Faced with changing customer behaviors and demands, tightening margins, and increasing threat from digital competitors, financial services institutions (FSIs) will need to meet customers where they are, open up their services, and establish new ways to monetize their products. Doing so will also enable them to build a better profile of their customers, and deliver more personalized user experiences and fast, convenient banking and payment services. Cloud technology plays a big role in this shift toward digital FSIs.
In Asia, bank branches now account for just 12% to 21% of monthly transactions in the region, with customers turning to digital channels for routine transactions such as peer-to-peer transfers and bill payments, according to McKinsey&Company. Overall customer engagement has climbed from an average 12.7 to 14.9 transactions a month in Asia’s developed markets, and from 6 to 8.1 in emerging markets.1
Fueled by growing smartphone adoption, the evolving customer behavior and momentum toward digital platforms have enabled digital-first players to snag a growing piece of the banking pie.
McKinsey estimates that digital banking penetration has grown an average of 97% in Asia’s developed markets, and 52% in emerging markets, with between 30% and 50% of those that have yet to use digital banking likely to do so.
Consumers now are more than ready to make the switch to neobanks, or digital banks. In Singapore, 63% are open to banking with digital-only players, according to a Visa study. On what will entice them to do so, 63% point to bill payments while 56% will use neobank services to make payments at retail outlets. Furthermore, 54% prefer digital banks for the convenience they offer while 52% like the faster service.
Among those who are open to digital banks, 60% will move some services from their current bank to these new players even if the latter have no prior banking experience. One in five of respondents say they are willing to switch all services to a neobank.
The same is true for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in Singapore. According to a separate survey by Visa, 88% of these companies will consider moving some services to digital banks.
Driven to do so by their frustration over a lack of quality corporate products and control of their banking experience, 55% of SMBs believe neobanks will help bring down overall banking costs. Another 54% say digital banks offer greater convenience, while 53% point to greater ease in paying bills online.
These stats should worry even established FSIs, especially those that have not done quite enough to open up their service ecosystems and drive innovation through APIs.
An API toward new revenue
While most banks have active APIs, the services that some of them currently provide are just functional; they’re the means to an end for partners to obtain their targeted products and services. Without knowing, consumers use these types of APIs indirectly by using their favorite applications every day—a payment processing API will enable them to purchase their lunch, while a loan application API will get them that dream home.
But while banks do not always own the customer journey, they still can find opportunities to sell their products via partners. Many leading banks are leveraging key technologies, such as API management, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics to embed digital banking into consumers’ everyday lives, including groceries, travel, entertainment, healthcare, and food delivery.
When traditional banks open up their APIs to third parties offering broader services that pull in unique services into their own apps, they then become plugged into the broader customer journey. This helps boost usage of their services and embeds them in the overall customer experience. It also provides aggregated data that will help banks build richer consumer profiles, and deliver more personalized products and services.
APIs also create equal opportunities for smaller participants to be involved in the financial services ecosystem, potentially creating micro-segments that previously may not have existed. With insufficient demand within a closed system, to justify the provision of such services, some customers in these micro-segments have previously been left unserved. The APIs, which facilitate collaboration between the different micro-segments so they can be commercially viable, help assuage this problem.
Some banks are also opening up APIs to allow access to datasets that enable businesses to trigger automated workflows and enhance their operational efficiencies. Others, such as Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Bank BRI) have generated new revenue by leveraging Google Cloud’s Apigee to manage their API lifecycle and identify new revenue opportunities.
Apigee’s monetization feature has helped Bank BRI realize $50 million in revenue and enabled the bank to define its pricing based on API calls and automatically bill based on usage.
In addition, the Indonesian bank uses the data analysis alongside Google Maps Platform to score its customer base of 75.5 million, and identify those who can be recruited as BRILink agents for underbanked areas. These agents are customers who maintain a minimum balance of $800 USD and score high on reliability.
The appointment of branchless agents via the Agent BRILink app has pushed the loan volume from the bank’s branchless business to $26 billion in 2018, up from $15 billion the year before.
How banks can get started with APIs
Clearly, there are new revenue opportunities for banks to leverage the data they already have. Here are some tips to help FSIs kickstart their API journey:
Align with internal leadership growth initiatives. Leverage executive key performance indicators around growth and cost savings to foster a culture that offers APIs to micro-segmented markets with an eye on cultivating a healthy financial services ecosystem.
Productize APIs with a strong value proposition. Starting with an API-first approach, stock the shelves of your API shop with new services and a strong inventory of APIs that will entice third parties (i.e., retailers, telcos, etc.) to start using them. This customer-first, outside-in approach will serve as a strong base to build on and enable the addition of more APIs as adoption grows.
Actively nurture a developer community. A properly trained API manager will ensure constant contact with the developer community, and that partners are provided with case studies to help them identify viable use cases for your APIs.
Leverage security as a strategic enabler. Security is a key enabler of the API economy, and most API security postures are defensive. By leveraging deep security tooling together with strong identification of developers, banks can better track information and data usage offensively.
FSIs also need to avoid some common pitfalls, such as overlooking the need to continuously improve their APIs. If no one is using it, the API clearly is failing to provide any real value to third-party developers.
In addition, efforts should be made to market the APIs and let developers know what is available. A common mistake FSIs make is assuming their work is done once their APIs are released and neglecting the need to carry out community outreach and marketing to generate awareness about the APIs.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, don’t miss our session at the Google Cloud Financial Services Summit on Embedded Finance: The Future of Banking.
1. McKinsey & Company. “Asia’s digital banking race: Giving customers what they want.” Global Banking Practice. April 2018.