It was announced last week that Visa has agreed to acquire Plaid, a silicon valley data aggregator that connects other FinTech companies with access to user-permissioned bank data via the use of Plaid’s APIs. The $5.3billion acquisition indicates Visa’s latest push into the fast growing FinTech sector and allow it to capitalise on European Open Banking legislation.
Open Banking, or PSD2 as its known in Europe, is a new set of regulations which started coming into effect in 2018 which allows third party technology companies and other FinTech's to access banks’ customer data provided they have customers’ permission. It has been shaking up the retail banking market by encouraging new apps from challenger banks and FinTech firms that help customers manage their finances more easily.
Plaid’s data will give Visa insights into most of the major financial technology companies and strengthen Visa’s relationship with larger banks, particularly since API connections require aggregators and FinTechs to come to explicit agreements with banks in order to gain access to the customer data.
The aggregators have long had uneven relationships with banks, which have expressed reservations about the aggregators’ ability to protect customers’ personal information. Of particular concern is “screen scraping,” where consumers provide their bank login details to third-party fintechs, rather than using secure APIs (application programming interfaces) that can transmit data from the bank without the release of passwords. JPMorgan Chase recently said it would ban fintechs from using its customers’ passwords to access their accounts. API connections require banks to come to explicit agreements with aggregators and fintechs, which screen-scraping does not.