Building in public involves sharing the journey a compay takes to deliver their product to market: successes, failures, challenges, outputs. When I was building my startups, this was hugely helpful to me not only directly through the lessons being shared but also to know it was completely normal to be struggling. There are various levels of building in public, from sharing updates to sharing the entire codebase and financials, and the process helps build better communities and better products through quicker feedback.

What would building in public look like for financial institutions? Could anything meaningful be shared, or will it just be kept to libraries and case studies? I believe there is a lot of positive outcomes from doing this the right way, from fostering innovation to building brands.

The Paradox: Transparency in the Financial Sector

The financial sector has two very strict guardrails: privacy and regulation. Customer confidentiality and trust have to be maintained above all costs. Transparency seems like a challenging proposition.

The financial sector is heavily regulated to protect consumers, maintain the integrity of the economy, and ensure the stability and competitiveness of financial institutions. Institutions have to abide by laws such as the GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, and various financial regulations, which necessitate keeping certain customer information confidential. Releasing too much information can result in unintended consequences, including potential regulatory violations and loss of customer trust.

However, this doesn't make the idea of building in public undoable for the financial sector. It calls for a custom approach, balancing openness and innovation with privacy and compliance. Understanding this balance is essential for institutions that aspire to adopt the build in public model without compromising their legal obligations and the trust they've established with their customers.

Building in Public in Practice: Possible Approaches for Financial Institutions

There is a line to be tread while implementing any build in public practices, but there are plenty of ways to be more transparent without negative impact.

Firstly, financial institutions can share non-sensitive innovation processes and decision-making frameworks. For instance, they could discuss their approach to integrating new technologies, the challenges they encounter, and how they navigate them. The thinking behind new product decisions, thought processes around customer experience improvements, or insights gained from industry trends is incredibly valuable and won't break any customer privacy rules.

Secondly, financial institutions could consider sharing their software development practices and non-sensitive libraries. Descriptions of how they use agile methodologies, adopt DevOps practices, or approach cybersecurity could provide valuable insights to other businesses. Sharing SDKs, internal tooling and any useful frameworks would help the software community more broadly and directly help the company through attracting talent.

Additionally, they can host Q&A sessions, webinars, or open forums where customers, stakeholders, and anyone else can directly interact with experts which builds a sense of community and trust.

Building in public should not compromise the safeguards put in place to protect sensitive customer data or institutional proprietary information. It's about fostering a dialogue, sharing insights, and learning in the open, not revealing everything to everyone.

Case Study: Building in Public in Action


Monzo has been celebrated for its transparency and building in public approach. They've shared substantial information about their processes, designs, and decision-making strategies, helping them to gain the trust of customers and the wider public. They've also been completely open about technical outages and challenges, giving deep dive retrospectives and detailed insight into the architecture of their product.

  1. Product Roadmap: They've made their product roadmap public, sharing what features and improvements they plan to work on. This provides customers with a clear view of what to expect and allows for open discussions around future developments.
  2. Community Forum: They've set up an online community forum, which they use to share updates, gather customer feedback, and encourage open discussions. This benefits both Monzo and their customers as the feedback loop is significantly shortened.
  3. Transparent Communication: Monzo has been open about their challenges and failures, such as issues they've faced around customer support. They've shared restrospectives detailing what happened and mitigation strategies which helps to foster trust and understanding among their customers.
  4. Open Office Hours: Monzo also ran open office hours where customers could book a 20-minute call to ask a Monzo employee about a particular topic or provide feedback. This is a great example of how they're directly engaging with their users and openly addressing their queries and concerns.


OpenAI has been notable for its commitment to openness and public communication. Although they are not in the financial sector, they have many similar challenges when it comes to data protection and privacy. While their approach has evolved over time due to safety and security concerns, they still provide a good model of a transparent organization in many ways:

  1. Open Communication: OpenAI maintains a regular blogging schedule, publishing about their research, capabilities, safety initiatives, and policy implications.
  2. Charter and Principles: OpenAI's Charter lays out the commitment to provide public goods, including publishing most of their AI research. It underlines their mission, values, and commitment to transparency and safety.
  3. Partnerships and Collaborations: OpenAI has shown a willingness to cooperate with other research and policy institutions to create a global community working together on AI’s global challenges. This aligns with their goal to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) benefits all of humanity.
  4. Safety and Ethics Disclosures: OpenAI has also been open about their focus on long-term safety and technical leadership. They've shared their approach and commitment to stop competing and start assisting any value-aligned, safety-conscious project that comes close to building AGI before they do.
  5. Engagement with the Public: They've been inviting public input on AI in education and have sought external input in the form of red teaming. This is a part of their efforts to include as many perspectives as possible in their decision-making process.

From OpenAI, financial institutions can learn the importance of maintaining an open dialogue with the public, sharing non-sensitive information about their research and processes, and seeking external perspectives to ensure their work benefits all stakeholders.


As we look forward, building in public could become an increasingly important trend within the financial industry. The increasing demand for transparency, driven by an evolving consumer base that values openness and authenticity, will likely shape the way financial institutions operate. Transparency, done right, can be a catalyst for transformation in the financial sector. By openly sharing non-sensitive processes, strategies, and learnings, these institutions can create more meaningful connections with their stakeholders and foster an environment that encourages innovation and collaboration.

While the path to transparency may have some challenges, the potential rewards – increased trust, stronger community, faster innovation, and robust growth – make it worth pursuing.