The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence: delivering innovation and public benefit

Author: Guest blogger
Posted: 5 Aug 2020 | 14:38

In June, a unique collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the Financial Data and Technology Association, and Fintech Scotland was awarded £22.5m from UK Government to harness financial data for societal and economic benefit. The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence (GOFCoE) will be an independent collaboration between governments and regulators, the financial services, industry and academia. 

Financial Data Safe Haven

To support this ground-breaking work, EPCC is developing the Financial Data Safe Haven, the underlying data and computing facility that will host a rich variety of financial data, including the transactional data of individuals and organisations. The facility will allow subsets of data to be linked and made available within a strict framework to a variety of actors, including academic researchers, policy makers, regulators, financial institutions, and companies that use technology to improve the delivery of financial services (fintechs).  

“EPCC was the natural choice to host the GOFCoE data infrastructure, given its long history of processing and managing data. EPCC has acquired unique skills by operating Public Health Scotland’s Safe Haven. Its ISO 27001 and UK Digital Economy Act accreditations combined with GOFCOE’s Information Governance will reassure the public, regulators, Government and data providers in the GOFCoE ecosystem that data controlled by GOFCoE is safe” Damien McGarrigle, Programme Lead, GOFCoE

Data use will be managed by transparent ethical- and privacy-impact assessments, and access will only be granted to trained and vetted individuals from approved organisations for specified purposes. Projects must align with GOFCoE’s ethical principles, which aim to safeguard individual privacy and to promote fairness, sustainability, and evidence-based policy development. 

EPCC is working closely with the GOFCoE team as an early adopter of the Edinburgh International Data Facility (EIDF). EPCC has provisioned suitable infrastructure in its Advanced Computing Facility (ACF) for GOFCoE’s initial projects and is working with GOFCoE on the specification and design of the EIDF Safe Haven. 

Access to insights from granular, linked financial data could help public bodies understand the full impacts of decisions and the true operation of the economy. The Financial Data Safe Haven will be a trusted data resource, allowing analyses in a secure, transparent and privacy-preserving environment, subject to ethical and privacy review and information security controls.

Open Banking for social good

GOFCoE will boost developments in Open Banking and in the broader area of Open Finance that will be grounded in the rights of customers to access, manage and control their data and enable trusted third parties to use that data on their behalf through informed consent. 

Financial data has major and largely untapped potential for transformative societal good by enabling better understanding of the economy and more effective policies and detailed assessment of outcomes in areas including financial exclusion and poverty.

The GOFCoE team believe that a balanced approach is needed that respects both the right of individuals to control their data and society’s need to gain detailed insights. For example, measuring and assessing policy initiatives to enable informed, evidence-based debate. 

The team believe this balance can be achieved through GOFCoE, as a trusted, neutral data facility with a strong and transparent ethical approach that includes citizen consultation and public consent.

Trust and ethics

There have long been ethical and trust questions in the financial sector, but the level of concern is at an all-time high. GOFCoE hopes that the Financial Data Safe Haven, with strong security, privacy and ethical safeguards, will foster the ethical use of data for public and societal benefit.

The centre also aims to establish a specialist practice in the area of trust and ethics to advise industry on best practice, offer staff training, and create auditing facilities, allowing models and data to be securely tested for bias and potential privacy violations. 

Education partnerships

Education and training will be a major focus, developing a practice in data ethics and trust, and in financial data in particular. GOFCoE plans to offer studentships, continuing professional development training and certification, as well as collaborative research. Partnerships with, for example, the University of Edinburgh and as other Scottish and UK universities will be a crucial part of GOFCoE’s mission to educate.

GOFCoE’s key objectives

  • Catalyse financial data collaboration to enable research and innovation, so speeding industry adoption of Open Finance at scale
  • Decrease time-to-market and development costs
  • Train new talent to enable sectoral expansion
  • Undertake data-driven research 
  • Work with regulators to establish ethical standards and best practice 
  • Build partnerships to achieve financial sustainability.  

​Image: metamorworks/Getty

Author

Kevin Collins
Assistant Principal for Industry Engagement, University of Edinburgh

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