Banking Tech Awards 2020 Winners: Strands – Best Open Banking Solution
Strands’ Open Hub was launched in 2017. It’s used in more than ten financial institutions in the UK, Europe, Asia and Latin America. We talk with Claudio Cungi, head of product at Strands.
Strand’s Open Hub platform “provides banks with a single interface from which to connect to external services in an easy and secure way”. What kind of services does this include?
Connecting external services to their financial management platform allows banks to enrich their 360-degree view of their customers.
Open Hub acts as a meta-aggregator, by connecting to third-party account aggregation providers such as CRIF’s Account aggregation service, which act as Strands’ partners in different geographies.
We also provide account invoice aggregation services. Open Hub connects to most widely used invoice management tools, including Quickbooks, Xero and Sage, to get additional information about invoices and bills through the business financial management (BFM) solution. This way, banks get a more realistic picture of the finances of their customers’ businesses.
We also provide bank feeds services. Open Hub connects to the same invoice aggregation services to facilitate the information about the bank accounts into these tools.
In the UK, Strands’ AI-based BFM platform has been authorised by HM Revenue & Customs to manage and submit digital tax returns in the UK on behalf of organisations. Banks can use our white-label fintech software help UK small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) keep on top of their finances.
How does Open Hub help banks and their customers?
It gives banks and enhanced view of their customers by taking into account both internal, such as their customer’s bank account transaction data, and external information, such as financial transactions the customer has in other bank accounts and other financial information held in accounting software used by the customer, for example in Quickbooks or Xero.
Open Hub can put customer transactions into different spending categories, such as groceries, home apparel, restaurants etc, using Strands’ AI-driven software. Each bank has its own categorisation systems. Open Hub lets a bank’s customer with accounts in more than one bank can see all their transactions categorised following a common style in a single platform. These could be recurring payments in a separate business account or expenses on a shared account.
Finally, Open Hub can integrate with all IT systems and apps used by banks. It does this by using Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) that meet international standards, such as such as the OpenAPI Specification (OAS). Open Hub eliminates the hassle of managing third-party APIs and offers a unique API that makes dealing with each of them seamless
Why did you build the hub?
Strands’ money management solutions try to provide banks with a full overview of their customers’ financial situation. For this reason, it is essential to connect the information of the user that is held outside the bank. Maintaining external connections is always a challenge and an extra effort that depends on a third party’s roadmap more than your own.
This is why we built an interface that allows banks to connect their online banking applications with third parties but that remains fully independent. This way, a change in the third party’s software or API won’t compromise in any way its connection to the banking platform. This makes maintenance so much easier.
How does the technology use “open banking” technology standards?
The continued effort behind Open Banking reform means that banks and financial institutions, using APIs, will have to open up and allow the sharing of a customer’s financial data, such as spending habits and payments, with authorised third-party providers.
Open Hub is a simple interface that leverages third-party connections, i.e. Open Banking, to connect multiple external services securely in one place. It helps banks create new revenue streams from the distribution of services over third parties.
We partner with third parties such as invoicing providers (Xero, Quickbooks), Oracle or Mastercard to generate new opportunities to accelerate the bank’s innovation efforts, enabling its complete digital transformation and using artificial intelligence to create personalised and contextual offering for their customers and bring new products and business models to market, such as a cloud version of its personal finance software or an integrated platform of digital cash management and commercial payment tools specifically designed to benefit banks’ small-to-medium enterprise (SME) customer base.
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