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Accelerating APIs in banking to help grow the African economy

24 May 2022 1:29 PM
Tags:
The Money Show
Bruce Whitfield
Absa
Fintech
absa cib
absa corporate and investment bank
Apis
Kamanie Naicker
Nick Manterfield

Kamanie Naicker and Nick Manterfield unpack Absa’s approach to building a powerful digital ecosystem.

Article by ABSA CIB's Kamanie Naicker and Nick Manterfield.


Kamanie Naicker, Head of Platforms CIB Digital at Absa Group says clients are looking for simplified payment solutions that are seamlessly integrated with both technology and finance solutions. In that pursuit, Absa has invested in leading-edge technology to create an API Platform for their clients. API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, where programmes and applications talk to each other.

Absa Access is the channel through which the omnichannel offering is provided. The platform delivers a seamless omnichannel experience through the bank’s host, mobile, online, and API channels. Absa’s API solutions include payments, domestic as well as cross-border payments, mobile wallets, and the ability to do account verification on the platform. These have been a huge step in making real-time transactions possible, which creates a better client experience and saves businesses time while helping with cash flow management and managing risk

A driver of growth in Africa

Kamanie says on the heels of the COVID-19 crisis in almost every conversation, clients are automating their internal processes, saying that, “Our clients have purposeful and ambitious agendas, they are working across industries to create value, for instance, FMCG clients are focused on automating supply chains.”

The change in the API landscape is being driven by multiple factors, one is the need for real-time payments. She says consumer clients are increasingly looking at e-commerce and the demand for “Buy Now, Pay Later” solutions is growing, so rapid payments are crucial to enabling these transactions to happen seamlessly and with as many partners as possible.

The trend toward Open Finance is a whole new way of building, transparent, and versatile relationships. Open Finance enables clients to choose who they can share their financial data with, thereby enabling safe and easy sharing through standardising technology. In this shifting paradigm, APIs are key to allowing banks to securely share data with approved third parties with consent.

Another driver is that customers are yearning for a single, robust digital identity that enables secure and seamless onboarding, which further accelerates access to financial services. One of the biggest upsides of a digital identity by means of APIs is that it can be reused across various products within the bank without repeating the onboarding journey. A single identity can also cater to cross-sector and cross-border requirements while offering customers the flexibility to create and share their identity attributes.

On a macro level, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area is set to lead to an exponential increase in intra-Africa trade. However, to realise these potential gains transparent, efficient, real-time payments and enhanced digital capabilities are needed to underpin and facilitate trade efficiencies.

Seizing emerging opportunities

Kamanie explains that picking and bundling APIs across companies and segments to create new value is how eco-systems will start to evolve. Collaboration, partnering and data regulation are likely to play a big part in this phase.

She says, “We see our API platform having a significant role to play in how we support innovation and experimentation, and it will mature over time. There is a need for our API platform to mature around digital identity, consent, security, predictive and personalised services.” She explains that Absa’s initial focus has been on liberating core services for consumption, availing services like payment initiation, account information and forex rates as well as working with clients’ ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)/Transportation Management Systems vendors and Fin-Techs. This will be followed with a focus placed on shifting how the bank starts to incorporate its APIs with client APIs to create more meaningful experiences or value-added products for clients.

Our CIO, Nick Manterfield, has always maintained that the key to a successful API platform is to focus on the developer as your customer. Kamanie says, “As the bank started to create the building blocks for our API platform, our mantra has been to first create an exceptional experience for developers and start-up communities. Then secondly to service the need for speed and ease of integration and lastly to secure by default because the trust agenda is important for us.”

The desire to solve real problems

Value creation lies at the heart of successful innovation and Kamanie shares that client conversations are revealing that where they are seeing the benefits of Absa’s API platform is in terms of automation and efficiency with the move to real-time payments, tracking, visibility, cash flow forecasting. Additionally, there is now an opportunity for faster innovation for eco-systems with no need to manually recapture payment instructions.

“Clients will gravitate to where they can partner, move fast and feel secure,” she says, adding that “Risk is a huge element and banks have a role to play with regards to security and trust. Clients will want to feel like they are “approving and authenticating” against best-in-class security that the bank can provide.

While other financial institutions are also deploying their own solutions, Absa brings a unique set of attributes that differentiate it from other banks. Kamanie explains that from a platform perspective, stability, scalability, reliability, low latency, consistency, and digital servicing experience are crucial.

She says, “An agile mindset, human-centred design, platforms, and data are core to how we work with our clients to intimately understand their challenges and execute on them. Technology and experience won’t be the only differentiator, how we work with clients and how we work internally to execute will continue to play a role.

These strengths have not gone unnoticed and Absa Corporate and Investment Banking has scooped some major awards, such as Best Trade Finance Services and Best Online Portal in Africa, 2020 at the Global Finance, Best Digital Bank award 2020. Additionally, Absa Access was recognised for Outstanding Innovations in Cash Management, Global Finance at the Innovators Awards 2021.

Creating new value chains

Kamanie emphasizes that impact is key and that for example by integrating APIs, FinTech and Insurance companies have been able to provide a client with a quote, loan approval, and payment, and within minutes the buyer can complete the transaction and is insured before leaving the dealership. “These are the kinds of changes that are shifting gears on experience. This allows our clients to deliver a new service that is fully integrated within their own brand and provide an enhanced customer journey.”

Another example she offers is the work they are doing with FinTechs, which focused on digitizing end-to-end supply chains for SMEs in the Agricultural sector which have been underserved in terms of digital innovation.

She says, “We’ve been impressed by seeing our clients build with a focus for their clients and are excited to create an ecosystem of partners that will unlock new revenue opportunities across Africa.”


Click here for more information on Absa’s API platform.





24 May 2022 1:29 PM
Tags:
The Money Show
Bruce Whitfield
Absa
Fintech
absa cib
absa corporate and investment bank
Apis
Kamanie Naicker
Nick Manterfield

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