It was standing-room only in the auditorium at Citi HQ as key members of New York's fintech community came together to explore one of the biggest challenges facing financial services today—protecting customer data in the age of open banking.
The "Politely Confrontational" event lived up to its name, offering a forum for civil debate about a topic that defies easy solutions. The morning was filled with thought-provoking discussions concerning data, privacy and access in financial services, featuring leaders from Citi, Amazon Web Services, the Partnership Fund for New York City, Enigma and Plaid.
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat welcomed the crowd and discussed technology's expanding role at Citi and the need for constructive conversation with the fintech community.
"There has never been a more exciting time to be in finance," he said. "We are in the process of writing the next chapter in banking."
The first discussion saw Citi Global Consumer Banking Head of FinTech Policy Andres Wolberg-Stok go head-to-head with Plaid's Head of Business Development & Strategy Sima Gandhi. The debate centered on a topic we spend a lot of time thinking about at Citi – how to adopt an open banking framework in the U.S. that strikes the right balance between client convenience and experience and the need to protect and preserve data privacy.
Reuters' FinTech correspondent Anna Irrera moderated the debate, highlighting the fact that despite the increasing interconnectivity between traditional financial services institutions and fintechs, there can and will be a difference of opinion on such hot-button topics as data privacy within not just financial services but increasingly across every facet of a consumer's daily life. The types of data consumers provide, the degree of control they have over that data, and the role and responsibility of companies like banks and aggregators are all subjects of conversations that are relatively new but will become increasingly commonplace in the near future.
The panel that followed examined the topic of data through a regulatory lens, looking at what lessons the United States might learn from abroad.
Speakers included Citi Fintech's Chief Product Officer Carey Kolaja, President & CEO of the Partnership Fund for NYC Maria Gotsch, Enigma CEO Hicham Oudghiri and Director of Global Financial Services at Amazon Web Services Phil Moyer. Jeff Kauflin from Forbes served as the moderator.
The challenge of maintaining data privacy and protection in the age of open banking has profound implications in the U.S. and around the world for organizations in both the private and public sectors. We don't all have to agree but getting the right balance will require collaboration from a variety of players – regulators, government, traditional companies and startups alike. To do that, we must listen to, and learn from, each other, no matter how "Politely Confrontational" the conversation becomes. All the participants agreed that establishing better controls to protect consumers without jeopardizing innovation is a collaborative effort.
Stephen Bird, CEO of Global Consumer Banking at Citi, closed the event by stressing that the heart of the issue is trust. While the framework for how we use, share and access data is still emerging, everything built by Citi must be established within our original mandate of security and trust. Stephen ended with a quote from former Citi Chairman and CEO Walter Wriston, "Information about money has become almost as important as money itself."
Citi FinTech hosted "Politely Confrontational" in partnership with the FinTech Innovation Lab New York, which is run by the Partnership Fund for New York City and Accenture.