LONDON, March 5 - Britain's competition watchdogwants a new independent banking industry body to acceleratetake-up of "open banking" apps to spawn new fintech companiesand offer more choice to consumers. Open banking allows third-party internet based applicationsto compete with big banks by accessing a customer's accounts tomake payments, or find better deals on loans and other servicesand products. The Competition and Markets Authority on Friday launched apublic consultation until the end of March on strengthening howthe financial sector operates open banking and ensuressufficient competition. Open banking has made a "good start" with hundreds of appsnow available and around 450 firms in the pipeline, the CMAsaid. "While the largest banks have shown signs of embracing openbanking, they may also have an incentive to slow the furtherdevelopment of the open banking ecosystem, where this conflictswith their own commercial objectives," the CMA said. HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Barclays continue to dominate highstreet banking, and the CMA wants the new industry body to pushforward open banking. It would replace the Open Banking Implementation Entity orOBIE, an interim body funded by big banks and led by a trusteeImran Gulamhuseinwala. "Open banking has been critical to supporting the UK'semerging and growing fintech industry," Gulamhuseinwala said. UK Finance, which represents Britain's banks, has putforward a blueprint for a not-for-profit company, but the CMAsaid there was a risk of big banks having an "inappropriate"influence over the new body's chair. An "independent and vigorous" chair was needed to oversee aperiod of growth and not "quiet consolidation", the CMA said. There are over three million users of open banking apps inBritain, with new users being added at the rate of a millionevery six months. Usage is expected to increase further as thegovernment uses it to collect tax from companies. Many of the apps are provided by fintechs, a critical growthsector for the government as it seeks to bolster the City ofLondon's global attraction after being cut off from the EuropeanUnion by Brexit. REUTERS
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