The Open Banking revolution is now underway, but the overthrow of the existing financial order won't happen overnight.

It begins in earnest on 13 January, when new rules are rolled out that make it mandatory for the UK's nine largest current account providers to open up their customers' financial data to third parties.

The panel from left to right: Imran Gulamhuseinwala, Tom Blomfield, Jeni Tennison & Izabella Kaminska
The panel from left to right: Imran Gulamhuseinwala, Tom Blomfield, Jeni Tennison & Izabella Kaminska

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The Open Banking initiative has been looming since European regulators ramped up the implementation PSD2 (Revised Payment Service Directive), which requires banks to open up anonymised customer data for third parties to access via application programming interfaces (APIs).

The launch date of the EU regulation coincides with that of Open Banking in the UK. They both intend to make banking more transparent, open and competitive, to the benefit of the consumer.

Open Banking is expected to shake up the UK's financial sector by giving customers control of their data, but at the opening event of the 2017 Nesta Open Up Challenge there was a general consensus that open banking is over a decade away from mass adoption from consumers.

Are consumers ready?

Venture capitalist and global head of Fintech at EY, Imran Gulamhuseinwala, agreed that open banking is "inevitable", in that there is "an unstoppable march to using data and putting it into the hands of customers".

In reality, however, consumer adoption of new services may not be as drastic as regulators intend. As Tom Blomfield, founder of digital challenger bank Monzo, explained during the event: "People tend to overestimate the impact of technology developments in the short term and underestimate it in the long term. I feel that is what is happening with PSD2."

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His scepticism merits attention, as Monzo's business model means it is very keen for open banking to be a success. Its app-centric platform is designed to benefit from the opening up and unbundling of banking services, giving consumers a better interface to manage their finances from.

But Blomfield, who also co-founded the direct debit payments startup GoCardless, knows that consumers don't move that quickly.

"People will be underwhelmed in the short term by what is achieved, but in the long term it will herald a real revolution, but that long term I don't think is five years, it might be ten to twenty years.”

Long-term hopes

Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute - a vocal exponent of open banking - agreed with the 2020 timescale. She said: "We won't see much very different in terms of services until then as it takes time to create a business or service that brings extra value.

"Longer term we can foresee a time where banking operates more as a commodity, so you are less choosing your bank account based on the interface because you can choose the interface you want to use across multiple accounts in a way that suits you,” she said, referring to an approach otherwise known as banking-as-a-service.

Izabella Kaminska, a blogger for the Financial Times' Alphaville site, also doesn't envision a groundswell of public adoption from day one.

"My perception is the industry is obsessed with this as a goldmine, it is going to be exceptionally revolutionary, in the short term actually, but the consumer side of the equation is a bit 'meh'. Most people I speak to just don’t care enough about their bank, it is seen as a utility,” she said.

Additional reporting by Thomas Macaulay