API Business Models

Embedding finance – Opportunities for developers in the new era bank


Let us look at what APIs are contributing to banking and other industries. Uber is using Google Maps API and PayPal API, and they build their applications on top of that; then, they provide an API back to Google Maps. That’s how the digital ecosystems are being created. At ABN AMRO, we try to follow a similar approach.

In the 2000s, we started to build internet banking, and in 2011, we created mobile banking as a new digital channel. In 2018, we also started our API journey. The story is that we as a bank now have three digital channels. Over time, these channels should work together to create goods and customer experiences in every channel or digital experience for the customer. It’s still a significant journey. That’s also what I would like to share in this story.

We have some excellent successes and customer use cases that I can explain where we have built excellent API products that third parties are now using. Customers are using our other digital channels and are automating their processes with our APIs.

What I would like to achieve within the bank is still a big hurdle, but a good ambition to have as a big company is that you already have your system; you have your internet and mobile banking systems. You provide customer experiences in those channels. You try to build goods and proper architecture in those channels. We all understand that. Building internal APIs and building a good landscape for your channels is a challenge and a big journey for many industries and companies to take. ABN AMRO is no different but has the ambition.

For instance, you use Transaction Banking APIs in your channels. You can also reuse them by partnering up with third parties and with partners to build new customer experiences on top. What I often hear at conferences is that we talk about our open APIs and partner APIs, but we don’t make those internal journeys and those open API journeys; we don’t connect them to each other. That’s explicitly something that we try to do at ABN AMRO, where if you have good internal APIs available, you can also use them to partner up and the other way around. And one good example of that is the case of travel essence, where we have a service for foreign exchange trade.

Companies and third parties use our ethics services to do currency conversions. One of our customers is travel essence. This travel agency arranges all kinds of trips to Australia and New Zealand. They have to manage many currencies. Over time we saw that these kinds of customers could benefit from our services via an API. That’s also what we offer to this customer.

ABN AMRO investigated which capabilities we have and what our customers’ needs are, and both internally and externally, we take a journey together. Everybody needs to change a bit. It is first about believing, then it’s about understanding the technology and the capability that we should offer. Then enable teams to build APIs, consume APIs, and support them in the questions they have and the struggles they will meet along the way. If you have done that correctly, you’ll see that both customers and the bank want to change.

It is all about change! It’s about technological change and the mindset and capabilities we need to gain. We need to go from an ecosystem where we think in a centralized way where everything is invented inside by one team to an open ecosystem way of thinking where it’s more about distributed innovation, shared and open. It’s not only about open APIs, but it’s also about how you organize the culture internally in your organization. That’s also why we at ABN AMRO have two portals. One is an external-facing one to customers and partners, where we offer our open and partner APIs. We have commercial ambitions with those APIs. And we have the internal portal where we have a complete portfolio available of internal enterprise APIs that teams can use and reuse. We offer them a maker space with all the learnings, communication material, and tools that the teams need to build proper APIs. It is a big, connected journey that we are trying to build as an organization.

We have a connection even at the architectural level. We have our own back ends where we have provided service applications and external providers. We have an ESB available for complex services. Regardless of where the service is coming from, we have a combination that everything needs to be connected via the Internet Gateway and then offered to our channels. We have that external API gateway in place if you go to external consumers.

Our API products offer real-time interactions and data real-time access 24 by7, 365 days a year, efficiently and securely. It’s giving you the flexibility and the connectivity to build your customer experiences. We have the APIs needed for our corporate customers to build those customer experiences. APIs are quite a journey, and you can help us to be successful in that journey.

Broekhuis is one of the customers we have, and it’s one of the biggest car dealers in the Netherlands. They are using our business accounts API to optimize the processes. When a customer is paying for a service, an employee doesn’t have immediate insights into if the customer had paid and if that was all included in their systems and their CRM, etc. Also, on the customer channel side, they had challenges creating the customer experiences they wanted. With the business accounts inside API, they were capable of creating the customer experiences that they wanted.

We also have a pilot with Packaly. Packaly is a startup to pay platform workers. Those platform workers go to all kinds of companies to get shampoo or get products for your house. You can place an order, and those platform workers deliver them to your house. Typically, these platform workers would be paid at the end of the month. With the product that we’ve built, they can be paid in real-time each time they do a gig. This experience is also built on our APIs.

Then we come to BUX, an investments app, where we see that both our venture funds are investing in the company as a whole. Our clearing department offers a back-end to BUX to store customers’ money on ABN AMRO systems. And that is working out for both FinTech and us as ABN AMRO in many ways.

Tikki is a payment request app which is very popular in the Netherlands. We have about 7 million users in the Netherlands. What Tikki does for regular retail customers is once you go to a restaurant with friends, you want to split the bill, and one person is paying for it. With Tikki, he can send a payment request via WhatsApp or any channel that he likes to a person or a group of people to split that bill. Over time, we saw that corporates would also like to use the Tikki application in similar ways as we offer to our retail customers. Of course, you don’t want an employee to create a payment request each time a customer is interacting in their channels. We built an API on top of Tikki, so then we have a Tiki portal for our business customers to automate that process.

The API journey is a long one. It’s all about believing, understanding, enabling, supporting, and wanting to change.

Koen Adolfs

Koen Adolfs

Lead Product Owner | Open Banking & Enterprise Integration Technology | API First at ABN AMRO

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