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The new skill you need to keep your job safe in Asian banking

Banks in Asia are now expanding the API (or ‘open banking’) teams that build partnerships with fintechs and other industries. Here in Singapore, I’ve seen open-banking advertisements for professionals with skills in application programming interfaces (APIs) across roles such as product management, performance marketing, architecture, development and engineering.

It’s not just retail banks wanting API expertise. Bank of Singapore recently advertised for a digital tech lead with skills in microservices architecture, API lifecycle management and governance, API management platforms, and containers. And consulting firms are also gearing up to serve the needs of institutions that have yet to build their own capabilities. Accenture is currently hiring API architects, consultants and analysts in Singapore to serve the growing demand from financial services clients.

These jobs are in demand because financial institutions have realised that digital marketplaces are changing the way customer value is delivered. Firms are building partnerships to extend their reach and range. APIs are the building blocks that enable banks to do this at scale; the custom integrations of the past are simply too slow to set up in the hyperspeed world of the digital economy.

The job market for API skills in Hong Kong is also set to grow now that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has published its API Framework. This sets a timetable for banks to publish APIs enabling third parties to access product information, new applications for bank products, account information and transactions.

Trends in API talent hiring in New York and London give a taste of what to expect in Singapore and Hong Kong soon. In New York, Goldman Sachs, Moody’s Analytics and Interactive Brokers are acquiring API talent to build out new analytics services for their institutional customers in order to monetise their data.

In London, with the big banks having established their API teams to meet the regulatory requirements of the UK’s Open Banking Initiative and Europe’s Payments Services Directive (PSD2), attention is now focusing on the more specialised opportunities that APIs can enable. While S&P Global and M&G Prudential focus on hiring API skills to monetise data, HSBC is hiring API skills in its financial crime threat mitigation (FCTM) team, and Schroders just created a web API developer role within its global information security team.

What are API jobs?

What sort of jobs are set to open up in Singapore and Hong Kong? Here’s a selection:

API team leader / product manager

Like a product owner in the SCRUM framework, the API product manager works with stakeholders and team members to guide strategy development, ensuring that APIs support and enable both internal and partner capabilities.

API architect / developer / engineer

The focus of these roles are the definition and technical implementation of the API. Several skills are required, so this may be split into several roles, each with a specific skill. The API architect drives the technology roadmap and design patterns. The API developer develops the core APIs, while developers outside the team may build APIs to expose their own team’s services. The API engineer ensures the availability, maintenance and operational effectiveness of the API gateway and API management platform.

API documentation specialist

The documentation specialist ensures that API documentation is accurate and complete, and provides the information that API consumers need. The specialist doesn’t write all documentation; the aim is to guide API creators in the creation and maintenance of their own documentation.

Community manager

The community manager fosters the internal and external developer community by coordinating both online and in-person information sharing sessions.

Developer evangelist

The evangelist assists internal and external developers in the technical aspects of both creating and consuming APIs and integrating them into their solutions. This requires a deep knowledge of API technologies and practices, as well as the ability to explain them clearly.

How do you get an API job?

Business-focused roles such as API product manager or API architect require an understanding of how open banking, open insurance, and ‘finance as a service’ are redefining how financial services are delivered and consumed. Strategic decisions include whether to adopt a marketplace model or to make it easy for partners to ‘plug-and-play’ your firm’s services into your customers’ journey, and defining a partnership strategy. A working knowledge of how APIs can be applied to specific segments (including corporate banking, payments, wealth management and insurance) is useful, as is a knowledge of the regulatory drivers and requirements.

Technology-focused roles require a detailed knowledge of API design best practices, frameworks and standards. Build your skills in one or more of the components of the API stack, including architecture, microservices, tools, API gateways and management platforms. API security is critical, so understanding the authentication and authorisation technologies and standards are table stakes. Also important is an understanding of how tools in the API stack integrate into the firm’s DevOps toolchain.

This is just the start for open banking, open insurance, and finance as a service. Expect to see more financial institutions and fintechs grow their API teams in future. Position yourself now to take advantage of these new opportunities by building your skills and network.

Singapore-based Jon Scheele is a former senior ANZ technologist who is now a consultant specialising in helping financial services firms build partner ecosystems and monetise their core capabilities through APIs. Jon is also the organiser of APIdays Singapore, 23-24 April 2019. In this two-day conference, industry experts will share how to re-define the customer value proposition through APIs, ecosystems and finance-as-a-service.

Image credit: gremlin, Getty


AUTHORJon Scheele Insider Comment

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