Developing a self-initiated project using Open Banking to enable cost-efficient donations to the NHS.
Open Banking is a new architecture which allows API access to UK bank account data. It’s an initiative by the UK financial regulator designed to encourage fintech innovation by allowing third party developers to build applications using data held by banks. This data was previously inaccessible and any digital innovations had to come from within the banks themselves – which wasn’t happening with much urgency. Opening up this data represents a huge shift and an opportunity to build exciting products sidestepping the bureaucracy of having to work directly with the banks.
A key feature of Open Banking is the ability to do free bank-to-bank transfers. This allows you to move funds from one account to another without going through the payment infrastructure providers (Visa, Mastercard, Worldpay etc) – all of whom take their cut along the way.
We’d been exploring Open Banking as part of a technical consulting project with a client. They were looking to build a payment system using Open Banking designed to make it easy for large merchants in the telecoms industry to accept low cost bank-to-bank payments.
As part of this process we built a functional prototype that allowed simple bank-to-bank payments. After completing this consulting process we decided to reapply the prototype we’d built to a socially beneficial use-case.
This was at the start of the coronavirus pandemic so we settled on trying to generate donations to the NHS, the UK's public health service. We developed some design concepts and landed on the idea of making direct donations to your local NHS trust as a way of tapping into the UK's new-found community spirit. The NHS is structured as a series of local trusts and we felt that giving people the power to search for and support the trust that served their community was a powerful idea.
Building the product
We started by looking into how the NHS already gathered individual donations. There was a mish-mash of solutions, with some providing bank details publicly and others using donation platforms normally used for crowdfunding. The issue with these platforms is that they take a cut of whatever is donated – with Open Banking we could do better, offering drastically lower fees. We gathered what we could find online and called around the trusts to find out where to send donations.
We then built the frontend application on top of the system we’d built previously. Users could search by location to view their local trust. They could then donate either a pre-filled amount or set their own donation. They would be redirected to their online banking to authorise the payment. The donation would be paid directly into the bank account of their chosen trust and the customer notified via email.
NHS Donate is a responsive React web app built using the Banked API.