Handle wins access to £5m Open Banking prize fund

It’s exciting times here at Handle HQ.

Yesterday it was announced that Handle has won a place in the prestigious Nesta Open-Up challenge as one of 20 teams selected to build the next generation of technology solutions for small businesses. Funded by the UK’s largest banks the objective of the challenge is to unlock the value of "Open Banking" for small businesses by creating services, apps and tools that will deliver game-changing value for small businesses.

Crowd clapping and cheering

Hang on, what’s Open Banking?

From early 2018, “Open Banking” will be a reality in the UK. Small businesses will, for the first time have complete control over their bank account information and will be able to share their banking data securely with trusted third parties and allow providers other than their bank to make payments from their account. It’s the most ambitious scheme of its kind anywhere in the world and is expected to lead to a revolution in UK retail banking.

Open Banking is one of the recommendations published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2016 with the goal of driving greater transparency, choice and innovation for small business customers.
Competition and Markets Authority logo

Sounds boring, what does it mean for me?

Open Banking means you will have complete control of your bank account information, allowing you to share it with trusted third parties who can provide technology and services to help you better run your business.

It means that for technology firms like us we can create new tools that save you time completing the day to day tasks associated with running your business. Whether it’s checking your cash position, making a payment or completing a finance application you’ll no longer need to print off bank statements, send email attachments and generally waste time with the admin associated with financial services.

Open banking can lead to a world where not only do you have total control of your business’s financial information but you can also proactively use it to grow. You could access cheaper finance more easily by comparing the financial products your business will be accepted for before you decide to apply. You could get intelligent predictive alerts about your cash flow position so you can identify issues before they arise and make changes in your business to prevent those issues from ever occurring.

Open banking will help small businesses make better, more profitable decisions and ultimately survive and thrive.

We think this is pretty powerful stuff.

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How will Handle use Open Banking data?

We are already developing great new features that will enable you to unlock the value of Open Banking and make Handle the place you monitor the heartbeat of your business. We are building a cash flow management tool which will make sure you are always on top of your cash. You will get intelligent notifications on your spending, when you get paid and if you get close to going into the red.

Adding your banking data will mean you can use Handle to monitor the currency that makes your business tick; your cash position, website visits, customer reviews, social engagement and credit score all in one place. So you can concentrate on running your business.

Open Banking will go live in January 2018 so there’s a little while before these new features will be available. But the great news about winning a place in the Nesta Open Up Challenge is that we get early access to a huge set of anonymised small business banking data giving us the opportunity to experiment with the best ways to bring this data into Handle and add value for you, our customers.

When Open Banking goes live, in exactly the same way that you need to authorise our connection to any of your credit, finance, social media, feedback channels or website you’ll need to give us permission to connect to your bank account.

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How secure is Open Banking?

You control who your data is shared with at all times. Access to your data can only be granted to firms who are authorised and regulated by the FCA and where you provide your express consent. This means that only firms with the highest level of data security and controls, like Handle, will be able to make use of Open Banking data. With your consent, authorised firms will only be able to access your data via secure APIs, managed and controlled by the banks.

APIs are the most secure way of transferring data between two places giving you complete control of who you provide data to and for what purpose. Ultimately how you use your banking data is entirely your choice and you will be able to stop sharing your data at any time.

A word from the boss, Olly Betts

“I’m thrilled that Handle has been announced as a finalist for the Open-Up challenge, Open Banking is a real game changer for UK small business owners. I believe Open Banking is the most transformational source of financial data since the formation of the credit bureaus and given we now live in the Open Data era it’s high time banking data came to the party.”

“Our early access to open banking data accelerates our introduction of real time financial data to Handle, making it the first place you can go to check if your business has had a good day. This will allow you to manage your cash flow alongside sales, online reputation and your credit profile all in one place.”

“I’m excited for the next 6 months and the opportunities that will be presented to small business owners, in particular, our customers.”

Read more on Ollys hopes for Open Banking in his blog on the Open Up Challenge website.

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.

Want to be first in line?

Sign up for our Beta test group. We’ll send you some prototypes to play around with and you can tell us what you think.