APIs Take On Increasingly Important Role As Financial Technology Advances

APIs provide tools and resources to integrate innovation into existing solutions

It seems like every week some new technology—usually software—is launched that’s designed to completely change the financial services industry.

With so many new software and other programs available or on the horizon, how will credit unions keep up with these innovations, and get them into the hands of their members, quickly and cost-effectively? One technology solution is application programming interface (API).

An API can facilitate integration of new features into existing applications, and it can also assist otherwise distinct applications with sharing data, which can help to integrate and enhance the functionalities of both applications.

API is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. The API specifies how software components should interact and APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks. A programmer then puts the blocks together.

And, if there is one thing that is true today, it’s that people love apps. U.S. consumers download an average of 8.8 million apps per month and their usage of apps grew 76 percent between 2012 and 2013. One of the more prominent apps is Google Maps, which is an API-based program that can easily be integrated into, let’s say, a hotel or restaurant website to provide directions. 

A Plug and Play World

“The role of technology in advancing the financial service industry is more critical than ever before,” Stephane Dubois, CEO of Xignite, told OpenSource.com in April 2015. “The use of APIs…is becoming increasingly common as they help to drive speed and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional legacy systems.”

As new technologies come to the marketplace, credit unions must be able to offer the best of those technologies to members as quickly as possible, or they will go to a provider who will. This is especially true for mobile banking services for the modern consumer, who is always on the lookout for new and innovative advancements in technology that fit their online lifestyle.

Along with providing access to state-of-the-art technologies, API is a critical solution for a credit union’s systemic operations. Its flexible and modular architecture accommodates largely seamless engagement across service channels (e.g., Google Maps and a hotel website). Specifically, the value of API become increasingly important as financial technology evolves because it:

  • Offers capabilities that are relevant to members’ needs and desires and cost-effective for credit unions to implement.
  • Saves time and resources with fully developed, proven solutions that are customizable with a credit union’s own current line-up of apps.
  • Helps build a reputation for the timely introduction of innovative solutions.
  • Integrates only the solution or set of solutions appropriate for a credit union’s service menu.
  • Offers consistency in data and structure.
  • Introduces the latest features and functionality into an existing channel with no need to switch providers or perform a full-scale data conversion.
  • Creates a path for adding new APIs in the future.

And There’s Also Branding

There is one other advantage to APIs that cannot be overlooked. As credit unions can quickly integrate API technology into their existing product offerings, they can retain their own brand identity, helping to keep the credit union top-of-mind to members.

Participating in an August 2015 webinar hosted by CO-OP Financial Services, Tony Hildesheim, CIO for Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., stated, “With its holistic engagement, API technology makes it extremely easy to conduct financial business.”

That is true for both the credit union and the member the institution seeks to service. And, we would add, APIs are another way to help credit unions create a close-knit relationship with members—as closely knit as the latest innovations into an existing solution. 

Amanda

Amanda Smith is Strategic Product Architect for CO-OP Financial Services, a financial technology provider to credit unions based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (www.co-opfs.org). She can be reached at Amanda.smith@co-opfs.org and (800) 782-9042, ext. 1222.

Posted on November 25, 2015 and filed under Feature Small.