Open Banking and mental health: transforming more than payments

A quarter of all people experiencing mental health problems are in debt. Last year over 100,000 people in problem debt attempted suicide. 93 per cent of people with mental health problems spend more when they?re unwell. These statistics from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute should shake us up and get us talking.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Approximately one in four people in the UK experience mental health problems each year, with a combination of depression and anxiety being the most frequently experienced type of health problem. For many people, thinking about money is anxiety-inducing and talking about it is depressing. Money provides security, affirms our identity and our sense of personal power - people's finances have a direct impact on their emotional well-being. When we?re struggling financially or mentally, it can affect us in more ways than one.

This is why the potential of Open Banking is so potent. Our industry is increasingly in a position to ?connect the dots? between people's financial health and their mental health. Open Banking has a valuable opportunity to be a force for good, driving more sensitive and personalised services which could improve wellbeing and benefit all society. 

Transaction data shared via Open Banking provides fertile soil for innovation. A number of firms have already responded to the ?Stopper Shopper? trials run by MMHPI, which showed the benefits of giving people the option to block spending on certain sites or at certain times of day. Account aggregation and the insights it enables can provide a new sense of control, which has been difficult to attain before. Tech firms are looking to build account assistants, giving people the option to nominate a friend or carer when their financial circumstances drop below a certain threshold, or seem out of kilter. Open Banking is revitalising the debt sector, affording consumers simpler and less stressful ways to get help. There is yet more potential for mainstream aggregators - fintech firms and banks who have launched solutions that enable users to see all of their bank accounts in one screen - to identify indicators for debt earlier and refer people for help more quickly.

But trust is essential. Work by Barclays, where they surveyed customers on sharing their data to identify vulnerability, shows that where people have good experiences of financial services, they are more willing to trust firms to intervene to help them (based on their data). However, where customers have been negatively impacted by their experiences, they remain sceptical. It is critical that we have strong controls in place to ensure that consumers and their data are not only ?protected? but respected - and that consumers know that the firms they sign up to really are on their side.

This speaks to a different kind of culture - one that's more people focused. It's also one that's not afraid to talk about mental health in the workplace. Learning to have healthy conversations about mental health in the workplace is important for everyone. It's great to see Monzo proactively championing mental health in the workplace, as well as industry figures like the Competition and Markets Authority's Adam Land sharing his own experiences with such honesty.

Facing the reality of our humanity and our mental health stories is sobering, but positive developments like those outlined above also give rise to celebration. Even at the beginning of the Open Banking journey we?re seeing positive efforts to reflect the needs of real (rather than perfect) consumers. As Open Banking grows, I am looking forward to seeing how it changes lives (and not just payments) for the better.

To learn more about what Open Banking is doing in the area of supporting vulnerable customers, visit