​NAB readies developer portal

The bank will kick off closed beta trials of its new API developer portal before opening the platform up next year.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) expects to begin the rollout of its application programming interface (API) developer portal before the year is out, which will eventually see the public availability of selected NAB APIs to third-party developers.

The platform will start with two NAB APIs that will host data relating to NAB branch and ATM locations as well as its foreign exchange rates, with the information open initially as a closed beta to a small number of developers.

Developers approved to take part in the beta will be able to plug into the NAB data for testing and possible integration to their own systems, NAB explained.

"With the rise of the digital age and evolving customer expectations, APIs have become core to banking infrastructure to enable rapid deployment of various functions across multiple channels to meet those customer needs and quickly keep pace as those needs evolve," NAB chief operating officer Antony Cahill said.

Cahill explained the bank's API strategy is based on three key streams of customer enablement, partnership arrangements, and open API categorisation which he said the portal will be an integral part of.

"We are collaborating with a number of partners to both provide and receive data leveraging API technology including Xero, MYOB, and Visa," he added. "We want to keep building our ecosystem with like-minded organisations to allow us opportunities to innovate and improve our experiences for customers."

In its Review of the Four Major Banks: First Report, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics recently recommended that banks be forced to provide open access to customer and small business data by July 2018 to be accessed by competing banks, startups, and other financial institutions.

It was suggested that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) be charged with developing a binding framework to facilitate this sharing of data, making use of APIs and ensuring that appropriate privacy safeguards are in place to allow such a practice.

Throughout the three-day review of Australia's four major banks in October, committee chair Federal Member for Banks David Coleman raised the question of account portability to each of the bank's representatives, citing the United Kingdom regulator's recent move to make this a banking requirement.

Eager to see the practice underway in Australia, Coleman asked the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), and Westpac, in addition to NAB, that if ASIC had such a mandate to require the opening of data and the opening up of information so as to enable consumers to ditch their bank, whether they would stand in the way or support the move.

At the time, NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn said that overall, his bank welcomed the competition.

"That is how this bank has survived and competed for 150 years. And now we have new competition -- fintechs that are coming at us -- and we welcome that, too," he told the committee. "We have to lift and get better, and that is good for customers."

Of particular concern to Cahill was the security around opening up such information to the market, noting that the bank's key priority is ensuring that the correct protocols and security regimes are in place to avoid a breach.

"In relation to opening up our data more broadly, and in actual fact sharing customers' data with other institutions, we agree with that in principle. From our perspective, trust is the key thing that we have with our customers. If we were to lose that trust in a data breach or a privacy breach, then we would take that very seriously," he added.

"In relation to data sharing, the top principle is absolutely that we welcome competition. In terms of data sharing, if that can generate better outcomes for customers, we would support that in principle."

While NAB claims to be the first bank in Australia to open up APIs to external parties, Singapore's OCBC Bank launched its own developer portal in May, aimed at facilitating the development of mobile apps linked to its products and services.

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