Report on “Germany goes PSD2” at Start-up Friday

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Startup Friday

Since 2013, ABN AMRO has regularly hosted the hour-long Start-up Friday event at its Innovation Centre. The sessions are invariably fast-paced, inspiring and upbeat, introducing staff and guests to all the latest developments in the financial world. The last Start-up Friday of 2016 focused on the theme of “Open Banking in Germany”. Here’s our report.

“It was refreshing to see how the group tackled as complex an issue as PSD2 in a very relaxed but stimulating way at this Start-up Friday event.” Jan Meijroos Jan Meijroos Copywriter/Journalist

All the brightly coloured ottomans and sofas in the Innovation Centre are occupied as Shariff Lutfi, Innovation Manager at ABN AMRO, enthusiastically kicks off the proceedings. I grab a seat at the front, excitedly awaiting all that’s in store. The theme of the afternoon is “Open Banking and Germany”, which is directly connected with new legislation which may significantly change the role banks play. Starting from 2018, banks will be required to build APIs (or application programming interfaces) allowing third parties access to transaction data (as long as clients give their consent) when the Revised Directive on Payment Services (or PSD2) comes into force. Germany is ahead of the pack when it comes to open banking. But it’s something that will eventually affect us all sooner or later. So I’m curious what examples our neighbours to the east have brought to show us.

Convenience versus privacy

Laurens Hamerlinck, Focus Area Specialist at ABN AMRO, gets the ball rolling with a brief explanation of what PSD2 will mean for banks, start-ups and clients in the coming years. He emphasises that APIs are quickly being adopted by banks. Their collaboration with third parties will result in an open ecosystem that ultimately benefits everyone involved. After his short but interesting presentation, Don Ginsel of Holland FinTech takes the floor. He says banks have been sitting on mountains of data for years. By giving third parties access to these data, with the client’s authorisation, they will enable new ideas and opportunities to emerge which other players, in turn, can build on. Clients’ payments, pensions, mortgages and investment opportunities, for instance, will all be managed with greater convenience and speed. Ginsel stresses that “privacy” is the magic word here, of course, but claims that convenience will ultimately outweigh any anxiety clients may have about privacy issues. Thinking about my own personal situation, I’m inclined to agree. After all, I’d probably be more inclined to give third parties access to my data if it means a significant increase in convenience and speed.

Germany in the lead

Now it’s time for today’s first speaker from Germany. That’s Lars Markull, Head of Business Development at figo, an undisputed leader in the area of open banking. Europe’s first banking service provider, figo developed in Germany precisely because the Home Banking Computer Interface, a bank-independent protocol for online banking, has been in use there for years. In fact, the interface was actually the inspiration behind PSD2. The technical foundation, known as XS2A, is already operational there owing to the history of banking in Germany. Markull explains that this situation has enabled figo to connect client data with new digital services. His company also links fintech companies with the traditional banking world, which is now far more innovative as a result.


55 million users in Germany and Austria currently use the figo Banking API, which is linked to over 3,100 financial data sources. Large organisations like Deutsche Bank and Lufthansa also use figo technology, and new players are joining their ranks every week. The bankathons organised by figo – three to date – have been very inspiring and successful. These events attract hundreds of developers and other guests who are given a crash course in PSD2, and then design a PSD2 product or service in a very short amount of time.

Blending technologies

Today’s second speaker is Sasan Haji Hashemi, CEO of IntraBase, a company based in Vienna which operates like a start-up and also uses figo. IntraBase was the winner at a recent bankathon in Hamburg. Their aim was to create a product in thirty hours’ time which blends credit scoring based on transaction data with instalment payment options for online shopping. The result is a win-win situation for merchants and customers alike. Hashemi explains how his team managed to achieve this feat at the bankathon. At the moment, IntraBase is undergoing further development before going to market.


The final speakers of the day are Ilya Kozevnikov and Jaroslav Judin. At the same bankathon in Hamburg, they came up with the idea of designing a digital financial planner called Budget Buddy. Powered by the account information it accesses, Budget Buddy blends aspects of saving and spending. Thanks to figo, clients and providers get a good idea of about how much, and on what, a client spends per month. Accordingly, loyalty programmes can be combined with certain spending patterns. For example, a person regularly flies Lufthansa. If that customer books an extra flight within a certain period of time, they graduate to a higher tier, and are thus eligible for discounts and special offers.


Our moderator Don Ginsel concludes the afternoon with a panel discussion between the various guest speakers, and the audience asks questions. For many, privacy remains an ethical hot potato, as is the role of Facebook and other tech companies. After all, a player like Facebook will soon be able to position itself as a bank. What impact will this phenomenon have on the role of the bank as such?

13,000 croquettes

After the discussion, a drinks party brings the afternoon to a close, and speakers and guests mix and mingle, discussing today’s topics in greater depth. I myself have learned a lot about PSD2, and I’m sure I’m not alone. It was interesting to see a number of real-world practical applications straight away, and it’s good that the bank is already preparing for the introduction of this new legislation which could ultimately revolutionise payments in both the corporate and retail sectors. It was also refreshing to see how the group tackled such a complex issue in a very relaxed but stimulating way at this Start-up Friday event.

The last Start-up Friday of 2016 was also the last of these events in their current manifestation. After 34 sessions, featuring 49 presentations by experts, 157 pitches and 13,000 Dutch croquettes served, a new type of event will soon be launched under the title of “Innovation Friday”. After all, innovation is the name of the game at the Innovation Centre, and that goes for the centre itself, too.

Innovation Friday

The ABN AMRO Innovation Centre’s open house – takes you on a journey each month into the future of the financial sector. In the space of one hour, we dive head first into cutting-edge developments which are radically changing the world, or are just around the corner. Each month focuses on a different theme. Examples include blockchain, open banking, artificial intelligence and the circular economy. We bring in experts to speak on the various themes, and share our own views on developments. You’re guaranteed to start your weekend inspired! Follow the Innovation Centre on Twitter at @AA_Innovation, or check out our Innovation Showcase page on LinkedIn.


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