Trust in Open Banking

Salesforce (

Trust is perhaps the most talked about topic in the world of Open Banking.

In fact, we’ve long argued that trust — not just in the experiences people have, but in the broader ecosystem — is the determinant of success.

For a truly deep dive on this topic, you can read our Designing a Humanity Centric Digital Economy report.

The purpose of this article is to help you better understand what sort of trust we should be designing for and why. This is not the end of a discussion, but rather a continuation of one that has been bubbling under the surface and seems to be gaining more and more traction.

Before we dive deeper, let’s define some terms:


For the purpose of this discussion we are referencing Rachel Botsman’s defintion of trust: “Confidence in the unknown”.

Trust is often defined as “the willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of others” or “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something”.

In short, although you’ll find lots of variation (and a lot of slightly different definitions), they all get at the same sort of thing.

We also draw a distinction between trust and verifiable trust.

Verifiable Trust

An independent and well evidenced (cryptographically and otherwise) demonstration that an organisation is:

  1. Transparently communicating its intent
  2. Consistently delivering the value it promises, and
  3. Truly willing to own the consequences of it’s actions

Verifiable Trust is more ‘designable’.

So, why does trust matter?

Today, most data sharing events are implicit. This is due to many factors, including de facto business models, prevailing design patterns, broken legal agreements and the client:server architecture of the web (non exhaustive).

A noteworthy and topical example that highlights this point is cookie ‘consent’.

The implication is that few individuals actively share their data today. Data sharing is not a freely given and well informed action. In fact, the current models I’m referencing have resulted in consumers being more concerned than ever before about how their data is used.

“Majorities think their personal data is less secure now, that data collection poses more risks than benefits, and believe it is not possible to go through daily life without being tracked.”

This matters for Open Banking because the rules, standards and guidelines propose that data sharing events become explicit (meaning there’s a gap between current and desired behaviour). For Open Banking to work, individual and business consumers must ‘consent’ to share data under specific conditions. This process proposes to give people enough information in an effective enough context to help them make an active and informed choice.

Although there is limited research on this specific topic, the research that does exist today (research we have conducted for the Data Standards Body, the research Ipsos Mori has conducted for the OBIE etc.) seems to suggest that greater trust will lead to more willing data sharing.

The bottom line? We need people to trust the ecosystem and its ‘design’.

What do ‘we’ need to do differently to achieve this outcome?

We’ve been constructively outspoken about the shortcomings of Open Banking related initiatives. This is not an attempt to muddy the waters. It’s not an attempt to take away from great work that has been done. It’s about pushing for better.

Specifically, we’ve argued (amongst other things) that:

  1. In many cases these initiatives are being developed in a silo
  2. Too often these initiatives are developed by leading with policy or ‘rules’ and having everything else that matters follow
  3. Often these initiatives do not rely on the best, most appropriate and most progressive standards and technologies. As a result, personal data agency is yet to be achieved
  4. Often these initiatives have failed to challenge the business models and incentive structures that need to be rethought if Open Banking is to achieve its potential
  5. There’s little being done to effectively communicate the intent, decisions, trade offs and roadmap of these initiatives to the key stakeholder groups (particularly consumers) these initiatives impact

Because of all this and more, we need to step back and think of this opportunity in terms of platform or platform ecosystem design. We need to stop focusing on designing for trust — a variable outcome that we cannot really control — and instead intentionally design the ecosystem for verifiable trustworthiness.

We need to do this together, in a participatory manner that thoughtfully involves the key stakeholder groups Open Banking directly and indirectly impacts.

The good news is we have the opportunity to do this now :)

Next steps

  1. Read the overview of, or the entire report I referenced above. The latter dives deep into all of the issues I reference, proposes very specific ideas about what to do and will give you new information to act upon
  2. Engage in meaningful discourse with us and others. What do you support? What are you skeptical about? What specific considerations have we missed in our report?
  3. Openly share some of the decisions you’ve made, the work you’ve done and the results of that work for the benefit of the entire ecosystem. We have an opportunity to learn and grow together. The more openly we share and the more willing we are to be vulnerable, the better :)

If all these options sound too hard, you can consume a bunch of this content in video form below.



Insights on the intersection of data ethics, privacy and design from the team at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nathan Kinch

A confluence of Happy Gilmore, Conor McGregor and the Dalai Lama.