Treasury Notes

 Encouraging Innovations that Help Americans Take Control of Their Financial Lives

By: Neal S. Wolin and Todd Park

Data sets published by Federal agencies are increasingly being harnessed by private-sector innovators to empower consumers to take control of their financial lives.  Recently, Treasury hosted a Finance Data Convening (webcast link) and Working Session to highlight the variety of features, apps, products, and services that use finance data released by Federal agencies. Senior officials from the White House, Treasury, the IRS, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, and the SEC joined over 50 private-sector leaders for a day devoted to data and innovation.

We’ve already seen innovation driven by freely available government data in other sectors.  As just one example, entrepreneurs have used data from the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) to power navigation systems, build precision crop farming tools, and launch other innovations that add more than $90 billion per year in value to the American economy. The Obama Administration has launched a series of Open Data Initiatives—in education, energy, health, and public safety—to help catalyze the development of innovative apps and services fueled by open data, while rigorously protecting privacy and confidentiality.  Open data in these sectors is spawning new businesses that promote economic growth, create jobs, and generate new value for American consumers.

New value for consumers is also being created in financial services, where easily accessible Federal data is increasingly playing a role in the development of apps and services that help consumers make more informed financial decisions. At Treasury’s Finance Data Convening, companies demonstrated a number of innovative services that use Federal data, including:

  • An online platform for investors using SEC data on public company financial statements and mutual funds.
  • A service that rates 401(k) plans using data on employer-sponsored retirement plans from the Department of Labor.
  • A tool that analyzes credit and debit card transactions for suspicious charges using credit card complaint data from the CFPB.
  • An online small business lending startup that mashes up data from different government sources and uses big-data analytics to make working capital loans to small businesses. 

Agency officials participating in the Finance Data Convening spoke about valuable finance data sets that are freely available to the public—some of which are already being used to create products that empower consumers. Then, during the Working Session that followed the convening, participants worked to identify a list of ideas for new features, products, services, and applications that could make use of these and other Federal data sets. For an overview of these finance data sets, please visit Treasury’s Finance Data Directory, which includes over 50 major finance data sets published by Federal agencies. 

These events were part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing Finance Data Initiative, an effort to foster dialogue and to promote the availability of Federal finance data that innovators can use to create tools and products that help Americans assert control over their financial lives. If you have an idea or an example of an innovation (a product, service, website, app, or feature) that uses open data as an input, send an email to or tweet at @USTreasury with the hashtag #financedata. 

Neal S. Wolin is Deputy Secretary, Department of the Treasury and Todd Park is Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer.


Posted in:  Office of Consumer Policy
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