future of Payments Review echoes what we’ve been saying for years: high card fees are hurting our economy and businesses need an alternative way to accept payments,” he commented. 

Phelan’s statement was also reflected in the review, which noted that “the market would be further improved if there was a viable digital alternative to the card schemes.”

“It’s encouraging to see Joe Garner identify Open Banking as the primary solution for resolving this pain point for merchants,” Phelan said.

The COO of GoCardless further emphasised the importance of the government’s Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee’s (JROC) work on unlocking the full potential of Open Banking. 

JROC represents a formation co-led by the FCA, the CMA, the Treasury, and the Payment Systems Regulator that directly oversees the development of Open Banking in the UK. 

Phelan added: “Through the work of the Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee, the UK has already been exploring the issues highlighted by the review, which are fundamental to driving mass adoption: a great Open Banking user experience, consumer protection and the right incentives for everyone in the ecosystem. 

“We’ve spent hundreds of hours discussing these issues with banks and the regulators – landing on the right solutions will be critical to the success of Open Banking in the UK.

“We look forward to seeing legislation for a long-term framework for Open Banking in place next year, as the government is promising.”

Some of the recommendations on Open Banking directed towards JROC by the Future of Payments Review state that the programme needs to address a clear absence of dispute resolution for customers, as well as prioritise a commercial model agreement to clear the path for investments on infrastructure and consumer protection.

Ties in with gambling 

The review’s focus on Open Banking and consumer protection is closely aligned with that of another white paper, the Gambling Act Review, which was also published this year. 

In it, Open Banking was described as the ultimate tool to achieve the Gambling Act Review’s proposed measures on finance risk monitoring. 

More particularly, the UK Gambling Commission outlined that by working with third-party Open Banking providers towards implementing limited data sharing, customer credit reference checks can become more viable when it comes to reducing gambling harm rates across the country. 


All in all, as the UK moves further away from cash in favour of the speed and convenience that digital payments offer, Open Banking will most certainly play a crucial role in boosting the country’s economy. 

It is now more important than ever to establish a sustainable framework that will ease the transition for both businesses and customers, and turn the UK’s financial sector into the global leader that it deserves to be.