The best way to tell the FDX story is through the voice of our members. Welcome to the FDX Member Spotlight series, in which we sit down with some of the professionals from FDX member firms who juggle the responsibility of their day jobs with developing, integrating and implementing the FDX standard for the benefit of consumers and the entire financial services industry. We ask them about their experiences, goals and thoughts on the process.
This month's Spotlight features a conversation with Ted Anastasi with Akoya.
- Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into the world of open banking and finance?
Open finance came looking for me! At the time I was a longtime Fidelity Investments employee, and at several points throughout my career, Fidelity started new business units, Akoya being one of them. I joined the Akoya business unit to build the sales and marketing team, which we now call the Growth team. That was my first introduction to the world of open finance and banking.
The timing was perfect. I couldn’t be happier to be involved with this right now.
- Can you tell us a bit more about Akoya’s role in the larger open banking/open finance ecosystem?
Akoya originated out of Fidelity Investments in 2018 as an industry solution to screen scraping. As we started on this journey, some of our peers in the industry recognized what we were doing and saw an opportunity to join forces to accelerate the movement to get login credentials out of the marketplace and give the end consumer transparency and control over where their data is going – ultimately investing in the network with us.
Akoya is the first B2B platform built entirely on permissioned API access to consumer financial information. That continues to be our primary focus – allowing the consumer to do what they want with their data when they want, in a better way than it was traditionally done.
- Could you tell us a little bit about your role leading Akoya’s growth team?
As a leader of the growth team, it's our function from a sales and marketing perspective, to build out broad adoption of the Akoya network.
The Akoya network has two sides. On one side we have the inputs into the network, which is consumer data from financial institutions. On the other side, we have the same consumer who wants to make their data available to a fintech, aggregator or another financial institution in a safe, secure and transparent way.
The big value of Akoya is being an industry utility – we're not doing one-to-one connections. Akoya is meant to be a single connection, whether it be for a financial institution or fintech, that gets you broad coverage on the other side of the network. And more so, accelerate the movement away from screen scraping and getting consumer credentials out of the marketplace.
- How does that intersect with the larger discussion around consumer data sharing and open finance?
In my opinion, the pandemic hyper-accelerated our digital world by about five years. Because of that, there are new fintechs popping up continuously that need to have access to consumers’ data to power their service or offering. As a result, there’s huge demand on the fintech side to get access to financial institution data, and more consumers are agreeing to make their data available.
All of that coming together has spurred this movement into open finance, which is where FDX comes into play – to create scale, efficiency and standards. If everyone is connecting in different ways, things are eventually going to break, and it's not going to be efficient. That’s where I see the value of FDX— to help that acceleration go smoothly.
At the end of the day, we're here to service the common consumer, and I think it's our responsibility to get efficient and effective consumer permissioned data sharing as quickly as possible. It is also our collective responsibility to de-risk this process.
- Now that you’ve been a FDX member for a little bit, what role does Akoya currently have with FDX? What are Akoya’s goals and objectives as a member of FDX?
Several of the same Fidelity employees now at Akoya were founding board members of FDX while at Fidelity – we have a legacy in the genesis of FDX.
As far as our current involvement, we sit on the executive steering committee. My colleague, Anil Mahalaha, is co-chair of the API working group and is also co-chair of the tech review committee. I currently serve as co-chair of the FDX Global Summit working group. Many other Akoyans actively participate in FDX knowledge and thought leadership sessions.
We believe in FDX’s core principles of control, access, traceability, transparency and security to information to help facilitate these data sharing principles for the end-user, both the data recipient and the data provider. We owe that to the end consumer because they've asked us, as the financial institutions and fintechs, to let them ultimately control their financial data.
On average, consumers hold around 20 different finance-related accounts. A lot of the new fintechs that are popping up now are good at helping consumers consolidate and maximize their financial landscape while also providing insights into where they are and aren’t being efficient with their money. These different fintechs need access to this financial institution data to provide their service to the consumer effectively.
Open finance is here to stay. In fact, it's only accelerating. FDX being engaged in all of this from a standards perspective is extremely valuable for the industry.
- Are you seeing any trends or changes in how Akoya’s customers are sharing their data over the past six to 12 months?
From March 2020 to where we are now, the number of fintechs introduced to the market and used by consumers is significant, and the growth there is only continuing to accelerate. As a result, people increasingly want to share their financial data with fintechs.
People want to take advantage of the services these fintechs provide. Think budgeting and peer-to-peer payments, the need for tax planning and the need for maximizing what you're doing with your account – there are so many different ideas happening in the space.
From a lending standpoint, identity verification is huge. There are people out there creating fake profiles using pieces of data picked up from different individuals and throwing it all together in the hopes of using it illegally. The need to validate identity and give data points when things like peer-to-peer payments are happening is critical to reduce fraud in the system. We’re also seeing the introduction of real-time payments as an alternative to paying by credit card, wire or ACH, where the need for identity verification and fraud monitoring tools is more necessary than ever.
The need for permissioned financial data to power these apps is fueling the development of open finance and has fueled the demand for FDX. The sharing of consumer’s financial data extends to the third-party access principles of open banking. We will be seeing more use cases going forward, and we will need to move fast on how to service these use cases safely and securely.
- Do you foresee any changes or new trends in the world of open finance in the next six to 12 months?
We're moving at a quick pace and there are a number of possibilities based on the relationships we are forging. With that in mind, we need to protect the consumer and the financial institution to help with the continued acceleration of this space.
The consumer wants to share their data on their terms, but they want to ensure it's done safely. It's up to us to act in their best interest.
- What do you think are the current obstacles for open finance? For adoption of the FDX API?
FDX has done a great job in helping the industry move along in lockstep. They’ve brought a lot of stakeholders to the table to have spirited, active discussions about what's best for the consumers, the fintechs, aggregators and the financial institutions.
As an industry, we're doing well, but there's always opportunity for improvement. If you look at the financial institutions, for example, they often have a list of 100 priorities but only have the capacity to tackle 10 at any given time. That’s the way it's always been. Some financial institutions aren't ready to operate in an open finance environment – maybe they're standing up APIs right now, maybe they're standing up the login capabilities and they're not quite ready to support open finance. It takes time and energy and investment.
Having these organizations be involved in FDX will help educate them and will help them talk to their peers about best practices so they can begin moving a little quicker. One thing slowing us down right now is the lack of infrastructure in some institutions to support open finance. They're all working to get there, but some have competing priorities.
The fintechs and aggregators are going to be much nimbler in adopting the APIs they need to get the data required to run their services.
- What are some of the concerns and challenges Akoya is seeing when it comes to customer adoption of open finance and banking? What are some of the trends that are being commonly adopted?
There are currently challenges surrounding trust. We need to further promote solutions like FDX to build transparency around data security. We need to help consumers understand that they are connecting a fintech to their financial institution and that the financial institution is a member of FDX. Helping them understand what that financial institution is doing to remove screen scraping from the marketplace will be helpful.
When consumers understand we are working in their best interest, they will likely be more open minded to adopting APIs for financial data sharing. For decades we've educated the public to not share their login credentials. In banking, screen scraping was the way to share login credentials. Now, there is a more secure option and the faster we can get this API-based authorization connectivity moving, the better the consumer can feel about sharing their financial information.
We can educate consumers about sharing data. We can shift their mindset to understand the security of sharing data in an open finance environment. It’s about transparency.
Open finance is here to stay. All parties associated with open finance need to continue to collaborate and come together with the end consumer's best interest in mind. Our sole focus should be serving the consumer in a more secure and transparent way.
- Lastly, we like to get to know our new members better outside of their industry roles. What’s one hobby or activity you like to partake in on the weekends?
I love to travel. That's part of the reason I enjoy being the leader of the Akoya growth team, because there is a good amount of travel associated with it, or at least there was pre-pandemic. It’s finally started coming back recently. The worst thing you can do to a salesperson is to take away their ability to travel! I’m glad to be back on the road, checking out new places.
Outside of the colder months here in Boston, I like to be outdoors when I'm home. I love golf, enjoying the warmer weather and being outside.