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Better financial decisions, powered by technology

Posted: 7 September 2020 2:30 pm
News

Fred Schebesta

A response to the Select Committee on Fintech's interim report.

Senator Andrew Bragg and the rest of the Select Committee on Fintech have done a great job listening to all sides of the story on the impact of technology in the financial services sector. I was lucky enough to speak at one of the public hearings, and the interim report released yesterday outlines recommendations that will go a long way to helping Australians take control of their financial future.

Here at Finder, we see technology as a means to an end. Our mission is to help people make better financial decisions every day, and technology makes this possible. There were lots of things we could have raised with the Select Committee but we wanted to focus on our customers. Building from our mission, we looked to respond to this consultation by focusing on one question:

How can this committee empower Australians with their financial information in order to help them make better decisions?

There are three main areas from the report that I think will have the most impact on our financial freedom:

1. Better access to data in the superannuation and general insurance industries

The report recommends that the Consumer Data Right (CDR) should be introduced to superannuation and general insurance industries. This is a great outcome for Australians. In short, it will mean that more and better data is available, but what will be really powerful is the follow-on impact of this data.

On superannuation, better access to information will help people find the best fund for them, to boost their super balance and ultimately retire comfortably. We know that Australians aren't that engaged with their super – we see it all the time in our consumer research. We need that to change, and the provision of information in a clear and consistent way will be a big step towards improving this process.

The CDR makes this real and we're particularly excited to help consumers understand and evaluate the insurance products that are so often bundled with superannuation products.

When it comes to insurance, we have been waiting patiently to offer price comparison in a sector that's controlled by a few big brands. For too long Australians have had to spend time calling around providers and comparing individually to get quotes and check that they're getting a good deal. This has to change. Improved data in the general insurance industry will mean more comparisons, better decisions, lower prices and improved cover for Aussies on the road and in their homes.

2. Continued access to screen-scraping while open banking is rolled out

This continues to be a debated issue, but for us, screen-scraping is just another way of unlocking banking data that empowers Australians to make better financial decisions. Most importantly, it is available for all Australians today and we are pleased to see the Select Committee supporting the continued access to this important technology, which powers tools like the Finder app.

This technology is safe and it was confirmed by ASIC that there was no reported loss from screen-scraping. We continue to advocate for making this process even more secure. We want policymakers to put the right checks and balances in place to ensure that all screen-scraping is done in a safe, regulated and responsible way.

As I stated in the public hearing, a simplistic ban on this technology could set the fintech industry back a decade. If this was to happen, the real losers would be Australians who are benefiting from these new tools. Finding the best deal through the Finder app is about to get easier and screen-scraping makes that possible today.

3. Launch a government-backed education campaign for open banking

We are also pleased to see a recommendation from the Select Committee that the Australian Government finds ways to establish and implement targeted campaigns to educate consumers on the Consumer Data Right and the opportunities that open banking provides. It's clear to us that open banking could be hugely beneficial to lots of Australians trying to make difficult financial decisions, but that will only happen if they know about it and trust it.

The good news is that the Treasurer has already backed this up in the mid-year budget with an announcement of $12.6 million of funding to support an information and awareness campaign to introduce CDR and help drive uptake. This kind of educational campaign will be a big step in the right direction.

We hope the Treasury works with industry partners to help deliver these messages to the Australians that are set to benefit. We also hope to see more data recipients get accredited before the campaign is launched. A basic understanding of the CDR is good, but real-life examples of how it can help Australians make better financial decisions will make it even more powerful. So much good work has gone into the CDR so the timing of this campaign is important to get right.

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