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Art & Money – Site Sessions Talk – May 2017

This is a write up of a short talk I gave in May 2017 as part of Leila Johnston’s Site Sessions events. This is what I wanted to say but not sure if I actually did or not (until the video surfaces that is).

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Hello. My name is Aden and the title of my talk is not ‘make art note’ but I was in Amsterdam last week and this old warehouse was outside my hotel and it seemed fitting. My talk is actually called make banks open. I am going to talk to you today about banking regulation (sorry I will try and make it fun)…and hopefully how it will unleash art on the world of finance.

 

A little bit about me, I worked at HSBC for over 17 years i.e. 6258 days in total. I worked in a variety of technical roles and latterly in the innovation function (no sniggering HSBC customers) trying to make the bank better. I largely failed. But I still work in the industry but I am freelance now. I have unfinished business with banks.

 

I want to talk about 3 things in the next 10 minutes. How regulations are forcing the banks to be more open. How those changes are leading a lot of companies to believe they can solve the problems of our financial lives. And finally, thankfully a little bit about how these changes will let the art into banking, I hope.

 

In 2008 banks fucked the world. Over extended credit on massively complex and opaque financial instruments such a credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities brought the whole house of cards crashing down. Leading to massive government bailouts of the banks that were deemed systemically important to the worlds continued operation. This brought about mass austerity and can be blamed for a lot of societies ills today.

 

This crisis also fucked the banks, less so for certain but still caused them a lot of pain. Historically low interest rates rendered a lot of their old business models almost useless and they made enemies in very powerful places. The governments and the regulators. This should not have been possible and it should never happen again. A raft of huge regulatory programs were unleashed…

 

Now you may think this was too little too late….and you may be right but the changes that have been put in place have largely been about protecting consumers from the casino like attitudes of large banks, betting the house on fallacies. These regulations came in many shapes and size and with many weird names…two of the largest were…

 

Dodd-Frank a set of measures aimed at US banks (the ones that largely caused the disaster) to improve the transparency of the banks especially with regards to products like derivatives.

This also introduced the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency designed to protect consumers from banks treating them unfairly….

This set of measures is currently under attack from the Tangerine Despot who hates its figure head Elizabeth Warren, the scourge of banks in the US. This is a disaster that will hopefully not come to pass.

 

The other large global set of measures are Basel III. These measures mean that banks have to hold a far higher percentage of actual liquid capital i.e. real money to avoid them over extending themselves again. Also a series of stress tests are undertaken at regular intervals to test the strength of banks all over the world to try and simulate similar crises to test their resilience now.

 

There is a new set of regulation that is coming to our shores soon. It is an EU wide piece of legislation AND I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT.

….are you ready for this?

 

Boom. The Payments Service Directive 2: The revenge. Or PSD2 as it is more commonly known. It is, in my humble opinion, going to change the face of banking to a greater extent than anything I have seen in my adult lifetime (most of which has been spent working for banks).

 

Well my dear….let me tell you how and why it is so exciting.

 

There are a whole host of measures contained within the page turner of a document. Ultimately the ones that will impact us most are the following.

This set of regulations is an attack on the middle men of payments. Predominantly the big ones. Visa, Amex and Mastercard. When was the last time you did not buy anything without using those? This will introduce measures that will open up payments.

This will be achieved by the introduction of the snappily titled Payment Initiation Services and Account Information Services. New regulated entities that will be allowed to put in and take out money from your bank accounts directly in the case of the PIS. And for the AIS the ability to receive your transaction and balance data automatically in near real time.

And that is very exciting because it enables a lot of very interesting things to become reality.

 

Open Banking UK – doing great work to ensure the slow bureaucracy of Europe is not hampered by inertia, or lobbying from those affected etc. This is a shift that is happening across the world. Canada, Singapore, Australia and the US are all starting their own open banking programs and the tide is not going back out….

(Since I gave this talk the API specifications have now been published https://www.openbanking.org.uk/read-write-apis/)

 

These functions form around 90% of day to day banking functions for most people

If new regulated companies have access to these services they can be pseudo or neo banks and that means we should see some real innovation in the space which has been sorely lacking.

PSD2 is signed into European Law on the 12th of January 2018. The technical measures included need to be in place within 18 months of that law being in place. Which is a long time to wait but thankfully the Competition Markets Authority in the UK has stepped in and put some tighter timescales in place around the data part of these requirements. The first banking APIs for transaction data in the UK must be live by January next year…or else.

 

So the pipes are opening….what comes next? Efficiency dreams.

 

 

Throughout history the organisation of your finances has made people about as a happy as these two.  I am sure you have all been in similar situations where one person in the relationship weighs your money, while the other partner stares into space wishing they were dead. It is a dull affair for the majority of us. Either a chore of indifference or something that we blissfully ignore.

The Money Changer And His Wife by German painter Ludwing Von Langenmantel

 

 

There are some that love it of course. Accountants, Spreadsheet nerds, organised people that will pour over their finances and models for hours. Planning everything to the nth degree. You know, sociopaths.   For most that is out of reach both skill wise and desire wise. The stereotype I would like to lean on is that creative people are less organised / bothered by money? Anyway I hate managing money and I wish I was a spreadsheet nerd.

 

This is not helped by most internet banking interfaces. They may as well be bank statements sellotaped to a monitor for the purposes of making a point in presentations. This statement is from 2013. Nothing has really changed.

 

Little has improved since the desktop apps of the 90s that took money management to a fine art of budgets, bar graphs and pie charts. Their are lots of people who remember these so fondly.

 

Some banks have attempted to introduce money management features to banking. In the industry these are called PFM (Personal Financial Management). Does it really help you manage your money? Kind of I guess. Does it make you feel anything at all? Meh.

 

There are people that might be thinking but I have an app and it is perfectly acceptable. And I am sure it is lovely in a perfunctory kind of way. Most people have not seen what good really looks like.

 

In retail banking startups like Monzo are eyeing up current accounts and thinking they can build something better…something more loveable both from a using and viewing your money point of view but also as a compnay. Something that they describe as ‘the bank of the future’

 

And there are many, many others who are excited about being the bank of the future and what PSD2 brings to them as they can build better products, more quickly than the tardy old incumbent banks. So they see PSD2 as the second coming. They are right to think like that.

 

The perceived path of all this is to beautiful place where we all have our own AI powered financial advisor. A digital private banker for the masses running our financial lives perfectly and removing all worry. That is the utopian dream of financial services…as a technologist I am intrigued as to how this utilitarian dream plays out…

 

But…it all feels a bit boring. More regulated industries making solutions they think fit in with what the mythical person of today (largely millennials) want from finance. That we want to be organised and efficient and that is the goal. It bores the arse off me.

 

What is not clear in these regulatory measures is can I have access to my own data to build my own things? In the UK it looks like this will be available for data. And this gives us some more interesting possibilities. If you can code then you can make. You can solve your own problems. Make niche solutions only you would use…but others may find useful. This has long been the source of real innovation.

 

And this is where I see real opportunities to let the art in. Because I don’t just want VC funded white men building the banks of the future. While they may well be perfectly designed to improve my white metropolitan elite life and reduce my flat white intake to save me money I want more…

 

Artistry in banking is largely limited to the notes we use. As I am sure you are all aware this is the bank note of the year for 2016. I will be honest I find it quite ugly and confusing.

 

This years hot favourite however is beautiful. I mean look at it. I want more if this but applied to the digital interfaces of money. And for that we need more artists.

 

 

I want interfaces designed by people like Stef and Giorgia. For 52 weeks in 2015 they set themselves a data recording challenge and then posted the results to each other. Their brilliant hand designed visualisation posted across the world every week a few years back are inspirational in many ways. A great book and now permanently installed at MoMA in new York.  What would banking services made by Stef and Giorgia look like?

 

What would Sheffields Own Universal Everything think finance should look like via their imagined new screens and interfaces? I don’t know but it would be nice.

You can see more of their work on this project at https://www.instagram.com/p/BTbfnz-Fq0I/ and https://vimeo.com/215164746

 

 

How about Manchester based artist Brendan Dawes with his algorithmic art. This is a piece of work he created last year in conjunction with dutch payments company Adyen to visualise payments

‘With this piece I asked myself what if you could peer inside this system and see payments being added to the network. Rather than create some kind of representation of networks I instead wanted to create a world where these delicate moments seemed to float down into the network and suggest they are almost delicate in nature. Each representation is constructed from various parts of the data — the shape is born from the transaction category / vertical whilst the texture is derived from the type of device that was used. The colour is then informed by where in the world the payment took place’ Lovely.

 

How about local pirates and purveyors of fine gadgetry pimoroni? What would they make from the mixture of transaction data and payment ability with their marvellous machines? The physical to digital and back to physical has not really been experimented with in financial services. I think this is a rich seam of wonder.

 

As James just said about his shop Makers, there are many ludicrously specific economies out there and I am hoping that the PSD2 regulations opening up access to more varied companies and individuals will lead to some ludicrously specific solutions that might be built for the few but actually end up being beneficial to the many….not in a Tory way obviously.

 

 

One piece of work from a few years ago that really stuck in my head was Heidi Hinders Money No Object. Heidi researched new ways to make museum donations more interactive. This image shows the handshake agreement, RFIDs contactless payment methods built into the gloves, there is also a hive five interaction, a tap dance payment where the payment method is built into shoes.

Using RFID to bring physical interactions to payments…here is the hug and pay. Bringing different gestures and human contact to payment.

You can watch a short documentary about the project there is also more written about it over here

and returning to currency this was also by Heidi…she took everyday coins and left them in petri dishes to see what delightful bacteria formed. A vice versa of where there is muck there is brass…either way I find it quite beautiful

 

This is what I want to see a lot more of. I want more poeple like those mentioned above building things to do with money. Thanks to the regulations forcing banks open and releasing new data and materials into the world to make with hopefully they can.

 

I will end with this quote from John Maeda on design and art. I want better and different questions than the ones currently being asked by banks of fintech firms. I want to see something truly different and I have a feeling art and artists have an important role to play in that. Thanks.

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The worrying fragility of PSD2

This is the write up/script of a Pecha Kucha-ish talk I gave at the ustwo Fintech Talkies II event on Thursday the 19th of May 2016. What I actually said was recorded on video and will be embedded here when available. There are a few mentions of Monument Valley in here as the game was made by ustwo, this seems to have confused a few people who are seemingly unaware of this fact. Sorry. I have also added a load of links to the end of the preso if people want to read a lot of stuff about PSD2.

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Slide1

Slide 1: Hello. I am Aden and I want to talk about my favourite bit of European Parliamentary legislation and my worry over its wellbeing.  PSD2 is the second iteration of the Payments Service Directive a series of proposals to change to European law around the movement of money and transaction data. It will change the way we bank and I really want it to be successful in doing so.

Slide2

Slide 2: Here is the legislative beauty. 90 odd pages of almost impenetrable legalese. Its stated purpose is to make a more integrated and efficient European payments market. And to level the playing field. What it means really is to kick banks assess to open up data and cut out dominant middle men from payments. It will introduce two key things. PIS and AIS.

Slide3

Slide 3: Let me try and explain. Ada wants to buy the complete works of M.C. Escher, she takes out her Mondo card (she strikes me as a Mondo user) and she inputs her card details into Amazon. The payment request goes off to the acquirer, Worldpay – this is routed through the card scheme in use, MasterdCard here and then to Ada’s bank that issued her card. Money sent back for payment to amazon. Amazon keeps the card details on file. Repeat ad infinitum for other merchants.  (Thanks to Starling for the inspiration for these diagrams – link to the originals below)
Slide4Slide 4: In the new world of PIS. No card details are exchanged. Instead a token based connection is made, The merchant makes a request to Ada’s bank / card provider for a token based relationship to be formed. This then creates a direct link to Ada’s account. Unique to the merchant. Ada is in full control. A failing at the merchant means she does not have to cancel cards. The merchant must be licensed in some way to be able to move money in this way. They will be known as PISPs. This change also cuts out all those other pesky mainly American card scheme and allows new players to emerge, it also starts to make current accounts more platform like.

Slide5

Slide 5: Let’s now take a look AIS. Here Crow, who is very organised with his finances as he is saving for a curse lifting procedure, Crow has his main account with Barclays and he downloads the transactions manually every so often in CSV format. Crow has a credit card with HSBC and he downloads his transactions in the bloody useless format of PDF because reasons. He swears. He also has a joint account at Lloyds with his crow lover. This is a semi automatic download and he has given his password details over to money dashboard to scrape his transactions. He is a reckless maverick. He then munges all this data together and manages his money the best he can. He caws with disdain regularly and walks around seemingly aimlessly in frustration. (No way I managed to say all this in 20 seconds)
Slide6

Slide 6: No more pain in the brave new world my Crow friend! Similar to the payment relationships, in the future banks will have to provide an automated and much safer less painful means of transfer. Like the way you would connect your twitter account to a third party app.  The consumers of this data must be licensed ins some as yet undefined way. These new information aggregators will be known as AISPs.

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Slide 7: Now I don’t know about you but these changes are exciting. AISPs and PISPs could effectively replace a lot of functionality of exisiting banks and allow for some hopefully much richer, simpler, more interesting interfaces, experiences and services. The rules were signed into European Law at the beginning of the year and the EU members must all be compliant with the proposals by the start of 2018….but all is not quite pelvis thrustingly awesome…although to continue the theme slightly

Slide8

Slide 8: Now as we saw last week, Europe is a beautifully diverse set of countries who interpret things in many ways. When it comes to PSD2 and the need for some solid standards for APIs, communication and security variation and creativity might not be the best thing. The directives need to be transcribed by all 28 EU members into local laws, in the UK this will be part of the Payments Services Regulations.

Slide9

Slide 9: There is another hitch. There are will be some Regulatory technical standards., RTS for nine areas relating to these changes. The key ones being around communication methods i.e. APIs and strong customer authentication to allow these functions to work. These things are not published yet. They are due ‘this summer’. The final ratification of the standards though could take 18 months. The EBA are confident there will be enough published in time for solutions to be created to meet the deadlines. This feels like shaky foundations to me….

Slide10a

Slide 10: Because we do not want the kinds of people that bought you these bloody things to be cobbling together technical standards that will drive the future of banking. We must not let those that forced the situation of today be in charge of the situation of tomorrow or we will end up with some very uncomfortable solution…

Slide10

Slide 10a: *Uproarious laughter or tumbleweed and very bemused looks*

 

 

 

Slide11

Slide 11: The lack of easy access to payments and more importantly data has forced awful workarounds that put brave users at risk and stagnate change for the mainstream. Scraping is a necessary evil and I hate that it has to exit. Thankfully PSD2 sounds the death knell for scraping banking data or at the very least ensures better methods will exist.

Slide12

Slide 12: Thankfully our own fine land is on it. We have the Open Data Institute pulling together some open standards and bring lots of people to the party, we also have the competition markets authority this week demanding that APIs be ready by Q1 of next year in the UK for certain types of data. I do hope they have the power and the skill to make this happen…although I do have minor concerns about fragmentation of standards…and it is adding yet more committees and requirements and words to the debate…

Slide13

Slide 13: Which is bringing to mind the classic battle of the Open Systems Interconnection reference model and Transport Control Portal and Internet Protocol. OSI was debated and designed to the nth degree, technically perfect and backed by regulators, industry, engineers alike….but it lost to something simpler yet flawed. This quote from one of the god fathers of the internet sums it up perfectly. I worry PSD2 technical guidelines will drag on because someone wants to make it a beautiful dream.

Slide14

Slide 14: Meanwhile companies with real vision are living the dream. Brilliant UK based companies like Currency Cloud have shown what real platforms and smart APIs can build, Go cardless made direct debit easy, Mondo and Starling are both building for API driven worlds with current accounts as a platform. Thankfully some bigger banks are there too, BBVA with their open platform and Citi with their mobile API challenges.

Slide15

Slide 15: Companies like Stripe have proven the power of treating APIs like products, making the developers real customers and making it easier than ever to make things involving the movement of money. They have raised the standards of the industry ten fold, pushing PayPal to buy Braintree, Mastercard and Visa to relaunch and redouble their API efforts regularly. These are the kinds of people I want to ensure are involved in the design of solutions for banking’s future.

Slide16

Slide 16: Another nice little example that I like is Xignite. They provide market data with lovely APIs, they are building out an ecosystem of parties who all provide data in this same way. More ingredients to build more things. Fintech companies coming together to build something greater than just they themselves ever could. My utopian hippy self wants far more openness and collaboration between financial services firms for the benefit of people who want to make better things.

Slide17

Slide 17: Because we need to challenge the stereotypical attitude of the banker, they are by no means all like this but still the attitude to PSD2 is this is our data we won’t make it easy for those bastards to just come in and steal our customers because we are shit at making decent interfaces. They need to see that decent APIs will benefit their own developers over anyone else. People being able to make things faster than ever before. The smart ones know this, they know they no longer ‘own the customer’ but that they need to integrate well into the customers whole financial relationship.

Slide18

Slide 18: Ultimately I want to see the innovative players drive the market. Yes the regulation is welcome and needed. But what will really make the incumbents move is a mixture of regulation and the fear of missing out. Missing out on how banking will work tomorrow, how easily new players launch products and services, how easily business models are mixed and remixed and how their customers bank with the companies that fit into their lives the best.

Slide19

Slide 19: PSD2 does feel like an illusory adventure of impossible architecture….but is certainly a challenge worth facing but unlike Ada there will be no forgiveness if this does not pan out the way it should. The people who have suffered rubbish banking have suffered long enough. Please let’s not fuck this up.

 

Slide20

Slide 20: Thanks very much for listening. Slides and what I was meant to say are published here, I have also included a load of links to more reading material used to make this presentation. If anyone wants to hire me based on my awful presentation puns and passion for European regulation then please do let me know. Cheers.

Video link – Coming soon hopefully

View on Slideshare

Lots of other links to related material.

PSD2 Framework – http://ec.europa.eu/finance/payments/framework/index_en.htm

PSD2 FAQ – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5793_en.htm?locale=en

Discussion on RTS on strong customer authentication and secure communication under PSD2 – https://www.eba.europa.eu/news-press/calendar?p_p_id=8&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=1303933

EBA Discussion paper on innovative uses of consumer data by financial institutions https://www.finextra.com/finextra-downloads/newsdocs/eba-dp-2016-01.pdf

UK Gov – Call for evidence on data sharing and open data in banking – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/data-sharing-and-open-data-in-banking-call-for-evidence/call-for-evidence-on-data-sharing-and-open-data-in-banking

Competition & Markets review of banking for SMEs https://www.gov.uk/cma-cases/review-of-banking-for-small-and-medium-sized-businesses-smes-in-the-uk

CMA – Retail banking market investigation Provisional decision on remedies(THIS IS GOLD) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/523755/retail_banking_market_pdr.pdf

UK Open Banking Standard Intro – http://hollandfintech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/298568600-Introducing-the-Open-Banking-Standard.pdf

OBWG Short Proposal Apr 2016 – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1s6ITjXD1HNUQMmsxdqmmUS8c1UwgLhTXSIr1ZjgxIS0/edit#

Explaining  PSD2 – Starling Bank http://starlingbank.co.uk/explaining-psd2/

W3C Web Payments group – PSD2 https://www.w3.org/Payments/IG/wiki/PSD2

W3C first public working draft payment request API https://www.w3.org/blog/wpwg/2016/04/21/first-public-working-drafts-of-payment-request-api/

OSI – The Internet that wasn’t http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/networks/osi-the-internet-that-wasnt

Programmable Web – Banking API directories http://www.programmableweb.com/category/banking