SunTrust CIO: Why APIs are the future of the digital experience

APIs connect you to your customer's digital ecosystem
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For many businesses, today’s digital world creates a mounting pressure to become more API-driven. Why? Because if you can succeed in an API world, you can provide significantly more value to your customers than if you offer stand-alone digital experiences. I’ll give you an example.

If you look around any public setting – the airport, a cafe, etc. – the majority of people are staring at their phones. Digital information is flowing extremely fast, and nearly all of our daily transactions can and do exist in a digital world. So businesses are now trying to figure out how to take those digital interactions to the next level.

Let’s say you are at Best Buy shopping for a new TV. You can use your phone to find reviews, price comparisons, and even have a conversation with a friend about that particular TV. But what you may not think to do is open your banking app. Although your bank may have the most relevant information needed at that particular moment about your disposable income, your budget, and your long-term spending plans, it’s a stand-alone icon among a variety of other unconnected digital experiences.

"How do we become integrated into the various circumstances that our customers find themselves in?"

So the question that a bank needs to ask is: How do we become integrated into the various circumstances that our customers find themselves in – from buying a car, to shopping for a home, to making investment decisions? If we are irrelevant as a stand-alone app, how do we tap into the rest of our customers’ digital ecosystems so that we become not only relevant, but integral to their decision-making processes?

The answer is APIs.  

APIs play crucial role in ecosystems

Originally, an API was thought of as an interesting architectural term for how financial institutions could become more modular. But now, this idea of open API architecture is really about being open from an ecosystem standpoint. That’s fundamentally why many businesses are transforming to open API systems and why we’re now seeing a movement within financial services to standardize APIs.

Our focus at SunTrust is on building standard APIs that interconnect our own systems but that also connect to external systems. We’re converting our services-oriented architecture to become more of a microservices and modular architecture, enabling the creation of these interconnected APIs. This shift in itself represents a huge core system transformation, but will allow for that modularity and the API capabilities.

This journey is well worth it because it’s driven by the customer experience. And the benefits – increased speed and agility – speak for themselves. The pace at which we can make changes to our systems has significantly improved. What traditionally took 16 to 18 months can now be accomplished in just four or five.

The world is changing, and this pressure is being felt in all industries, not just financial services. Over the next several years, I imagine we’ll see more and more companies opening up their core and legacy systems to become API-driven. It’s the future of the digital experience.

Anil Cheriyan is Director/Deputy Commissioner, Technology Transformation Services for the U.S. Federal Government. Previously, he was managing partner of Phase IV Ventures, a consulting and advisory firm.

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