If you’re looking for an open banking provider to help you collect instant bank payments or fetch financial data in the UK and Europe, you’ll need that provider to connect to a wide range of banks.
You’ve probably seen open banking providers making different claims about their bank coverage. They might tell you for example that they connect to 3,500 banks – but what does being ‘connected’ to a bank really mean and are all connections created equal?
In this blog post, we’ll uncover what coverage means, how you can better distinguish between different types of coverage and which questions to ask potential providers to make sure you get the solution you’re looking for.
Getting to the truth behind the numbers
It can be difficult to compare coverage between open banking providers, since they don’t all define ‘banks’ in the same way. Some may count branches of banks for example, which inflates the overall number.
It can be helpful to ask your provider what percentage of the banked population they cover in the markets you care about – as well as what their roadmap is for increasing coverage in the months and years to come.
TrueLayer covers 95%+ of bank accounts in major European markets – for example, 98% in the UK, 99% in Spain and 95% in Ireland. Our coverage is constantly growing and in the coming weeks, we’ll be significantly increasing our coverage of medium size European markets like Portugal and Austria.
If access to business banks accounts is important to you, it’s also worth asking your provider what their coverage is for business accounts specifically – for many providers, it’s often lower than for personal bank accounts.
Ask your provider:
What % of the banked population does your service cover in the UK and Europe?
What is your roadmap for increasing coverage?
What is your coverage of business bank accounts?
APIs or screenscraping?
As well as total coverage, it’s important to understand what type of coverage an open banking provider offers and in which markets. There are two main ways that a third party can 'connect' to a bank, so be sure to ask your provider how much of their coverage is APIs vs screenscraping.
In markets like Europe and the UK, banks have built open APIs to comply with PSD2 and open banking regulations. In markets like the US where open banking is not regulated, banks may still offer APIs and charge open banking providers for access to them.
APIs are a much more secure way for your customers to share their information or make payments, as they don't need to share their log in details with a third party (unless it’s an embedded authorisation flow) – instead they authenticate directly with their bank.
The regulation around PSD2 also means that API connections are more stable and user friendly in their design. In the UK and Europe for example, open banking APIs typically enable app-to-app user journeys on mobile phones and biometric authentication using your face ID or fingerprint. Due to pressure from EU regulators, the quality of open banking user experience continues to improve.
TrueLayer’s coverage in the UK and Europe is 100% API-based, meaning we don’t use screenscraping.
The other way to ‘connect’ to a bank is through screenscraping. This involves your customer sharing their bank account login credentials (eg password and memorable information) with the open banking provider.
The open banking provider then stores them unencrypted – or accessible in an unencrypted form, to the server doing the scraping.
There’s a high risk that credentials can be leaked, compromising your customer’s bank accounts. Plus, handing over login details might be a violation of your customer’s T&Cs with their bank, meaning they are liable for any mistake made by your open banking provider, or if their details are used fraudulently.
Screenscraping connections are also unstable and difficult to maintain. A simple change in a bank’s online interface, like moving a button, can break them entirely. This results in downtime for you until the connection can be fixed by your provider’s developers.
Ask your provider:
What % of your coverage is based on bank APIs vs screenscraping?
What’s your conversion rate per country, for a business like mine?
Test, test and test again
Even among open banking providers that only use APIs, you shouldn’t assume that all connections provide the same quality.
A provider may be connected to a bank through an API, but that doesn’t mean that they are pushing much traffic through it or testing it.
It’s only by processing high volumes of requests, rigorously testing and investing time in maintaining APIs, that your provider will be able to root out errors and edge cases that otherwise cause failures. For example, a bank may cause a payment to fail because they have a transaction limit for payments over £5,000.
Choose a provider that is using these APIs at scale – and ask them to share information about edge cases and errors for different banks (which range from difficult to impossible to discover from bank API documentation).
Plus, the API testing process shouldn’t end once an open banking provider has finished integrating with a bank – check your provider continually maintains and upgrades the bank connections they offer.
At TrueLayer, we invest a huge amount of time and resource in testing bank APIs, debugging and sharing our findings with banks to help them fix issues and improve their API quality, while minimising the impact for our clients.
It’s one of the reasons that open banking payments through TrueLayer convert on average 22% higher than they do through other open banking providers (source: CMA9 banks in the UK).
Ask your provider:
How much traffic do you have going through your connectors?
What is your testing process when integrating with APIs? How do you maintain bank connections?
What can you tell me about the quirks of bank APIs in a particular country?
Staying close to open banking developments
Sometimes, bank APIs in a market might not be up to scratch – and in these cases, we advise our clients that it may not be worth them launching, or we’ll recommend they hold off until the situation changes.
Be sure that your provider has strong relationships with banks, so they know what changes are coming and can effectively advise you (in France for example, banks are about to make changes to their APIs to allow for app-to-app user journeys, which will improve conversion).
Ask your provider:
Based on the quality and performance of bank connections, in which markets should I launch my solution – right now and in the next year?
What is your relationship with the banks you’re connected to? How often do you feed back to them? Do they share with you in advance when they are making changes or updates to their APIs?
10 questions to ask your provider
In summary, we recommend asking your provider the following questions to better understand if their coverage and service meets your needs:
- What % of the banked population does your service cover in the UK and Europe?
- What is your roadmap for increasing coverage?
- What is your coverage of business bank accounts?
- What % of your coverage is based on bank APIs vs screenscraping?
- What’s your conversion rate per country, for a business like mine?
- How much traffic do you have going through your connectors?
- What is your testing process when integrating with APIs? How do you maintain bank connections?
- What can you tell me about the quirks of bank APIs in a particular country?
- Based on the quality and performance of bank connections, in which markets should I launch my solution – right now and in the next year?
- What is your relationship with the banks you’re connected to? How often do you feed back to them? Do they share with you in advance when they are making changes or updates to their APIs?
Ready to get started, or want to know more? Talk to one of our experts