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API Management / Cloud Services

IBM Empowers Financial Services App Developers with New Tools, Services

Mar 22nd, 2017 10:55am by
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IBM has launched a series of new tools for developers building applications for the financial services sector, including support for cognitive, blockchain and analytics applications.

The financial services sector has long been a stronghold for IBM, with the company serving as a core supplier of hardware, software and services to the sector. As such, IBM is leading with its Watson-based cognitive computing technology. IBM initially applied Watson to its customers in the healthcare space, where it quickly caught on as an advisor to oncologists. Now Big Blue is aiming it at the financial services space.

The new IBM Cloud for Financial Services, announced at the IBM InterConnect 2017 show taking place in Las Vegas this week, provides tools, APIs and building blocks for creating financial services apps on the IBM Cloud.

IBM asserts that more than 100,000 individual and enterprise developers from the financial services industry come to IBM each month for development insight and support.

However, the new tailored offering from IBM provides financial technology (fintech) developers with access to APIs, data and content to ­­­­­­­­­­­­build and monetize cognitive-enabled financial services apps quickly and at scale for fintech firms, banks, wealth management firms and insurance companies.

“We released a family of financial services APIs that are built around Watson services targeted at particular areas that financial services practitioners might be interested in,” Willie Tejada, IBM’s chief developer advocate, told The New Stack. “If you take the insights that Watson can bring about from a cognitive capability, we’ve got those up in a set of APIs, but in use cases that are very specific to the financial services community.”

Also, IBM developed a set of starter kits to help developers begin to build financial services applications.

“So, for example, if you’re trying to do some productive planning in relation to models for portfolio management, how would those things actually get applied? These kits help with that,” Tejada said. “As we take a look at applying cognitive to industries, financial services is just one example.”

The starter kits “can get you pretty far along” because they provide very specific use cases that are directly applicable to building financial services applications, Tejada said. IBM will expand these starter kits to cover increasingly complex tasks but decided, to begin with, “low hanging fruit” use cases, he noted.

“These kits and APIs are driven from what we see from our customer set,” Tejada said. “And the other piece is what we see emerging. We listen to what our customers are asking us form, but we also are shooting where the puck is going to go. The idea is we look at what is the skills we need to develop or the starter kit we have to produce. That will help developers get their jobs done easier in these particular segments. So we listen to those two sides and make available these developer journeys and starter kits to allow them to do their work faster.”

Overall, IBM’s goal here is to help close the so-called skills gap in financial technology systems. The company’s new tools are now available in beta to assist developers in building in customer insights, regulatory compliance analytics, security, privacy and compliance readiness to help reduce the time needed for development and testing.

The tools help developers get around mundane tasks such as data selection, mapping and integration, enabling developers to use IBM services or combine them with their data.

“We have extensive expertise in financial services with 97 percent of the world’s largest banks relying on IBM. At the same time, IBM has become the leading AI platform for business,” said Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of Industry Platforms, in a statement. “Our experience across financial services and in the commercial deployment of AI with enterprise and startup builders has informed these new tools.”

Also, IBM announced the extension of is extending its current business partner program by providing additional benefits and support for its financial services industry partners. Initial fintech firms offering their financial services focused APIs on the financial services developer cloud include Accern, Actiance, Bondevalue, Dow Jones, Eigencat, Envestnet | Yodlee, Opentopic, Plaid, PolicyPal, Quovo, Riskspan, TagniFi and Xignite.

“Partnering with IBM brings us one step closer toward our goal of building an inclusive financial services ecosystem, giving industry institutions and their customers access to critical infrastructure by marrying IBM’s institutional knowledge with Plaid’s technical expertise,” said Sima Gandhi, head of Business Development and Strategy at Plaid, in a statement.

Attention on the Verticals

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said he believes IBM’s financial services developer announcements and new offerings speak to the company’s deep history of and experience in enterprise software development.

“The new financial services offers were particularly interesting in how they reflect the company’s understanding of financial industry customers’ core needs,” King said. “These are often companies that have worked with IBM for decades, and their businesses are being deeply, fundamentally disrupted by new players, increasing competition and growing regulatory restrictions. IBM’s focus here is in providing financial organizations the tools and services they need to adapt quickly and successfully to changing circumstances. It’s certainly about IBM’s technical innovation but it’s also deeply informed by the company’s understanding of its customers’ businesses and requirements.”

Indeed, the IBM developer ecosystem has a role in this effort. Tejada said ISVs collaborate on the IBM Cloud to deliver cloud native applications and cloud-enable existing applications. They work with IBM to help extend their data, microservices and content to reach more clients in the industry.

Moreover, IBM provides advisory services to help ISVs, as well as technical and sales support, reference architectures and support for developing and using APIs. ISVs participating in the program and building and deploying innovative solutions on Bluemix include Avoka, Majesco, TCS BaNCS and others.

In addition, IBM officials said IBM Business Partner Solution Hubs such as those in London, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Dallas, Paris, Nice, Silicon Valley, Stuttgart, Sao Paulo, Bangalore, and Shanghai would help IBM partners commercialize financial services solutions with the company’s cognitive and cloud technology.

For its part, IBM just launched its Singapore FinTech Hub, which is linked to the company’s financial services developer cloud. Big Blue launched the hub with the support of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the central bank of Singapore, to serve as a catalyst to support Singapore-based fintech firms.

“The launch of the hub will help accelerate the growth and influence of Singapore-based FinTech companies to be part of the worldwide ecosystem of API providers,” said Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer at MAS, in a statement. “Their solutions and APIs will become available to the global developer community, expanding their market reach beyond Singapore.”

Feature image: IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty kicks off Interconnect 2017. Photo courtesy IBM.

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