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NatWest Group India brings Global Open Finance Challenge to encourage innovation

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NatWest Group, National Australia Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Itaú Unibanco are running the Global Open Finance Challenge, a first-of-its-kind virtual event encouraging innovation and the development of new solutions for a global open finance ecosystem. The four banks are inviting teams of innovators from start-ups, fintechs, universities, and large organisations from India and around the world to take part in the Global Open Finance Challenge. Interested candidates can apply by registering online before the application deadline of 26 September, 2021. The Challenge will take place virtually on 18-24 October and the grand finale will take place on 16 November, 2021.

The four banks, in collaboration with cloud computing leader Amazon Web Services (AWS), are inviting entrepreneurs and innovators to prototype new customer solutions on a global scale. The ideas will address some of the most pressing challenges in the financial services industry, cultivating an open finance ecosystem that allows secure data sharing among financial institutions, and enabling the banks to deliver more choice and customised product offerings for customers around the world, and the public at large.

Punit Sood, Head of India, NatWest Group, said: “We see a great pool of talent in India and it has a huge potential for fintech and banking sectors where individuals can contribute towards the changing dynamics of the sector. We, at NatWest Group India, are keen to encourage innovation and establish an environment that supports the rapidly evolving digital economy. I believe that the ideas presented in the Global Open Finance Challenge will contribute to an open finance ecosystem which is expected to transform the banking industry.”

Neeraj Goyal, Head of Technology – India, NatWest Group, said: “In order to grow in the evolving digital world, the emphasis on crafting an enhanced experience for customers is a key priority right now. Innovation, collaboration, and digitisation play a key role in meeting our customers’ evolving needs. The Global Open Finance Challenge provides teams of innovators with a unique opportunity to collaborate and transform banking for customers around the world.”

The banks have collaborated with Oolys, an API infrastructure platform for financial service providers, to develop a sandbox environment that securely runs on AWS. This environment replicates a bank’s existing infrastructure, enabling rapid testing with third parties in a safe and secure environment. To aid in the development of applications, each bank will provide a set of shared APIs, including a combination of open banking, open finance, and experimental services. Participating teams can test, build, and validate solutions with mentorship from leaders within the banks and event partners. AWS will collaborate with the four banks to provide participants with advisory support to help them build their concepts in the lead up to the judging event, which includes access to coaching and resources on innovation and product development.

The top 12 teams will present their ideas to an executive judging panel with the CEOs of the four banks, plus executives from private equity and technology organisations:

· Victor Dodig, President and CEO, CIBC

· Milton Maluhy Filho, CEO, Itaú Unibanco

· Ross McEwan, Group CEO, National Australia Bank

· Alison Rose, CEO, NatWest Group

· Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer, Amazon

· Rob Heyvaert, Managing Partner, Motive Partners

The participating banks have identified three areas Challenge participants may choose to focus on, posing the following questions:

· How can we better serve our corporate and business customers, and the public at large, by delivering high-value digital services?

· How can we help current and new customers access banking services through more convenient or relevant digital channels?

· How can we find innovative ways to help our customers make better decisions around climate and sustainability?

There will be four winning teams selected from the Global Open Finance Challenge, one winner for each of the three key areas identified, and an overall Challenge winner. The winning teams will each have the opportunity to participate in a post-event tailored incubation programme with one or more of the banks, which will include:

· Proof of concept with the banks: A dedicated in-bank team to collaborate and support a proof of concept, including feedback from front-line and customer research groups.

· Ventures pitch: Post-event, teams will have the opportunity to pitch to all of the banks’ ventures teams.

· Local market guidance: Post-event, teams can receive exclusive meetings with in-bank teams for education on local market environments.

· Senior leadership: Exposure to internal decision-makers for networking relationship support and partner discussion.

· Media coverage: The winning teams will be featured in press releases across global and local banking, fintech, and technology media channels.

· Solution architecture: Expert consultants from AWS will provide support on functional and technical designs.

Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer,, said: “Financial services companies across the globe are going through rapid digital transformation. By encouraging builders and crowdsourcing new technological ideas, these forward-looking banks running the Global Open Finance Challenge will be able to develop new technologies to meet people’s rapidly evolving banking needs. We look forward to collaborating with the builders in the challenge to deliver tangible solutions that help people around the world meet their financial goals.”

With 179 bank accounts opened every minute, India holds its place as one of the largest domestic banking markets globally and open banking plays a pivotal role in powering growth through financial inclusion and innovation. Open banking is not a new concept in India. It has galvanized the country’s banking industry over the past few years, where both the regulator and the market have collaborated for the development of open banking. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) have already delivered the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system and have released its Application Programming Interface (API) for banks and third-party app providers to build upon. The market is driving innovation, and many banks are releasing their own APIs and joining forces with the fintech companies to provide better experiences for their customers.

NatWest Group India has already built over 100 APIs which are being used by 300 third parties to provide customers with direct connectivity to banking services through convenient channels.

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