Former Simple exec joins BBVA as head of Open API

Former Simple exec joins BBVA as head of Open API

Shamir Karkal, a former co-founder and CFO of Simple, has joined the neobank's parent company BBVA in a newly-created role as head of Open API.

Karkal moved on from Simple in June 2015, fifteen months after the digital startup bank had been acquired by the Spanish banking giant for $117 million.

In his new role at BBVA, Karkal has been charged with building the bank's Open API platform, serving up proprietary data to third party businesses and development shops.

Karkal likens the premise to the creation of Amazon Web Services, the e-commerce company's cloud-based unit which has grown enormously by letting third parties build businesses using its technology platform.

"BBVA has a huge opportunity to do the same - open up our core platform and services, in turn enabling others to build companies on top of these and thereby helping us build a new business," he says. "There is huge demand for these core services in areas such as customer authentication, money transfer, accounts, cards, and transaction data. $12bn was invested in financial technology start-ups in 2014 alone - a vibrant financial technology ecosystem that needs access to products such as ours."

Karakal points to the bank's Open Talent hackathon events - where developers are invited to use BBVA APIs to create entirely new applications - and the API-based collaboration between BBVA Compass and Dwolla for US money transfers, as early examples of the bank's experience in this arena.

The next challenge will be to build a scalable platform that companies across the world can access to tap in to the bank's datasets. To kick things off, the bank has created a closed 'alpha' group of partners in Spain to work collaboratively on new applications before expanding the scope and scale of the project.

"BBVA is uniquely positioned to serve this market. We have a long-standing commitment to support the new financial services ecosystem as part of our own digital transformation programme," says Karkal. "It’s also in keeping with BBVA’s philosophy around allowing bright new partners to compete with the bank’s own services, believing this gives the customer a better experience and improves the bank’s own offering."

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