Banking as a platform has been hailed as the coming mega-trend that will change the way we interact with financial services. In order to keep up with changing customer demands, banks open up to business partners and the larger community through APIs that can connect bank data and services to other applications.
The concept of partnerships itself is not new. However, the use of APIs moves the control of the user experience from banks to their partners or to a community of developers, thus changing the relationship from vendor to partner. For a slow and closed industry as banking, this is a huge change.
Banking APIs include account authentication and information, analytics, loyalty programs, and payment processing. In Europe and the U.K., regulators are forcing banks to share customer data and similar changes are probably coming to the US.
But aside from the hype, what API-based banking products and services are gaining traction in the market?
Paypal / Siri integration: Today, Paypal announced its users can now send and request money via a voice command with Siri. Simply say, “Hey Siri, send Bill $50 using PayPal.” Paypal processed $41 billion in peer-to-peer transactions across PayPal, Venmo and Xoom last year and is expecting 17 million P2P transactions in the month of December alone. Giving customers an easier way to send money to each other is a no-brainer.
Telefónica Deutschland’s O2 Banking: This summer, mobile telecommunication company, Telefonica Deutschland launched a mobile only bank account, built on German Bank Fidor’s platform. O2 Banking offers transactions via mobile phone number, small instant loans, and better mobile data plans. This is a good example how a third party can create a new banking experience on top of a platform created by an established bank.
Robinhood’s connection to a user’s bank account: Users who invest through investment app Robinhood first need to connect their bank accounts. Using Plaid’s banking APIs, Robinhood makes the onboarding process pretty easy and smooth. Plaid’s APIs help connect a variety of other applications, including TransferWise, Acorns, and Stripe.
Wave integrates customer financial info: Invoice and accounting software Wave uses banking APIs to connect to a user’s bank account, empowering its clients with full control of their business finances in one place. Not just an invoicing service with limited visibility to its business clients’ true financial health, the company leverages as much data from other sources as it can. The company also connects with online lender OnDeck to offer loans through its platform.
Facebook Messenger payments: Users of Facebook Messenger can transfer money to their friends without leaving the service. The company is working with major players in the industry including Stripe, PayPal, Braintree, Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Facebook is building Messenger as a bot platform that will allow users to access many third party applications.
Banking chatbots: A handful of banks have recently launched chatbots that can converse — to a certain degree of complexity — with customers using natural language. These AI driven pieces of software have access to the bank databases, account information and can help customers solve many common problems themselves, leaving only the more difficult customer service issues to a real human agent. Such examples include Bank of America’s recently launched Erica and Mastercard’s Mastercard KAI. Mastercard’s chatbot will work through Facebook Messenger. The credit card company plans to expand to other platforms later.
Capital One and Amazon Echo: Capital One took conversational interface, the fancy name for chatbots, to the next level with an integration on Amazon’s voice controlled device, Echo. Though not significantly different than other text-based chatbots, the all encompassing feeling of such an audio interface makes it unique.
APIs give rise to an otherwise impossible number of financial user experiences. Banks just do not have the time or resources to create them. Capital One would not have created Echo on its own, but once the product is there, the bank capitalized on it to reach customers in new ways.
As banks open up their customer data and third parties leverage that information to create better value for the end customer, banking will become omnipresent — there when we need it, in the way we need it.