In March 2015, the Financial Conduct Authority published a report on “Making currency account switching easier” detailing “the effectiveness of the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) and evidence on the account number portability”. It said that:
Consumer organisations, while appreciating the benefits that such a system would give consumers, were also cautious about ANP, arguing that the real barriers to switching do not lie in the infrastructure but in the choice and differentiation of the current accounts available.
This is a fair point (note that it also applies to the current account switching service) but I think it misses the advantages to other stakeholders, not of ANP but of Virtual Account Numbers (VANs),
Well, as I mentioned to [the Economic Secretary to the Treasury] at techUK (I was the nutter at back who kept going on about “7-0” solutions, Angela) the best way to do this is with virtual account numbers (VANs) and virtual payment names (“pay names”).
Let’s call this a VAN. A virtual account number. Now, you know how all mobile phone numbers in the UK begin with a “7”. Well, what if all virtual account numbers in the UK began with “7” as well? It turns out that the “7” sort codes in the UK have an unusual history
The solution is straightforward. When someone opens a bank account, give them a virtual sort code that begins with 7 and then an account number. They keep this number for as long as they like. When they change bank accounts, they keep the 7X-XX-XX XXXXXXXX number but it now points to their new account. Employers, utility companies, P2P services and everyone else carries on using the that virtual number. No-one needs to update anything or notify anyone.