November 17, 2016

CFPB: Technology is Changing How People Access their Financial Records

Data Aggregation RFI Blog

Many new financial innovations rely on people choosing to give a company access to their digital financial records held by another company. If you’re using these kinds of services, we’d love to hear from you. Make your voice heard.

We’re seeking to understand the full range of benefits people receive and risks they may face when they access and share their financial records with other financial companies. If you’re using products or services that access your financial records stored by another company, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

Make your voice heard. Share your comments on Facebook  or Twitter . If you want to give us more details, you can share your story with us through our website. To see and respond to the full range of questions we’re interested in learning about, visit our formal Request for Information.

Wait, what are financial records?

Good question. Whenever you make deposits, withdraw money, or make payments using your financial accounts – including checking, savings, prepaid card, and credit card accounts – you create a record of your financial activity. Account providers, such as banks or credit unions, maintain these records of your account activity. In recent years, these records have largely shifted from paper-based statements to digital account histories. Now, you can usually see this information when you receive your monthly account statements, or when you log into your accounts online.

These days, a growing number of companies use financial records from other companies to provide financial services to their customers. Some companies analyze your financial records to give you insight into your spending habits, your savings behavior, and the like. Other companies use your records in an effort to serve you better, like making sure that you’re really who you say you are when you open up a new account.

Here’s how it works: You give a specific company permission to access your financial records kept by one or more other companies. The first company then gathers your account records and processes the information. There are many different companies that use financial records to offer new products and services that aim to make it easier, cheaper, or more efficient for people to manage their financial lives.

Money management apps that combine and analyze information from your various personal bank accounts are an example of this type of technology. Other services that rely on consumers granting access to their financial records include:

  • Budgeting analysis and advice:  Some tools let people set budgets and analyze their spending activity.  The tools organize your purchases across multiple accounts into categories like food, health care, and entertainment so you can see trends. Some services send a text or email notification when a spending category is close to being over-budget.
  • Product recommendations: Some tools may make recommendations for new financial products based on your financial history. For example, if your records show that you have a lot of ATM fees, a tool might recommend other checking accounts with lower or no ATM fees.
  • Account verification: Many companies need you to verify your identity and bank account information. Access to your financial records can speed that process.
  • Loan applications: Some lenders may access your financial records to confirm your income and other information on your loan application.
  • Automatic or motivational savings: Some companies analyze your records to provide you with automatic savings programs and messages to keep you motivated to save.
  • Bill payment: Some services may collect your bills and help you organize your payments in a timely manner.
  • Fraud and identity theft protection: Some services analyze your records across various accounts to alert you about potentially fraudulent transactions.
  • Investment management: Some services use your account records to help you manage your investments.

Why do we care?

Our job is to put consumers first and help them take more control over their financial lives. We’re the one federal agency with the sole mission of protecting consumers in the financial marketplace. We want to make sure that consumer financial products and services are helping people rather than harming them.

Our mission includes supporting consumer-friendly innovation in the financial marketplace. We believe technological advances can help make people’s lives better.

However, we know that technological advances can also come with risks. It’s crucial that people can access their financial records safely. We’ve heard concerns that people who grant companies access to their financial records may compromise their privacy or put their accounts at risk. Likewise, some financial institutions have suggested that providing third-party access to account information creates significant costs and risks to the institutions.

So, we want to hear from you. Tell us about your experiences with financial products and services that access your financial records stored by another company. Tell us about your experiences with these kinds of financial products and services. Share your comments publicly on Facebook  or Twitter . To protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include phone numbers, email addresses, or other personal information in the body of your comment when you post on social media.

If you want to give us more details, you can share your story with us through our website. To see and respond to the full range of questions we’re interested in learning about, visit our formal Request for Information.

This post was originally published here.