Michael Levine
Michael Levine Jun 15, 2017

Keep an eye on API: The bold transformation of financial services applications

We’re well into the age of digital transformation. Within the last half decade, banks have set the pace of innovation within the financial landscape. The result: a new level of technological expectation from customers, and the industry at large. Thus what was once a fascinating hypothesis is now a firm conclusion: Banks that choose not to keep up with digital transformation and innovation will get left behind.

Meanwhile, customers also want assurances that every inch of a bank’s digital touchpoint is safe and secure. With industry cyberattacks in the news, people want to trust their banking application. And as front-of-mind concerns go, a seamless mobile experience comes a close second. Banking features must offer more than simple mobile access: They need to support an easy, intuitive user experience. For any institution that looks to update or launch its digital presence, there’s much to consider. One false step could alienate (or even eliminate) an entire cross section of customers.

We have found that crafting a digital presence can be harrowing, due to the many choices in technologies and tactics. Every institution must analyze the right course for its customer base: one that maintains the high level of customer service quality that users demand.  

To that end, chatbots and AI assistants represent two of banking’s hottest emerging technologies. Many of our financial service clients have begun to launch proof-of-concept tests for chatbots, made possible by recent advancements in conversational interfaces and voice recognition.  

Yet there is no “one chatbot fits all” answer. As banks explore how to best extend digital presence, they must first analyze where clients spend their digital lives. For many customer subsets, that means messaging and voice-enabled platforms: the wide array of digital locations and physical devices where banks can engage consumers.

It also means balancing the “where” (such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp) with the “how” (smartphones, tablets, and personal assistant devices). When that balance is right, a bank can create the fully immersive experience customers seek. Most importantly, this creates multiple paths to direct access with your customers.

But simply having the technology in place is not enough to guarantee a successful digital presence. Consumers interact with highly nuanced technology every day in nearly every facet of their lives. They have become experts on these technologies and platforms—and can tell when an application falls short of their other experiences.

Thus banks must use situational awareness to keep their touchpoints personalized to the individuals who interact with them. Simply put, a user must feel like the application was designed for them specifically.

While hyper-personalization is crucial for success, banks must also focus on digital technologies of a larger scale. Every user must have the same consistent experience; customer confidence is earned when the technology works the way it’s supposed to, every time. This not only builds existing customer confidence but also helps to increase the organic recruitment of new customers.

To help achieve this consistency, many banks (including our banking clients) have chosen to focus on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), the software-to-software interfaces that allow partners and consumers to perform business functions and securely exchange data otherwise confined within a proprietary system.

APIs enable communication between multiple software components within and between organizations. This allows applications to build out new functionalities faster and more efficiently and open digital ecosystems as well—which ultimately paves the way for innovation and a better customer experience.

APIs also create the infrastructure banks need to deliver consistent user experience. It gives consumers the ability to bank anywhere at any time, and establish secure universal access across many platforms and devices. The real-time functionality of APIs lets customers get the answers they need to make decisions and act accordingly. Banks that engage in APIs get the competitive advantage to quickly offer new capabilities and enhancements—whereas banks that opt out of APIs become unable to compete.

Banks have many factors to consider as they build a smart mobile application strategy. That process gains momentum and heft when they base their decisions on where customers spend their digital lives—and how they prefer to interact online.

Executing on such a strategy created a vivid and comprehensive mobile presence that not only engages customers but also retains them. And that ultimately connects the newest 21st Century technology and strategy to the oldest form of marketing and customer recruitment there is: word of mouth.

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Michael Levine is vice president of marketing for Photon Interactive and is based in Manhattan. He also serves as business lead for Photon’s new products

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