Get to know our partners — Open Banking Excellence

Railsbank
5 min readJul 24, 2020

It’s an exciting time for Railsbank with new partnerships to celebrate. We’ve been working with and learning from Open Banking Excellence’s amazing global community for some time now, so we thought it was the right time to sit down with co-founder Helen Child and get to know more about their amazing story of growth.

OBE co-founder Helen Child

When was Open Banking Excellence set up, and why?

As the founder and CEO of the first EMI to be awarded licences by both Mastercard and Visa, payments are in my DNA! I believe that Open Banking payments should be ubiquitous — and it’s a privilege to play a part in the ecosystem that will make this happen.

Open Banking Excellence, or OBE as we affectionately call it, was launched in Edinburgh in early 2018. We then brought it to London, where 38 Open Banking pioneers gathered, drank warm wine served by guys in kilts. I listened and what I heard that evening was that at the beginning of the Open Banking revolution were like-minded people who wanted to form a community. A safe place where they could gather; share their stories, spark discussion, learn and, importantly, collaborate.

Everyone asked if we could meet again. I’d just finished a large project for my payments consultancy, had a little time — so went with the flow. I could identify with the entrepreneurial drive and was intrigued where this journey would go. Open Banking and Open Finance will change the way we do business, move and manage our money. We’ve now become the voice and platform for this game-changing sector. So far, it’s been a fast and organic journey.

So what changes happened to take Open Banking Excellence from its first few events to such a strong global community?

Thoughtworks, a global software company, kindly provided us with a home, which we quickly outgrew!

Then we quickly outgrew our trendy Soho home. Steffano and the brilliant team at Yapily hosted OBE for a few months, and they were absolutely brilliant to work alongside. They even provided an amazing beer and wine-cooling bucket complete with ice! These guys understand fintech and UX!

Once again, we outgrew this home and moved to Equinix. One quick look at our website will tell you that everyone loved gathering around our campfire here for our trademark pizzas, wine and a deep dive into the industry’s hot topics. Mastercard literally fed the industry debate. Thank you!

We were bursting at the seams for our last OBE before lockdown. Our panel session was on Banking as a Service (BaaS), which Nick Ogden and Nigel Verdon generously spoke at. Both were in fine form.

At the time, I didn’t realise it would be my last night out before lockdown!!

How was the transition to online events after COVID-19 struck? Any tips for navigating challenging times such as these?

In March, we quickly went online and a whole new chapter began. Our audience figures have been phenomenal with thousands and thousands around the world tuning in. Truly humbling. I actually got stage fright sat at home — I now don’t see the numbers until after our campfire!

As for tips: stay connected! When you get good people together — amazing things do happen.

Can you share any stumbling blocks that were experienced in the early days?

We’re building a global community with everyone, for everyone. It’s exhilarating and a privilege. We’re a small team, one I’m immensely proud to be part of, and we work harder behind the scenes than you may realise; supporting our community, curating activity, making a difference and things happen. As with all new ventures, we need more hours in the day to do all of this, and more capital to fund our growth trajectory.

What are Open Banking Excellence’s biggest achievements so far?

Keeping our community connected throughout the global pandemic.

I truly believe in karma — what you give out, you get back. It was an absolute privilege to support our OBE Heroes, CEOs who’d galvanised their teams to produce a response to Covid19. Nigel Verdon was one of our #OBEHeroes, with the Railsbank team launching LightningAid, a safe and secure way to distribute funds to the sick, the elderly, the vulnerable and those self isolating, from idea to App store in eight days.

As part of the virtual OBE Heroes panel, Railsbank CEO Nigel Verdon explained the difference between being a digital and digitised business and how that can determine the potential impact on a business during COVID-19.

I also was immensely proud at the overwhelming response we had from our community, providing data and supporting Dr Becky Inster, the Oxford University Neuroscientist, with her report for The Lancet on the link between mental health and financial wellbeing in the light of the pandemic.

We’ve had wins behind the scenes that are a little too sensitive to share. In fact there are so many stories to share — it would make a great book!

How did Open Banking Excellence come to partner with Railsbank? What opportunities are there in a partnership such as this?

We always listen to the feedback from our, now global, community. In our first year, Railsbank was rated as one of the top three speakers everyone wanted to hear more from. I heard they loved and could identify with Railsbank’s digitally native story. They wanted to hear more — I just listened.

Railsbank are a principal issuer of Mastercard so sit comfortably alongside them as a headline sponsor. We love the Railsbank drive, energy and culture. It’s a privilege to learn from you.

We plan to launch in AsiaPac, and will collaborate with Railsbank as you’ve a strong foothold in that market.

The UK created the blueprint for Open Banking. We can share our learnings, talent and experience with the rest of the world, and launching OBE in other parts of the world allows us to do that.

Our aim is to enable local entrepreneurs around the world to gather great people together and make amazing things happen.

Speaking of future trends, what do you see as the future of fintech?

Exciting. In the short term, I think we’ll have some consolidation in the Open Banking market, as a result of the pandemic.

Open Banking and Open Finance will help accelerate the growth of fintech and allow larger banks and businesses to access new markets, driving better UX.

I also expect to see more and deeper collaborations within the wider ecosystem. As this dynamic sector continues to build on a strong regulatory foundation, it will also begin to create exciting commercial opportunities paving the way for Open Finance.

Head to the Open Banking Excellence website for more information on their global community. To stay connected, follow Open Banking Excellence on LinkedIn.

Go to the Railsbank website to learn how we can help any bank, business or brand rapidly become a fintech.

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