API Management

How APIs help National Bank of Pakistan modernize the banking experience

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Editor’s note: Today we hear from Zohaib Ali Khan, head of mobile financial services, and Nadir Ikram, technical lead at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), the country’s largest government-owned bank. Read on to learn more about how NBP uses APIs to help implement digital banking and reduce the burden of legacy manual processes.

NBP, Pakistan’s largest government-owned bank, serves private and commercial customers and also acts as the government treasury bank. This means that it handles all government transactions—including disbursements and cash collection. In the past, every government transaction had to be handled physically through the NBP branch network. But in a populous country like Pakistan, managing the huge volume of financial transactions is a big task, especially if a single bank is the only conduit. While we’re still in the early stages, here are a few ways that we’re actively working to find solutions that overcome these challenges. 

Using APIs to increase access
Our digital banking implementation team, which includes product developers and a small in-house think tank, is responsible for developing new technology and out-of-the-box solutions tailored to the requirements of different areas of the bank. Our implementation partner Abacus played a key role in evaluating and implementing Apigee for NBP.

Recently, we developed a plan to open up the NBP government mandate to other banks and third-party fintech partners. Under this new model, instead of relying solely on our own channels, customers can now transact through fintech apps and other approved Pakistani banks. To be able to roll out a solution that would be reliable, scalable, and secure enough to meet our needs, we adopted Google Cloud’s Apigee API management platform. This platform allows us to accelerate our product development, so that we can compete in the fintech space. It also gives our customers access to a wide range of banking services through our own and partner channels.

As a government bank, NBP has to deal with a lot of procedural hurdles, which have slowed down our entry into the fintech market. Additionally, legacy systems required us to develop solutions for each particular channel and use case. APIs and API management increase the reusability of our services, while also bringing ease and speed of getting our services to market. In fact, we’ve seen the time it takes to offer a new solution reduced by 20%. Apigee not only helps us to achieve our go-to-market goals—it enhances our capacity to capture new and unique use cases across multiple channels. We appreciate the speed, agility, and security that Apigee brings us, along with its many out-of-the-box features. 

Reducing barriers to consumer services
One example of how we’re using Apigee is our passport collection use case. In Pakistan, to obtain a passport, citizens have to visit an NBP branch. This can involve waiting in long lines to deposit the government-required passport insurance fee. The sheer volume of these transactions was overwhelming our local branch teams, and costs for this type of manual transaction were high. Furthermore, the government had problems reconciling the fee collection with the passport transactions. 

To address these concerns, we developed an API that allows not only NBP branches, but also third-party banks and fintechs, to accept passport issuance fees.Customers can now visit the bank or fintech provider of their choice, reducing the load on NBP, while the government passport department inspectors can now easily reconcile these transactions. 

We also developed a bill payment solution with Apigee that gives customers the possibility of paying utility bills online. Previously, the NBP process was inefficient. We had an in-person bill payment mechanism operating in our 1,500+ bank branches. Now, we’ve integrated the payment API with the branch channel so that bill payment is automated, whether it takes place in a branch or online. 

Increasing the API footprint inside and outside the bank
Now that we’ve implemented the Apigee platform, our partner ecosystem is benefiting from it and growing, too. We’ve enrolled a wide range of fintechs that are developing products in the corporate payment space. We’re also planning to partner with several incubation centers to provide our APIs via sandbox environments, once our Apigee developer portal goes live. Other fintechs will be enrolled through the incubation centers as well. Finally, alternative third-party partners, such as fintechs and banks, will consume our APIs and/or partner with us for product development.

We’ve currently published 10 APIs and by the end of this year, we expect to have 25 to 30 live. We’re looking forward to implementing monetization, but not necessarily with revenue as the primary focus. As NBP is a government-owned bank, we have a responsibility to act as a catalyst for smaller players, and we see monetization expertise as an opportunity for fulfilling our mandate to help fintech startups grow and mature. In the long run, API revenues will certainly become more important, but the short-term goal is seeding innovation in the marketplace and providing the best possible retail banking experience for our customers, nationwide.

To learn more about API management on Google Cloud, visit the Apigee page.