How many bank accounts does it take to have control over your money?
One…but with multiple benefits. And following an account aggregator framework is the closest you can get to this currently.
Think about it this way - when you started your first job, you were asked to open a bank account with a certain bank. You thought - “yeah, this is how it’s done” and went ahead and signed a few forms. It was the same for your second job, and your third, and the Nth. And here we are today with one bank account for every employer who has paid you a salary. When what we really need is just one account. Period.
Account Aggregator Network or AA has been something of a buzzword in banking and tech circles off late. It's supposed to turn the financial services sector upside-down the same way UPI did for online payments, if Nandan Nilekani is to be believed. Right now you’re probably thinking - (1) what exactly is AA and (2) why should I care? (maybe not in that particular order)
To answer the second question, just think back to those pre-UPI days when leaving the house without your wallet was as unimaginable as leaving without your mask. Now, even if you forget it at home, you can pay for almost everything from rickshaw fare to restaurant bills with your phone. UPI-based apps have made cash and debit cards almost obsolete. People well-versed with the AA framework, us included, see equal if not more possibilities in its ability to disrupt the status quo.
For starters, have you ever wished someone would figure out your total net worth like Forbes magazine does for its billionaires list? If you have multiple bank accounts, investments and a few loans, it's not easy to boil it all down to a single number. That’s just one of the areas where AA can help. With this sneak peek into what it can do for you, let's answer the first question.
Think of AA as the network of pipes behind the walls of your house, silently enabling the free flow of water when you need it, where you need it. Only here, the AA pipeline deals with financial data.
Everything from the identity data you share to open a bank account to records of all your expenses, incomes and investments are available with your bank. This is the tap that feeds data into the pipeline. With all of your bank accounts connected to the framework, a smart digital financial assistant could help keep track of all your spending, income, savings, debt and investments to give you a holistic view of your finances. And that’s exactly what Ask.Fi is all about - a smart financial assistant to help simplify your finances. This is but one of numerous ways AA can make life easier for you. Its use cases range from sharply reducing the time and cost of taking a loan to better investment advice based on your overall financial position. All of which is in the works here at Fi.
Worried about leaky pipes? You should be concerned about your data privacy and security, but the good news is that the AA framework is pretty water tight. The entire system has been designed keeping user consent in mind and to give people more control over their data. This means you and only you decide who can access and store your financial information. The Reserve Bank of India has also laid down the rules for AA to ensure security. One important rule is that your financial data has to be end-to-end encrypted and it cannot be stored within the framework. Say for example, you want to open a bank account online with Fi and you want to make use of Ask.Fi to the fullest. It's up to you to allow your existing bank to send the information that you choose to share with us.
Beyond this point, only Fi (or any Financial Information User like a bank) will be able to view and store your data since it can neither be viewed nor stored while it's travelling through the pipeline network. Going forward, the AA framework is likely to be put to use in a bunch of other sectors like healthcare so you don’t need to carry a file full of your medical history when going to a new doctor. But for now, let’s take it one step at a time. Open a zero balance savings account with Fi, it's free!
Currently there are eight account aggregators in India - State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, IDFC First Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, HDFC Bank, IndusInd Bank, and Federal Bank .
The Account Aggregator System introduced by the RBI was created to make financial data more accessible. It does this by creating intermediaries called Account Aggregators (AA) which collect and share financial information from entities that store consumer data to entities that request consumer data.
Entities storing such data are called Financial Information Providers (FIPs), and companies requesting this data are called Financial Information Users (FIUs).