You need look no further than your friends' Facebook pages to realise that social media has redefined our willingness to share personal information.

What you ate for breakfast, where you've been on holiday, and what you think politically is broadcast around the globe for your friends, family and maybe the world to see.

Now, with advances in technology and consumers increasingly receptive to sharing information if they think there's a benefit, we sit on the cusp of a new wave of innovation.

One aspect of this is known as "Open Banking".


Put simply, it refers to a bank sharing your financial data - securely and with your approval - with trusted third parties, so the information can be securely integrated into a variety of apps and digital products.

The ultimate aim is to create greater choice, ease and convenience for consumers.

Authorities in Britain have already taken steps to promote Open Banking and similar moves are afoot in Australia and New Zealand.

Debate has focused on what customer data should be made available, how it's delivered, and to whom.

At Westpac NZ, we see big potential benefits for consumers, businesses and government.

A lot of the focus so far has been on the use of Open Banking to drive greater competition among financial services companies by lowering the barriers to entry for new companies.

In practice, a person could use a mobile app to understand the best bank for them based on their spending habits. Or people could carry out their daily banking activity through a third party app.

However, Open Banking could also offer many other benefits, saving consumers and businesses time, effort and money.

Take the example of an online auction. Having pre-registered, a person might bid on an item and select a "Pay with Westpac" button.

This could allow them to automatically pay from a nominated account, without having to open their separate Westpac One banking app, or go through the hassle of copying the vendor's bank account number, with the risk they might do so incorrectly.

Or, what about applying for a store card or a mobile phone plan?

Instead of filling in paper or online forms, an applicant could potentially click "Sign up with Westpac" and allow their online banking details and ID credentials to be automatically supplied to the company for an instant credit check.

Both examples illustrate solutions that make life faster and easier for businesses and their customers.

At a national level, the common platforms and standards behind Open Banking could be adopted for a wide range of innovative purposes across commercial and governmental services.

That's why Westpac is interested in Open Banking - we see it as an exciting opportunity and are actively investing in building our capacity.

But, that doesn't mean we'll be recklessly rushing into it. We're a trusted custodian of our customers' money and personal information and we're absolutely committed to ensuring we have the right safeguards in place. And customer data about their banking and finances is some of the most precious information in their lives.

It will be necessary for practices and protocols to be standardised or agreed between the banks as custodians of the data and the parties who want to use it, and probably also with the government or regulators, particularly in relation to customers' privacy and the handling of their personal data.

In the meantime, we're taking carefully thought through steps towards an Open Banking future.

On the business-to-business side of things, we already have a live portal that allows outside software developers to integrate Westpac payment channels into their products.

This means payments can be built into programmes seamlessly, in a way similar to the auction example above.

Since October last year, the portal has directly processed over 60,000 transactions.

Underpinning our migration towards Open Banking is the belief that great customer experiences are key to success for all organisations. And this is underpinned by our core belief that banks must continue to ensure that our customers' valuable financial data is very securely protected. We want to help our customers by providing them with the tools to grow financially. For that reason we think Open Banking will be an important part of the future.

• David McLean is the chief executive of Westpac NZ