Buried deep in a consultation paper published by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is some good news for open data: the FCA is considering making the Mutuals Public Register – a public record of building societies, credit unions and other registered societies – available as open data (currently, it’s charged for).
As the FCA itself argues in the paper, charges on the Mutuals Register act as an “unnecessary barrier to public access”, reducing the effectiveness of the register overall.
Opening access to public information can only be a good thing, but as it stands, the impact of the policy is fairly limited. So far, this policy only relates to one register held by the FCA. However, the arguments outlined in the policy paper are not restricted to the mutuals register, and by extension mean the rest of the FCA registers should also be free to access and reuse.
Restricting access to other registers has many downsides. Data can’t be compared with other datasets to find inconsistencies and discrepancies. Fewer users also reduces the quality of the register overall, enabling bad data to fly under the radar in closed systems. It also adds barriers to developing new apps and services that make understanding the financial world easier. Finally, given how often financial services and money transmission agents are used for money laundering, it’s vital data from other FCA registers is opened up.
OpenCorporates would love to see the FCA fully embrace open data – for example by opening up the register of authorised companies, and the register of money transmission agents.
We’ll be reaching out to the FCA about this – and hope to start a wider conversation between the FCA, businesses and civil society on the importance of open data. If you want to get involved contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.