APIs could help industry strengthen relationships with consumers

By Susan Yellin | April 05 2019 09:30AM

Photo: Freepik

Increasing trust among both clients and advisors is crucial in the financial services world. For many in the industry, the answer lies in APIs.

APIs, or application programming interfaces, allow applications to access data in another service, and are now used in many different industries to expand business and bring new features to customers.

Tim Wyatt, director of Information Technology with PPI, told the annual meeting of CLIEDIS (Canadian Life Insurance EDI Standards) that financial services in general, and insurance in particular, are based on the concept of enduring trust from both the client and the advisor.

But the industry is weighed down with legacy systems and paper and needs to be able to get quick answers to questions for both advisors and clients if their relationship with the insurer is to be maintained, said Wyatt.

“I really think that APIs are one of the ways we can do that,” he said. “There are some things you can wait for the answers, but others you need the information immediately. If you can do that and show the client that you’ve done that, then I think that’s really a positive thing.”

Maintaining relationships with clients

For some companies this means a big cultural change. At National Bank where Benjamin Belec is manager, Strategy and Planning, there is a big push on to maintain relationships with clients, their biggest asset.

But Belec said banks tend not to share data to leverage business.

“At National Bank, we had to completely redefine how we were sharing information, how we were analysing data in our organization and its partners. A couple of years back, we decided that before we started on this big initiative we had to make a cultural shift,” said Belec.

Manulife is undergoing a similar metamorphosis, said Kathy Schmidtke, director, Distributor Relations & Learning, Customer Experience at the insurer.

Headed in the right direction

Schmidtke said Manulife wants to be a technology company that offers financial services, a major turnaround from where it now stands. She acknowledged Manulife – like other insurance companies – has archaic systems that get in the way of its goals of providing accurate, timely data when and how the insurer and its partners want it.

But she said she is excited about the direction Manulife is taking in terms of digitization. “I think we’re heading in the right direction and making some great headway. So I think the best is yet to come.”

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