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5 Goals Driving the CFPB’s New Office

5 Goals Driving the CFPB’s New Office

Earlier this spring, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a new effort to promote competition and innovation in consumer finance. Backing this effort, the CFPB is opening a new office, The Office of Competition and Innovation.

The Office of Competition and Innovation will replace the Office of Innovation, which relied on an application-based process to grant companies special regulatory treatment. The new office takes a much broader approach, and will consider obstructions hindering open markets and learn how large players make it difficult for small companies to operate. Ultimately, The Office of Competition and Innovation aims to make it easier for end consumers to switch among financial providers.

In order to pursue its mission to increase competition, the Office of Competition and Innovation will pursue the following four goals:

  1. Make it easy for consumers to switch providers
    When users can switch among financial services providers, there is more pressure on incumbents to offer better services, and new players have a better opportunity to acquire customers.
  2. Research structural problems blocking successes 
    The new office will have access to resources to examine what is creating obstacles to innovation. This could impact, for example, the payment networks market or the credit reporting system, both of which are considered oligopolies.
  3. Understand the advantages big players have over smaller players 
    Larger players have built-in advantages over small newcomers. As an example, big companies benefit from a large marketing reach, multi-faceted teams, and a built-in customer base. As the CFPB points out, this may threaten new competition.
  4. Identify ways around obstacles 
    Obstacles for smaller players include lack of access to talent, capital, or even to customer data. The CFPB is addressing the latter issue via a future open finance rule under Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act that will give consumers access to their own data.
  5. Host events to explore barriers to entry and other obstacles 
    The new office will organize events such as open houses, sprints, hackathons, tabletop exercises, and war games to help entrepreneurs, small business owners, and technology professionals to collaborate, explore obstacles, and share frustrations with government regulators.

“Competition is one of the best forms of motivation. It can help companies innovate and make their products better, and their customers happier,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We will be looking at ways to clear obstacles and pave the path to help people have more options and more easily make choices that are best for their needs.”

In financial services, open finance may be one of the best ways to promote competition. But because the U.S. does not have formal regulation around open banking or open finance, there isn’t enough incentive (yet) for financial services players and third party providers to cooperate when it comes to data sharing. In late 2020, however, the CFPB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that solicited opinions from stakeholders on how customers’ data should be regulated. This was only a very early step in the process, and industry players still lack a standardized approach to open finance.

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