CFPB Open Finance

The U.S. is still in the early stages of implementing open banking, but the conversation is well underway. Kurt Lin, CEO and co-founder of Pinwheel, is an industry expert who has spent his career building infrastructure to enable innovators to build the future of the financial system. In a recent interview, he discussed how the role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has evolved and how recent regulations may bring open banking to the U.S.

How has the role of the CFPB evolved and how will these changes impact consumers?

Kurt Lin: As the fintech space continues to evolve, so does the CFPB. Amid the industry’s boom in recent years, the CFPB has taken the stage as the primary regulator of the sector, supervising and creating regulation at pace with innovation. The CFPB remains dialed into consumer abuses and works to uproot long-accepted but malignant practices such as overdraft fees and depositor fees, along with creating new regulations for emerging technologies. 

Much as we are working to create a fairer financial system at Pinwheel, the CFPB is working to do the same, as is further signaled by recent remarks given by Director Chopra. The latest guidelines indicate that the CFPB is pushing for a world where consumers have more control over their data, leading to increased agency and choice over their primary financial institutions. 

What major regulatory changes are coming that will impact banks and fintechs?

Lin: The CFPB is further codifying Section 1033 of the Dodd-Frank Act to promote open finance. A few examples of initiatives we can expect to see this year: 

Increasing consumers’ ownership over their financial data. Income and employment data is arguably the most important part of someone’s financial life, but the amount of regulation around portability, security, and ownership, doesn’t match up to the significance of this type of information. Under new regulation, we expect things like Direct Deposit Switching (DDS) to become the norm. DDS is at the core of open banking. Income starts at the direct deposit, and having more control over that information and the flow of funds is critical for consumers to remove the immense friction that prevents them from quickly setting up or moving their direct deposits. 

Subsequently, as consumers will have more control over their data, we expect an improvement in how we evaluate creditworthiness and underwrite loans. As it stands, income still isn’t a key factor in a traditional credit score. However, a recent study we just conducted found that over 80% of consumers are comfortable sharing their income and payroll data. That’s a pretty clear signal that the general population is aware that it will be advantageous for them to control and share this information to access better financial products. 

After last year’s FTX scandal, it is very apparent that crypto regulations are coming. What do you envision new crypto regulations will look like? 

Lin: Crypto is not my main domain, however, I have a few thoughts:

There’s a lot of talk about things like regulations to require crypto exchanges to have proof of reserves, etc. to create more transparency and trust in the ecosystem.  

While it’s productive to see this dialogue, there is still a lot of work to be done around establishing clear guidance. For example, what are the right standards, how should this be audited, how do you get visibility into what the true liabilities are, etc.  

I don’t expect clear or immediate action, but I expect increased scrutiny of the ecosystem, particularly around centralized exchanges. This increased scrutiny will also include market participants taking an even more active role in building new tools to better monitor behavior on-chain and using those tools to inform future regulations.  

Are there any areas in fintech and/or banking that you see lacking regulation or oversight?

Lin: Speaking broadly about this topic as a whole, it can be extremely slow to enact new policies such as these. In the meantime, we’re excited about helping to cultivate an open banking-like structure by furthering our partnerships with payroll providers. This is something we’re hyper-focused on this year, which will help more broadly unlock consumer-permissioned income data. This has two benefits: it will give consumers more control over their financial info and enable banks and fintechs to use this data to build more robust offerings.

Photo by Leyre Labarga on Unsplash