NAB teams with AWS & global banks in world-first ‘Open Finance’ fintech challenge

Open Finance Challenge Judges NAB
Challenge judges: Alison Rose - NatWest; Milton Filho - Itaú; Ross McEwan - NAB; Victor Dodig - CIBC

NAB is set to embark on a three-month virtual fintech challenge with cloud services behemoth AWS and fellow global banking giants to crowdsource ideas for financial innovation.

NAB will be joined by three banking majors and former blockchain bedfellows: Canada’s CIBC, Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco, and the UK’s NatWest Group.

A “world-first”, according to the group of five, the Global Open Finance Challenge will see the banks expose more than 30 APIs in accounts, payments, financial crime, loans and digital identity, giving innovation teams of up to six members the chance to design and prototype real-world solutions.

The organisers are seeking a broad suite of applicants to take part in the challenge, including representatives from fintechs, multinational organisations, early and late-stage start-ups, universities, and other innovators.

This is the second joint initiative by the banking coterie, which last month began piloting an Ethereum-based platform for buying and selling voluntary carbon credits, dubbed Project Carbon.

The banks are inviting proposals for solutions across three categories: enhancing digital customer experiences; improving service accessibility and convenience through digital channels; and helping customers make better decisions around climate and sustainability.

Four winning teams will be announced at the end of the challenge – one from each category, and an overall champion – handpicked to join a “post-event tailored incubation programme” with one or more lenders.

In partnership with API platform provider Oolys, the banks are also co-developing an AWS-compatible sandbox environment that replicates existing banking infrastructure, allowing innovation teams to securely build and test applications.

The sandbox will be launched on 30 August, while teams have until 26 September to register their participation; teams are advised to recruit members with talents in technology, strategy, marketing, and design, with viable products to take the form of an Android or iOS app.

Upon kick-off on 18 October, teams will receive mentorship from domain experts, including senior bankers at NAB, CIBC, Itaú Unibanco and NatWest, to build their prototypes.

AWS will also supply participants with coaching and resources on product innovation until 25 October, when all solutions will be reviewed by a judging panel of bank representatives.

From there, the top 12 teams will go into a semi-final to pitch their prototypes to another panel of industry executives, while chosen finalists will pitch to the four banks’ chief executives, alongside senior leaders from private equity, venture capital, and technology firms.

As a reward, chosen winners will implement a proof of concept with one of the four banks; this also includes guidance from AWS on functional and technical designs.

Winners will also gain access to senior decision-makers and in-bank experts for relationship support, guidance on local market environments, and real-time customer feedback.

Finally, winning teams will be featured via the four banks’ technology media channels and be granted an opportunity to pitch to the lenders’ respective venture arms.

The challenge notably coincides with NAB’s push to grow its engineering capability whilst upskilling staff through AWS cloud and engineering guilds. The bank is currently over halfway through its aggressive multi-cloud migration campaign.

Big four rival CBA is also doubling down on engineering capability building, with the lender launching a recruitment drive in June for talent in key technology disciplines including software, systems, data and testing.

NAB’s open-source innovation approach, meanwhile, differs markedly from its competitors. ANZ last month spun off and rebranded its ANZi ventures arm to forge stronger fintech partnerships, while CBA’s x15 is working with KPMG and Microsoft to scale new start-ups.

Team sign-ups for the virtual challenge are open from 16 August. Registration is open at