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Banks should bank on APIs and apps, not applications - Gartner

30 October 2012  |  12428 views  |  4 Keys on Card

Banks need to ditch rigid and reactive applications in favour of flexible and proactive APIs and apps, says research house Gartner.

In the wake of the 2008 crisis, banks have lost their way and need to re-engage with customers, argues Gartner research director Kristin Moyer

"Banks need to transform both their delivery models and architectures to remain profitable and relevant in the financial services' value chain," she says, adding that applications are preventing this.

They should be ditched in favour of a model that uses public and private Web APIs and apps, enabling banks to deliver needs-based services that are relevant to the context, location and technology customers are using.

This will lead, contends Gartner, to proactive delivery that either anticipates a customer need or improves their financial health. Meanwhile banks can respond quickly to new opportunities, and third-party developers can build the tools they need.

Moyer gives the example of a mortgage refinance app that, like a weather app, can indicate - without customer initiation - whether it makes sense to refinance a mortgage, given current interest rates. With a few more clicks, the customer could apply and then view the process steps required for the bank to complete the transaction.

"This would be an entirely new way of banking, and if banks ignore this trends they will quickly find themselves relegated to low-margin, low-growth market segments and products that will no longer be profitable," she says.

Retiring redundant, monolithic applications is necessary to improve agility and efficiency, but also to prevent out-of-control complexity.

Gartner analysts say the biggest barrier to banking on APIs and apps is not technology. Security, scalability, performance, complexity, regulatory compliance and integration can be managed through careful IT governance, extreme reuse, SOA governance and API management.

Other barriers are more operational in nature - for example, the lack of a clearly defined design paradigm, governance model and accounting model, but the biggest barrier to platforms that provide private and public web APIs and apps, is the loss of control.

Comments: (4)

Tony Tarquini
Tony Tarquini - Pegasystems - Reading 30 October, 2012, 12:32

Absolutely on the money!

The problem with retiring redundant, monolithic applications with tools which improve agility and efficiency is that all too often you need a multiplicity of tools e.g. CRM, analytics, rules engines, process and situational needs-based tools. These almost always come from different vendors or companies they have acquired and bolted on. The result is that you replace one form of complexity with another.

Only by deploying one tool which does everything, can the objectives Kristin outlines be achieved: An agile and efficient environment.

I agree that security, scalability, performance, complexity, regulatory compliance and integration should simply be managed by choosing the right tool. This puts the control back in the hands of the business, who are then in a much better position to respond rapidly to customer needs.

Banks should be building applications for change - otherwise they are simply replicating the legacy that they are attempting to escape.






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A Finextra member
A Finextra member 30 October, 2012, 15:34

Gartner are spot on with this! However for financial services firms to engage they must first apreciate their problem and understand what they need to do to address it (A plan is good) and i think some imagination to utilise the available technology. As a guide think customer services and do not deviate from that thought

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Alexander Mifsud
Alexander Mifsud - Ixaris Systems Ltd - London 31 October, 2012, 12:04

As bank CIOs attempt to open up access to their systems by providing clients with APIs for their data and transaction processing systems, they will find that the power they can offer through APIs will be restricted, both in functionality and client access. This is because transactional facilities by their nature come loaded with risk management and regulatory requirements that financial institutions cannot simply offload on to clients.

 The provision of API access to raw transactional systems is just not feasible.  One solution is to create an application layer between the processing systems and the public APIs to provide business logic – typically in the form of purposely-engineered payment programs – specifically designed to offer valuable services that can be effectively overseen and controlled from a risk and compliance perspective.



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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 01 November, 2012, 10:56

I agree with Gartner's view that banks can better serve their customers by following the approach so well illustrated by the example of the automatic mortgage refinancing app. I can think of many other examples viz. rejigging fixed deposit portfolios to maximize yield whenever interest rates undergo changes in nations like India where corporates and individuals alike keep a lot of money in fixed deposits that carry as high as 10% p.a interest rates while carrying zero risk. I personally use an Excel spreadsheet to simulate whether it's worth breaking an FD earning (say) 8% and reinvesting it when the rate has gone up to (say) 9.5% even at the cost of losing 1% point interest for premature withdrawal OR leave it where it is even if it earns 1.5% point lower interest. If my bank introduced a smartphone / PC web app to keep doing this in the background and gives me suggestions proactively, I'd use this app to my great benefit. 

However, as I'd pointed out in this post, banks might actually lose money by giving me such an app. More than "loss of control" or any other factor listed by Gartner, I surmise that it's this fear of loss of revenue and / or profit that acts as a greater barrier in banks' adoption of the approach recommended by Gartner.

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