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Leading the API Strategy for U.S. Bank

13 April 2018
Swati Shah, head of technology, Open Banking and API Strategy for U.S. Bank, shares her experience of building a scalable API platform, setting common practices based on industry standards and creating an ecosystem fit to adopt open banking

The use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) has proved popular in the retail banking sector, providing a means for banks to connect their systems internally, as well as share their services with their customers.

European banks have also utilised API solutions to allow third party service providers to access their customers’ data, following the enforcement of the Second Payments Services Directive (PSD2) in early 2018. Although similar legislation has not yet been established in the U.S., events in Europe are being watched closely by U.S. banks.

Swati Shah told QA Financial that “open banking will be a business disrupter, and even though future U.S. policies will differ from those in Europe, it’s important that we keep an eye on what others are doing so we can figure out how to use technology to provide experiences our customers want.”

Swati is responsible for creating an open banking strategy and ecosystem of integrations at U.S. Bank and is accountable for the quality, availability, and scale of the Enterprise API Platform, services, and their underlying systems. As a self-confessed “geek at heart,” Swati began her career as an engineer and has had leadership roles in development, quality engineering, architecture and vendor management. During the last decade, she has led initiatives around continuous delivery, DevOps, APIs and Cloud migration at varying scales.

A digital journey

“The U.S. Bank enterprise API program has short and long term goals, which are matched with the bank’s corporate objectives,” said Swati. “Digitization is changing every aspect of businesses today. The pace and volatility of digitization is growing, and the volume and diversity of stakeholders engaged in technology initiatives are also increasing. U.S. Bank is on a digital journey and we have done some great work. We have an excellent vision for our API program, with backing from our senior leaders to carry out this vision so we can create value for our customers. APIs solve business problems and we consider them a product.”

The DevOps journey at U.S. Bank is well underway. Cloud migration is currently in progress and the bank has significantly decreased the time to move applications to production ensuring reliable and quality products are delivered. “We are continuously leveraging micro-services architecture,” Swati added. “This allows us to expedite how we reach into the market, and at the same time allows us to be more flexible with engineering. For us, that means defining end-to-end process automation, automating process visibility, creating an early pilot to hyper-test, and then determining how we scale from there. We expect this to improve customer centricity and the speed we deliver new functionality”

But building an enterprise-scale API program comes with challenges. “Considering the size of our organization, it is challenging to accelerate development and still say consistent. When we say ‘consistent’, it is not only about technology being consistent, but also how we provide a consistent customer experience.”

Setting standards

“Building and testing APIs to industry standards is imperative to success,” continued Swati. And U.S. Bank is developing common practices based on the OpenAPI Initiative, which both internal and external developers can leverage.

“Quality and security are the two most important aspects of our technology because they define our customers’ experiences. I believe automating testing as much as possible and shifting automation left is the key to retaining quality through continuous delivery. This helps us get feedback faster, learn faster and evolve the product faster.”

Internal developers are currently following the bank’s common practices to build and test private APIs, and there are plans to roll this guidance out to teams working on public and partner APIs. “Our processes are going to evolve as we learn from our partners and engineers. We will be following our common practices to establish an enterprise-wide scalable model. This is critical for the long-term digital transformation of U.S. Bank.”

Swati Shah will be joining the panel discussion “Financial firms and the Road to Continuous Delivery: Overcoming the Key Challenges” at the QA Financial Forum Chicago 2018. The event will be taking place at the Metropolitan Club on April 25, 2018. For the full agenda and to reserve your delegate place, click here.

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