As technology evolves at breakneck speed, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become a powerful tool for integrating information, processes, and technology across an enterprise. A 2019 study by Cloud Elements found that 55 percent of business owners believe API integration is critical to their business strategy.1
APIs have been largely responsible for the growth of the modern digital economy with Big Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Uber all relying on them to power their business and create seamless digital experiences. For credit unions, APIs can help drive deeper member engagement within their payments channels by enabling them to introduce new innovations faster and more seamlessly than ever before.
What is an API?
As a quick refresher: an API is essentially code that makes it easier for two systems or applications to relay information to one another. We use APIs every day when we’re booking flights, buying movie tickets, or checking the weather on our phone – they are the connective tissue that allow products, services and applications to interact without having to create duplicate code.
Here’s a real life example:
When you book a ride through the Uber app, APIs are being used to: 1) locate nearby drivers, 2) map the driver’s route and cost of the ride, 3) send out push notifications to you and the driver, 4) facilitate payments and 5) send you a receipt – all instantaneously and without multiple coding scripts.
APIs are also powering much of the innovation happening across the payments industry. For instance, a developer could use an API to quickly integrate a new mobile app feature like push notifications or contactless payments, rather than having to build that code from scratch.
“APIs are becoming essential to speeding up the time to innovation,” says CO-OP Chief Technology Officer Pam Brodsack. “They enable real-time access to critical information and processes across the enterprise, which facilitates collaboration, increases transparency, reduces pointless repetition and makes applications more scalable, reliable and customizable.”
Three Questions that Help Identify Ways APIs Could Benefit Your Digital Transformation
APIs aren’t just an enhancement to your technology stack, they’re a new way of thinking about how you develop and roll out new innovation. However, while the benefits may seem obvious, implementing an API strategy can feel daunting. Whether and to what extent your credit union should be using API integrations really boils down to three questions you should ask yourself:
1. How can APIs make my members’ lives easier?
Today’s members want everything to be fast, frictionless and secure and value new products and technology that makes their lives easier. Therefore, the goal of an API should be to enhance the member experience.
Sometimes an API can be used to fulfill an existing member need. For instance, Michigan First Credit Union was able to answer their members’ requests for mobile card controls by leveraging CO-OP’s CardNav API (read full case study).
2. Are there manual processes that could be outsourced or automated?
As the cost and complexity of rolling out new technology continues to rise, undoubtedly there are internal processes at your credit union that are taking up precious resources and developer hours. Sorting and gathering data across disparate systems or from third parties, for instance, is one of the biggest challenges facing modern technology companies.
APIs, however, can help automate many of these processes, by creating a single system of record for data and allowing your teams to build off of (rather than duplicate) each other’s efforts.
3. Are there third party applications and services I want to integrate into my existing solutions?
Partnering with third party technology providers has become more prevalent than ever before but the experience can sometimes feel disjointed for the member if he or she has to toggle back-and-forth between applications.
APIs gave credit unions the flexibility to integrate third party services and features while maintaining control over the experience for their members.
Bringing APIs to Your Credit Union Just Got Easier
Having quick access to a library of APIs is crucial, whether you’re just starting to think about your API strategy or already using them.
That is why CO-OP has launched the CO-OP Developer Portal, a single digital library housing CO-OP APIs across our five solution lines. The Developer Portal is designed to give your developers everything they need to access and implement APIs, including: enhanced developer documentation, code snippets, use case examples and beta environment. As CO-OP adds new APIs to our integrated payments ecosystem, the Developer Portal will enable fast, seamless implementation of these APIs into your own online or mobile channels. Think of it as an app-store for integrating new services and enhancements that drive a better member experience.
Several credit unions within the CO-OP ecosystem, including Coastal Credit Union of Raleigh, North Carolina, have already begun benefiting the Developer Portal.
“The Developer Portal is among the reasons Coastal values its partnership with CO-OP, as it enables us to rapidly discover, integrate and manage the services provided in the CO-OP ecosystem,” said David Faleski, SVP, CIO for Coastal CU. “The result is that we can create an integrated, digital experience for our members.”
We believe APIs will play a critical role in the digital transformation of the credit union industry. Therefore we want to provide credit unions with the support and guidance they need to understand how APIs fit into their overall strategy and then successfully implement them.
The CO-OP Developer Portal is available to existing CO-OP credit unions and their developer partners. To request a demo or more information, please visit: http://visit.coop/qhdlmw