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What the heck is a consumer data right?

What the heck is a consumer data right? What would it mean for financial advice?

Saturday, September 12th 2020, 10:56AM

Right now the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment are consulting on whether to develop a consumer data right in New Zealand. A data right would enable a consumer to give permission to one company to access the information that another company has developed about them. Possibly the most common example is the right to export a list of transactions from, say, a banking application to a third party that analyses budgets. To a degree several banks already offer some of this connectivity – allowing transactions to be exported using common file formats. Entrepreneurs see all sorts of opportunities to offer new services if they can access some of the large pools of data available in different places and make the sharing of data easier. Some of these have emerged without the help of government – for example, you can connect your wearable tech (like a Fitbit, Garmin, or smartwatch) to insurers health monitoring applications (like AIA Vitality and Fidelity Life’s Sharecare).

The economists at MBIE see an opportunity to facilitate the further development of new services and the efficient function of the market through making data more available to enable lower search and switch costs, for example. Reducing the barriers to switching is one of the aspects of a possible consumer data right which gives insurers pause for thought. Life and health insurers are at pains to point out that moving, say, a health insurance contract on which underwriting pre-existing conditions has been done can be riskier than shifting car insurance. A client may lose coverage of pre-existing conditions and you may not be able to reverse the decision if it is regretted later. On the flip side, the treasure trove of data held by government on individuals could be very useful to insurers.
For advisers, the issue has similarly downside risks and upside potential. A data right might be much more onerous for a small advice business to fulfil than it may be for a large entity with a big IT department. The question of what data is the ‘consumer’s’ and what is properly the adviser’s, remains to be defined. You may, also, want to think about the opportunities – the data you could obtain on a client (if they give permission) from, say, their previous adviser. A staged approach seems likely, with some industries and sectors being brought in early (probably utilities such as power, telecoms, and banking) with others later (such as health and insurance) where the risks are greater. I do not think that financial advice is a natural first pick, but you may enjoy an asymmetrical advantage – profiting from access to, say, banking information without fear of your information being similarly used. For a little while.

Tags: Opinion

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