OBIE’s September 2020 SME Forum

OBIE hosted a one-hour webinar examining the opportunities of open banking in supporting the UK’s SME community – helping to address the economic impact of Covid-19.

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Replay this panel discussion to hear UK small businesses’ view of open banking, how to communicate its benefits, and why open banking providers need to become “Champions” for SMEs. Featuring:

  • Mark Chidley, Independent SME Representative to the OBIE (moderator)
  • Fliss Berridge, Co-founder, Ordo
  • David Carr, CFO & Head of Product, Clear Books
  • Zitah McMillan, Co-founder & CEO, Predictive Black
  • Andrew Gillespie, Co-founder, LEAR
Key points from September’s SME Forum

At September’s SME Forum, I was joined by a panel of fintechs and business leaders who were reporting back from the ‘frontlines’ of their work with the UK’s small business community.

Our panellists included Zitah McMillan, CEO and Co-Founder of Predictive Black; Fliss Berridge, Director & Co-founder, Ordo; and David Carr, CFO and Head of Product, Clear Books. Each firm draws on the “magic dust” of open banking to transform the day-to-day financial requirements of businesses.

We also welcomed Andrew Gillespie, Co-founder of Lear Fitness. With a background in banking and current experience as a business owner Andrew did an excellent job of keeping our panel resolutely focussed on the needs of the small business.

In what was a lively session, we focused on three key areas:

  1. What’s the value? Tell me what’s in it for me.
  2. The obstacles to wider open banking adoption. How can we break down barriers – real and perceived?
  3. Seizing the opportunity. What does the future look like?

What’s the value?

How much do small business owners know – and need to know – about open banking? For Andrew, open banking providers had to improve their ability to articulate the real business benefits of their offerings rather than merely listing features.

We have spoken about ‘techno-babble’ in previous events – and the need for simple, benefits-based language was highlighted again and again.  Zitah explained that she often finds herself explaining open banking to customers, and reinforced how important it is to articulate the insight, clarity and control that business owners could acquire through open banking-enabled services.

Rounding off this point, Andrew reminded us that many small business owners will instinctively turn to their accountants for advice – and that any comms or language had to overcome concerns about introducing complexity, and therefore cost, into a business.

What are the obstacles to wider open banking adoption?

We heard that SMEs can be sceptical of the security pedigree of small fintechs compared with ‘familiar’ high street banks – who themselves have suffered breaches.

This resonated with Fliss, who said that both elements of ‘FinTech’ – finance and technology – can cause unease. The remedy, for her, was to reinforce the FCA’s strict regulation of our sector. “It’s open banking, but that doesn’t mean just anyone can take part.”

In response, Andrew reminded the panel that, if they could clearly demonstrate open banking’s security and value-add business benefits, they would position themselves as champions of small businesses. This – combined with reminders that they are small businesses themselves – could be an effective tactic to build trust in new markets.

What does the future look like?

While reliable crystal balls seem to be in constant short supply, nevertheless we asked our panel their views on what excited them about the future of open banking.

Fliss explained that the evolution and launch of Variable Recurring Payments provided tremendous opportunity to rethink and replace Direct Debits – improving choice and control for merchants in line with the government’s New Payments Architecture.

For Zitah, the business benefit lies in extracting more value from users’ data: the application of increasingly sophisticated AI and machine learning techniques to support forecasting and pre-emptive analysis.

David shared his thoughts on how open banking can bring accounting and banking much closer together. Paying payroll with a click – combined with straight-through submissions to HMRC via one screen. These powerful new experiences could help users manage their finances in a slicker, more secure way.

Join us next time…

I’d like to extend a warm thank you to our panellists and to those who attended the forum. As a team, we will be reconvening soon to engage in another think tank which will shape the next topic for discussion – payments.

We hope to see you for our next forum in December where the conversation will explore how open banking payments can make small businesses more resilient, productive and profitable. You can register your interest here.

Mark Chidley,

Independent SME Representative to the OBIE

Getting Real: Open banking from the frontline.

Ahead of what promises to be an insightful panel discussion on 23rd September, Mark Chidley (Independent SME Representative to the OBIE) shared his thoughts on the topic of discussion.

Don’t forget to reserve your place by registering today.

For many of us in the UK, September is a time of new beginnings, as summer comes to an end and we begin to lay the groundwork for the year ahead. The open banking world is no different, and we are looking forward to welcoming you to our next SME Forum event, at 12pm on Wednesday 23rd September . We’re delighted to be hearing from new faces from within our industry as well as small business owners. While Covid-19 continues to dominate headlines and debate, our panel will bring a fresh perspective and renewed focus on how open banking is supporting the UK’s SME community address the economic impact of Covid 19, including:

Demystifying the impact of Covid19 on SMEs

While we’ve all heard guesses and ‘expert opinions’ in the press, OBIE’s SME Forum is committed to bringing you real-world, evidenced insight from the ‘business end’ of the SME community. Each of our panel members have spent the year speaking directly to their small business customers and getting to understand the real-world situations small businesses across the country are facing. We’ll be asking them to share their experiences, as well as their thoughts on how open banking might help.

Gauging SMEs’ appetite for digital solutions

Our contributors will be reporting back from their discussions with SMEs, on their willingness to embrace new technologies at a time when there is so much else to worry about.

Building towards a common language

Many of us know that it can be difficult to make a case for open banking without resorting to acronyms, industry-babble and techno-jargon. We’ll be challenging our panel to solve that – or at least get us on the road towards a clearer picture – with their efforts judged by our SME representative.

Channeling advocacy to encourage adoption

Where should the big open banking conversations start? Does it need a top-down approach driven from Westminster, or a ground-swell of testimonial and word of mouth? What means more to the SME owner – and how can we encourage that potentially vital decision to adopt?

Taking tomorrow into the equation

With so much of our focus on the here and now, it can be easy to lose sight of the months and years ahead. But for SME owners, preparedness for tomorrow can be the difference between surviving and thriving. So – as economies continue to react and CBILS / BBLS money (eventually) run out – how can open banking offer small businesses opportunities to make real, lasting improvements in the way they do business?

These topics and more will be covered at our upcoming SME Forum – please register using the link below, and don’t hesitate to submit any questions in advance either to or via any of our social media channels. We look forward to being ‘back in the classroom’ with you soon.

Mark Chidley,

Independent SME Representative to the OBIE