API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s software code that allows two independent systems to communicate with each other. And it’s not new. It’s been around for many years in different forms, written in different coding languages. APIs are everywhere. Billions of APIs run the services every one of us uses over the internet. An example is an e-commerce app that uses the Google mapping API to display store locations. The mapping API is embedded in the code we all use while shopping.
At Wells Fargo we have several APIs in production and in the build stage and many, many more in development. Some of the APIs in production are in the payment space, such as ACH and foreign exchange APIs. Other APIs enable sharing information. Our locations API is one example: it lets customers see branch and ATM locations, including special details such as notary or foreign currency services available or various languages spoken at that location, in real time.
One of the things we’re very excited about is how quickly we can develop APIs and put them to market. Our speed allows us to partner well with our customers, and co-develop and pilot APIs that truly address our customers’ needs.
I am seeing a drive to accommodate traditional banking services in new ways through API channels. One example is our push to card API, which allows a company to send a payment using the debit card rails to their consumer’s account in near real time. For example, an insurance company can pay out a claim directly to their customer’s debit card, which happens very quickly, and in doing so, score high on customer experience.
APIs allow companies to work much faster to develop a better customer experience. Let’s take the example of a company that wants to inform customers about payments having posted. The company can use our image retrieval API and embed it into their CRM solution, and immediately address their customers’ needs via their customer service representatives. Instead of having to make requests of the accounting department, or give special access to certain accounts for visibility, the company can respond to customer requests right from their customer relationship management team that is fielding the requests. That’s one example of what an API can do. Rather than build a whole new system, a company can use an API from a bank or another company to create best-of-breed solutions.
One of our visions at Wells Fargo is to ensure payments are embedded into the experience of the end consumer, so that they’re seamless. And to get to the seamless experience we really have to be where our customers are. We need to make sure that our payment and reporting functionalities are provided right there within the experience other companies create, so that it is transparent and instant for the end user.
We think of cross border flows the same way we think about domestic payments. It’s the same technology that enables both. It’s about finding the right business cases, the right end consumer benefits to make the solutions materialize. Today we are thinking a lot about the information around the transaction. For example, even if an international ACH transaction is not real time, we can provide APIs around the ACH status. The status API can be an add-on to the way we partner with global companies.