Why financial and customer data is important
Consumers are already benefiting from open banking, which has given them the power to share their financial data with companies they trust.
This has led to financial technology (fintech) companies creating apps to help consumers manage their money, pick the most suitable bank accounts and credit cards, and share their transaction data with credit reference agencies to help improve their credit history. By demonstrating they can meet monthly rent payments or pay subscriptions, people with poor credit histories can gain better access to suitable finance. Small businesses are benefiting too, by sharing data with their accountants and business advisors online to help them make more informed financial decisions.
Open finance can extend those open banking benefits into other financial services, including insurance, pensions, and investments. Consumers will be offered personalised products and services tailored to their needs, from mortgages and savings accounts to investment portfolios and pensions.
That same financial data can help power our wider society too. Companies, governments, public bodies, regulators and academics can study this real-life, large-scale information - and use it to shape policies which improve people’s lives. If only an individual could share their data without fear of it being misused.
How GOFCoE helps
Trust is at the heart of unlocking the potential of financial data. People need to know their personal information will be safe and that their privacy will be protected.
GOFCoE helps businesses, universities, public bodies, and charities to share data safely. The facilities and services provided by the centre help partners work together on projects to improve the lives of billions of people around the world - while keeping individuals’ data safe and protecting their privacy.
The centre has created a safe haven to give financial service companies and their customers the confidence to share data securely. Within the safe haven, GOFCoE has launched an economic data observatory, which allows our partners to study real-world financial data.
The economic data observatory has already helped the UK Government to study financial behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic. Understanding people’s habits with money helps policymakers to come up with the right policies to make lives better.
What we believe
The “data trail” that each of us leaves behind every day contains insights into our behaviour that are only just starting to be harnessed. These insights could help the public, private, and third sectors to create more beneficial policies, make better investments, and spend money more effectively.
Digital technology companies have created whole new industries – online shops and music streaming services, social networks and taxi and delivery apps – by harnessing the power of data. We want to do the same for our wider society. GOFCoE gives organisations the opportunity to explore data safely, so they can bring that same level of innovation into other aspects of our daily lives.
Ethics are central to the way GOFCoE operates. We have structured our work based on the strictest data protection and privacy rules, giving our partners the confidence to share data with us - and with each other.
In early 2018. Gavin Littlejohn of the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) wrote a paper suggesting that such a centre be created. Stephen Ingledew, then Chief Executive of FinTech Scotland, provided the connections to find and pull together the team and Kevin Collins, an Assistant Principal at the University of Edinburgh and its lead on industry engagement, delivered the University's support to help bring the idea to life.
FDATA worked with trade body Fintech Scotland and the University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation programme to develop the idea.
In June 2020, the project was awarded £22.5 million from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Industrial Strategy through the UK Research & Innovation Strength in Places Fund.
GOFCoE is being established out of the University of Edinburgh in early 2021 as a neutral, independent, not-for-profit organisation – the first of its kind in the world. Its firm foundations, based on trust and ethics, will allow it to bring together partners from throughout society to unlock the potential of financial data to improve people’s lives.
Our strong foundations
To get us launched and to support our first 5 years of operation, we have been backed by a £22.5 million grant from the Strength in Places Fund, provided by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) fund that has been established by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This creates a strong funding base, but we are also building an organisation that will operate sustainably by matching this funding through additional grants, membership fees and charging for GOFCoE services.
Our financial data safe haven and economic data observatory are hosted and protected by the University of Edinburgh’s EPCC, which has been at the forefront of advanced supercomputing technology since it was founded in 1990. EPCC also runs the Public Health Scotland National Safe Haven, a trusted systems environment housing health data for research purposes.
As part of the £300m Data Driven Innovation (DDI) programme of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, EPCC is designing and implementing the Edinburgh International Data Facility (EIDF), which will be the computational resource to back all elements of the DDI programme, including GOFCoE.
EPCC colleagues will co-design an expansion of the GOFCoE safe haven and will contribute to the breadth and strength of our Data Science capabilities.