APIs allow us to make payments seamlessly, reaching the global marketplace at our fingertips, by transmitting information from one piece of software to another.
But as APIs become increasingly part of our day-to-day transactions, how can we make sure they are the best fit for the service users and that they do not fall into the trap of prioritising style over substance? Finance Monthly hears from Henry McKeon, Innovation Architect at moneycorp.
Banks, fintechs and APIs
For incumbent banks, APIs give the opportunity to expand their customer reach, by offering a more accessible range of services, along with potential partnership opportunities with fintechs. However, due to the business model of the bigger banking institution, they are inherently less agile than their fintech counterparts, meaning they often come up against barriers in the development of their API offerings.
On the other hand, we see a number of fintechs who rush to get their API service to market in order to serve their customer base – who are more likely to be tech-savvy. And while they have an agile business model that allows then to be flexible in adapting customer solutions, they don’t have the heritage and pre-built trust with the general public, along with the years of customer feedback to implement into their systems.
The customer at the core
Fundamentally, a successful API has the customer at the very core. In the first instance, it’s vital that the provider looks at the specific customer requirements and relates those needs directly to the API services. Working closely with end customers helps to provide a better understanding of customer requirements and helps to structure the API offering. In building an API offering, developers should look to engage a number of existing customers to understand their requirements and to offer the functionality that would service clients across a wide variety of industries and needs.
Fundamentally, a successful API has the customer at the very core.
Some customers need efficiency in order to operate at scale; keying payment transactions manually via a web portal doesn’t scale and is error prone. Mass payment file processing provides efficiency and reduces errors but is not always what our high-tech customers are looking for. They want open API services so that they can link their platform directly to payment and foreign exchange services, they want to drive transactions from their own platforms directly. Having the ability to access services via API instead of via files provides the ultimate flexibility.
Building a central set of API endpoints, which provide the core banking on a multi-currency wallet, global and local beneficiary validation, international payment capabilities, peer-to-peer facilities for instant transfers, and 24/7 multi bank dealing and transactional and statement capabilities is part of the core requirement which help service customer needs.
Different industries have different requirements
The diverse needs of the customer journey are put into perspective when looking at invoice factoring customers who service short term debt. They need strong banking facilities for receiving and auto-allocating incoming money. Receiving is a key part of the banking offering, so doing that quickly and across a multi-currency account is a core part of our offering. Having account tiering (Parent-Child segregation) also helps with segregating money and reconciliation.
Invoice factoring companies need efficient pay out capabilities, for paying suppliers (early) and paying back to investors at the end of the agreed term. As a result, the ability for an API to provide speed, global coverage and multi-channel capabilities are crucial. Building receiving information into the API, providing instant access to balancing and received funds, along with the referencing on incoming money therefore becomes a fundamental requirement. This allows customers to understand the source of the money, so they can do checking an allocation on their own platform.
Freelancing companies are another good use case for APIs. By their very nature, they are collecting and paying consultant salaries and need to be able to capture consultant bank details accurately and securely. In addition, they want to be able to validate these bank details at the point of capture, instead of at the point of payment, in order to avoid any errors or delays. Having the ability to validate local and global bank routing information at the point of entry using an API is a big advantage. Having a validation rules engine enables clients to dynamically configure the capture screens on the source freelancing system. In showing the mandatory banking fields required for each country and currency, it provides clarity on the required fields and validation of the banking details captured as part of the API offering. This functionality fundamentally helps eliminate payment failures, reduce rework and costs in the payment process.
When working with clients running freelancing sites, you’ll often find that they also require FX conversion and payment facilities which need to be embedded into the API to facilitate global pay out requirements. Local payout facilities also help reduce costs of transmission and receipt, as sending through expensive international channels is not always suitable.
This is also echoed in the requirement for shipping companies, that need to be able to pay efficiently for port calls globally. Having access to a wide range of international payments routes and currencies is essential to provide a full service. For example, at moneycorp we have partnered with Inchcape Shipping to provide Smartpay which services the world’s maritime industry. Smartpay simplifies the payment process, providing efficiency and transparency and helping to centralize treasury and FX and payment services for the group.
FX providers give substance and style
In the fast-evolving world of API solutions, style is impossible to achieve without substantive attention to detail. This is even more apt in the space of foreign exchange, where achieving speed, efficiency and security can be more of a challenge due to the nature of banking across borders. In this space, to be successful, an API needs the agility of a fintech to evolve to rapidly changing consumer needs but be backed by substantive banking networks and expertise to execute payments securely and quickly across currencies, markets and time zones.