Disrupting payments: the emergence of ‘Alternative Data’
By Hamza Khan, Founder and CEO, Suburbia
PSD2; the latest tightening of data regulations, will require strategic, operational and infrastructural changes for banks and financial institutions.
Is it an opportunity or a threat though? Judging from current opinion, it appears the financial industry hasn’t quite made up its mind. If there’s anything worse for the sector than a clear and present threat, it’s uncertainty.
In a recent survey conducted by open banking platform Tink, one thing is clear, financial institutions dislike regulation. They named it as the biggest threat to their current business models. With the final PSD2 deadline looming on the horizon, there is little time for firms to get wrapped up in an existential crisis though. Most are soldiering on, despite their doubts, to ensure they can comply with the new directive. They are investing in digitization, greater security and privacy.
However, it’s clear that they need to do more than the bare minimum in order to not only survive, but thrive, in this new ecosystem. For banks, payment service providers (PSPs) and other players, PSD2 unearths an opportunity for them to innovate and compete.
Data should increasingly be viewed as a natural resource like oil. Yes, data is the new oil is a somewhat tiresome cliché, but sitting on an oilfield is not much use unless you have the right tools, infrastructure and capabilities to make something out of it. In that sense, firms need to grapple with how they can turn what is essentially a commodity, into a competitive advantage.
To benefit from the opportunities that will arise from PSD2, there are two key approaches any financial or payments services firms can take in the new landscape:
1) Monetize their data – Increasingly, no one party will have a monopoly on data. This means firms will need to start thinking about how to leverage their distinctive data sets as part of a data monetization strategy – without compromising sensitive personal information.
When it comes to monetizing data, many are enticed by the opportunity, but they may view it as a challenge. They may raise questions over data ownership and privacy. However, there is great value in anonymized, aggregated information that is used for business or investment insights. In finance, the interest is in identifying broad trends and patterns – the focus is never on the who but the what and how much. That means it’s possible to extract value from this data while preserving privacy.
Outside finance, there are other examples of how sensitive data can be used in a way that benefits the public. For instance, Uber shares anonymized data aggregated from billions of trips taken by its users in order to help urban planning around the world.
Transparent and responsible use of this data can open the door to new revenue streams. Data might not be the core business for many of these firms, but revenue from this can quickly become meaningful as the quantity and quality of data grow over time. The value of their data can also increase when combined with multiple sources for consumption by third parties.
It can sound counter-intuitive to deal with the threat posed by open data by sharing it even more widely. But this allows firms to
strengthen existing data and play a more important role in the transactional ecosystem. Payments providers are well-positioned because
they have unique insights into both merchants and consumers.
2) Get better customer insights – The changes that will be brought on by PSD2 will show that no incumbent can afford to rest on their laurels. The classic mindset of getting all your financial services from one provider is going to change. Many payment experiences will change and become more seamless.
One hot topic is instant payments. While consumers are the biggest benefactors of this trend, merchants can also benefit from it in a number of ways. Instant payments are data-rich so they can leverage real-time data like never before.
What does this mean for firms in this industry both big and small? Well, it will become more important than ever to convert data to actionable insights. They can use such insights to improve the customer experience, drive loyalty and even introduce better offerings.
This can help incumbents become much more data-driven and customer-centric in their approach, leading to better decision-making. Meanwhile, smaller players that can nimbly respond to these insights can outmanoeuvre bigger competitors and eat away at their market share.
Ultimately, firms need to tackle PSD2 from a strategic perspective and not just from a compliance perspective. The ones that proactively capitalize on these opportunities can future-proof their business and disrupt, rather than be disrupted.
About Hamza Khan, Founder and CEO, Suburbia:
Hamza is CEO and Founder of Suburbia, an Alternative Data company, and knows first-hand the difficulties of accessing good data beginning his career as a quantitative analyst in Philadelphia.
Prior to launching Suburbia, Hamza’s career spans multiple senior roles in commodity financial markets. Hamza was director at ING occupying the role of Head of Commodities Strategy, and worked at NRG Energy as a lead gas and oil analyst. Hamza has also spent time working at the United Nations within the role of industrial development.