If you bank with major financial institutions such as HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and NatWest then you should now be able to get an overview of all your main accounts from one app. That’s because these high street chains now allow you to add accounts from other organisations into their apps – which is great news for people who have multiple active account, as it makes it easier to get a full financial overview.

This is all possible thanks to something called ‘Open Banking’. Open Banking has been rolled out by the government to encourage banks to make it easier for consumers to access their financial data. It makes it easier for banks to share information with each other digitally. They hope that it will allow for greater consumer choice, and also encourage more innovation.

Most of the bigger UK banks have already signed up for open banking, although if you use challenger banks such as Monzo, it won’t be available to you just yet. That’s not to say that more of these banks won’t be introducing the service in the future.

The most recent bank to jump onto the trend is NatWest. They say that they have introduced this option to help make money management easier for their customers: “We’re excited to be offering this service so our customers will be able to review their finances much more easily from the comfort of their own homes or on the go.

“This is an important step in our mission to transform our digital services, focusing on digital innovation and using the latest Open Banking technology, to help make people’s banking lives easier. This feature is the first in a number of innovations we are working on to help customers manage their money more effectively and improve their financial wellbeing.”

Of course, there are limitations. You won’t be able to carry out transactions for your other banks, only see your balance and any past transactions. And you’ll need to be signed up for your other bank’s online banking service, too. This means that it is more helpful for keeping an overview of your balances than for actually carrying out banking tasks.

Really, though, this is just the start of seeing what open banking can do to make life easier for consumers. It’s hoped that in the future, it will unlock a whole range of additional benefits, including:

  • Requesting money to be moved between accounts with different providers, from within one app
  • Giving mortgage providers and lenders access to your financial information with a simple tap of a button
  • Paying straight from your bank account when making purchases online, rather than using a credit or debit card
  • Help smaller businesses to develop apps, tools and financial products that have a real chance of competing with high street banking groups.

None of the open banking features are compulsory, so if you don’t like the idea of giving banks access to information about accounts held elsewhere you don’t have to – and right now the limited features mean there’s no great reason to jump straight in. But we’re certainly interested to see what this new phase of banking leads to.