Thought Leadership

Event round-up: OBL’s regional visit to the North East, in partnership with Sage

19 April 2024
OBL visit to North East - group shot outside Sage

Last Friday (12 April), Open Banking Limited held its inaugural regional visit in the North East of England ahead of UK Fintech Week. The visit, hosted in partnership with Sage UK, a leader in accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology for small and medium-sized businesses, brought together local fintech firms, business people, fintech experts, and local and national politicians. The visit was part of a wider programme of engagement to showcase the positive impact of open banking across the UK. 

Here is a round-up of the key themes that were discussed at the roundtable.  

Digitising SMEs 

Discussion focused on the importance of digitalising businesses, with a member of Sage UK’s team recognising that businesses that digitise usually do better. This was echoed by OBL CEO Henk Van Hulle, who noted that businesses that digitise themselves ‘as much as possible’ are more successful, and open banking has a role to play in that process. Henk also highlighted that one bank has around 42 use cases specifically relating to open banking — in the areas of pricing, credibility, improving risk, and affordability. 

We also touched on automation, late payments, the role of the government in regulation and innovation, and – critically – creating an atmosphere of trust. 

The importance of trust 

The team at Sage, Richard Newman, OBL Corporate Affairs Director, and Henk all raised trust as a key part of future innovation. The open banking ecosystem cannot thrive, innovate, and compete, without the trust of consumers and SMEs. Because open banking is a trailblazing industry where ‘nobody has been before’, trust is a necessity. In placing it front and centre of the work achieved so far, Henk noted that one out of every five SMEs now uses in open banking in some way. This has helped contribute to a 19% penetration rate – a ‘massive increase’. 

OBL – and the wider ecosystem – must continue to facilitate a culture of trust, helping to eradicate fraud and ensure trust is placed at the heart of innovation. Customer protection, identity frameworks, and commercial frameworks remain a key part of our future plans. 

Henk reminded the participants that our industry is only in its sixth year, highlighting the ‘amazing’ learning curve, where we are only ‘scratching the surface in terms of opportunity’.  


The same applies to interoperability – in open banking terms, the ability to exchange data between different organisations via a common standard. This is a core principle of open banking, alongside transparency, assurance and accountability, and allows us to look beyond open banking towards open finance and to smart data.  

Appropriate regulation 

Throughout the discussion, there was a strong focus on the role of the Government in harnessing the right balance of regulation and innovation. The key principles to underpin open banking rely on both the legislative framework and the right regulatory environment, Richard noted it is incumbent on the Government to protect the end users and small businesses. Championing the notion that good regulation will drive innovation, he went on to state the right policies, frameworks, and proportionate regulation can help drive the adoption of open banking. 


The visit was a fantastic opportunity to engage with an organisation that has fully embedded open banking into its service, and with the customers of that service, in addition to other regional stakeholders. It allowed OBL and Sage to demonstrate the achievements of open banking and where this relatively new technology can take us next. What is clear, is that the ecosystem continues to grow, develop, and innovate at every juncture. 

While there is room to grow and develop, it is clear there is no shortage of opportunities – and widespread support – for open banking to take a leading role in delivering a public good, supporting everything from SMEs to individual consumers. 

Attendees: Sage, North East CBI, North East FSB, Satago, Swoop, G W Dick & Co LLP, Sir Alan Campbell MP, Lord Chris Holmes, Sunderland Software City, Ecospend (Trustly), HM Treasury, The Journal.