Would you trust someone to take an item from a shop and pay for it later?

Retail store owners in Amsterdam do, thanks to a payment app (Tikkie) that allows shoppers to scan items with their smartphones and settle their bill on their way out.

Trust – between consumers, businesses, software developers and banks – is vital for the success of any technology that deals with money.

ABN AMRO, the Dutch bank behind the payment app, is looking to both build trust and meet its customers’ desire for technological innovations that simplify their lives.

It is doing this by sharing its technology with others: it is the first major Dutch bank to open up its APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to software developers via the ABN AMRO Developer Portal.




API banking

Put simply, APIs are a set of platform agnostic functions which can be used by developers to build innovative desktop or mobile applications.

Just as Google makes many of its APIs openly accessible, enabling developers to integrate features such as Google Maps into their apps, so ABN AMRO hopes various business capabilities can be exposed and will be used in third-party apps.

Creating the Developer Portal is a key part of establishing a strong relationship between the bank and software developers, says Koen Adolfs, Product Owner Open Banking at ABN AMRO.

“If we want to reach out to innovative and creative developers and partners, we need to have a store – just like a bank on a high street, which provides trust for customers – that provides trust for developers,” says Adolfs.

“The portal helps developers to trust our APIs and learn more about how they work.”

The portal, developed by ABN AMRO in partnership with Apigee, Tata Consultancy Services, Pronovix and Bikkelhart, currently offers four APIs for commercial clients to build into their own apps. More will be added as time goes by.

Adolfs says the corporate APIs will make a huge difference to many businesses.

“For example, with the Corporate Accounts API, accounting software can connect to the bank in real time, speeding things up,” he says.

“Likewise, multiple payments by companies used to have to be exported as Excel sheets from an accountancy programme and imported into the ABN AMRO system. With the Batch Payments API, this can now be done with one push of a button.”

And these are just a few examples of what APIs could do for a customer. It is the start of a journey in which APIs are a new digital channel for banks to offer their services and create new experiences.


Beyond banking

The idea for the Developer Portal first appeared as ABN AMRO considered its response to new European Union legislation coming into force this year, which impacts all banks and financial institutions within the EU.

The second Payment Services Directive, known as PSD2, affects everything from the way we pay online to what information we see when making a payment.

It also requires banks to provide customers’ data to other organisations. So, for example, while shopping online you could give a company like Amazon permission to create payment requests using your bank account rather than using Visa or PayPal.

However, rather than viewing PSD2 as another regulation, ABN AMRO saw it as an opportunity to radically improve its digital offering. “ABN AMRO pursuits to open up more valuable APIs and use those of others. The goal is to speed up, create beyond banking experiences, explore new business models and innovate finance together,” says Adolfs.

ABN AMRO subjected the API platform to extensive testing during the Beyond Banking Days, a 48-hour hackathon with developers from the bank, partners and fintechs/startups. Development has continued during the months since. The market introduction heralds a new phase in our exploration of the future of banking.

“The enthusiasm of IT developers from outside world for the APIs and the developer portal was great to see, as was the enthusiasm from ABN AMRO and TCS employees also taking part.”

Mahesh Gamane, ABN AMRO-TCS Relationship Manager, says the cooperation seen at such events reflects the teamwork that brought the developer portal online.

“Throughout our joint effort to launch the developer portal, the openness shown by ABN AMRO towards innovative ideas from team, and the effort we all put in together to implement those ideas and make state-of-the-art Developer portal, meant we really came together as one team,” says Gamane.

“Because of this teamwork, launching the API Developer Portal was really an exciting moment. I believe this is just the start of the journey.”

Praising the work put in by TCS, Maarten Spit, Head of Enterprise Integration Technology at ABN AMRO, says: “Throughout ABN AMRO’s journey of Open API Banking, TCS has been a very dedicated and knowledgeable partner. TCS’ consultancy in product selection, contribution to our future state architecture of Open Banking and their efforts in the launch of API Developer Portal are commendable.

“Their people are sincere and work very diligently to achieve our results and stay competitive in the market”

The launch of the portal underscores ABN AMRO’s ambition to transform banking and build trust. More APIs will be added to the portal, and the bank and TCS will continue to work together to improve customers’ digital experiences.