In an exclusive interview with NFM, Bart Willaert, Executive Vice President of Mastercard Open Banking International Markets, sheds light on Mastercard’s trailblazing efforts in the Open Banking initiative, as well as how the Nordics’ high level of digitalisation provides an example to new markets to learn from.
Chris Crespo, NFM: Payments has exploded with innovation over the past 12 to 18 months. What role has Open Banking played in this accelerated pace of innovation?
Willaert: Open Banking is an excellent way for consumers to share their data securely with third parties, and that creates innovation. It also creates new flows, and those new flows add value to consumers and small businesses.
When you’re making a payment—rather than going from one part of a flow, such as when you get a bill or invoice in your digital mailbox—you can now immediately pay it.
But it’s not only about payments. Fundamentally, a new ecosystem exists where Open Banking allows new players to innovate and benefit back to consumers and businesses.
Recommended: Explore the Future of Finance at Nordic Fintech Week
NFM: In Europe, Open Banking had a slow start. But Mastercard showed a visionary culture of embracing Open Banking early-on and making it part of its services. Why is that?
Willaert: Mastercard saw opportunity because we believe that Open Banking is the way to truly bring innovation, new use cases, and more convenient ways for consumers to experience payments.
Many concrete use cases have already taken off, such as paying bills through Open Banking or doing e-commerce payments. Credit-decisioning is an emerging use case we’re seeing more of, and it’s extremely powerful.
Mastercard can play a powerful role in these opportunities because of our history in building quality networks. We’ve been doing networks since we started, which puts us in an excellent position to add value, do it correctly, and focus on quality and security for our customers.
“Mastercard believes that Open Banking is the way to truly bring innovation, new use cases, and more convenient ways for consumers to experience payments.” — Bart Willaert, Executive Vice President of Mastercard Open Banking International Markets.”Bart Willaert, Executive Vice President of Mastercard Open Banking International Markets
NFM: The Nordics and Baltics are highly advanced in terms of digitalisation and the use of digital IDs. So, Open Banking has really taken hold in the region.
What’s Mastercard’s vision for the Nordics and beyond, when it comes to the deployment of further services in Open Banking?
Willaert: The Nordics have always been a powerhouse for innovation. We’ve seen that in payments and traditional business—adopting electronic payments, digital payments, mobile payments, and so on. It’s a continuation of a solid drive to make life easier for consumers and businesses.
We’ve seen the Nordics leading in Open Banking—we see adoption happening strongly as well as new use cases. Sometimes, we don’t even “see” them because they’re embedded in our daily lives.
Open Banking is still in an early stage, so there’s much more evolution and many more use cases to come. But the Nordics show where we’re headed.
The UK also has high adoption—seven million users use Open Banking.
Beyond that, things are in a more nascent stage. In those zones, they’re looking at the Nordics, and considering the benefits of Open Banking.
I’m meeting with customers from Australia, where Open Banking is gaining traction, and they’re coming to the Nordics to learn what’s happening here, how it’s happening in Europe, and what’s driving it.
Recommended: Explore the Future of Finance at Nordic Fintech Week
NFM: When I look at all the advancements on the back of Open Banking, I wonder what else can be innovated on the back of this. And yet we hear that we’re just scratching the surface of what can be done with Open Banking.
What can we expect to see in the short term?
Willaert: The key message is that the solutions are already happening today. It’s not something that we need to wait 20 years to see.
But there’s still much more runway.
Firstly, we’ll experience a lot more maturity in quality. Open Banking is a new network, and not everything is perfect yet. But there’s a strong drive from the players and regulators in the ecosystem to make it more secure, slicker, and more robust.
Secondly, I believe we’ll see much more adoption in the coming years. The use cases are there, and the players are positioning themselves, but it takes a bit of time for consumers to use it, try it, and recognise the benefits.
The third dimension is that we’ll see many more use cases opening up in the existing datasets, but also with new datasets. The regulator is also thinking about broadening scope.
We’re moving away from just Open Banking to open finance and smart data. The end goal is for consumers to have the right set of data in their hands so they can share it securely, and benefit from it.
NFM: Tell us why fintechs should consider partnering with Mastercard.
Willaert: Mastercard is a relevant actor here. We started early in Open Banking, and that’s not by accident. Open Banking is a core part of our strategy because our third pillar is our new network. But to play in this network, you must do it correctly. And we’ve focused heavily on quality from the start.
To be on top of Open Banking, a company needs a reliable network underneath.
The second thing is that we’re touching the data and lives of consumers and businesses. How companies do that matters. We have a principle of doing everything in a data-privacy-compliant way.
Next to that, we need to bring and enable innovation. We’ve been in the payments industry for the last six years. Bringing that knowledge and those assets to the Open Banking world is very relevant. It’s a massive benefit that our customers can tap into.
We’re also the only player in the space thinking of it from a completely global perspective. With our assets in the US and our presence in Australia and other markets, we’re able to leverage experiences and gain access across multiple regions. That’s a significant benefit for our customers.
Finally, we really love to partner. We’re a network, which means we’re going to do certain things, but there are many things we’re not going to do. Not every innovation is built by Mastercard, luckily. But we have great partners that do innovate and whom we partner with to co-create.
So, we’re looking forward to the FinTech forums to partner and invite customers to work with us and bring these innovations to their own customers.
NFM: Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today. We look forward to seeing Mastercard and your colleagues at Nordic Fintech Week.