More Evangelism Will Be Needed To Move Banking API Conversation Forward

I was reading what’s behind the hold up of API adoption at credit unions and I’m reminded (again) of the critical need for API evangelists in the space. I am not talking about advocates for a single API, but more evangelists that reflect my mission as the API Evangelist, but dialed in for specific industries.

To set the stage for you, let me share why I started API Evangelist seven years ago. I began writing about the business, and eventually the politics of APIs because I saw the potential with APIs, but I also saw that things were not evolving as fast as they could because technologists were dominating the API conversation. We needed more discussion around the business of doing APIs, and many of the finer political details like security, terms of service, branding, and other concerns of the business leaders who actually controlled the purse strings that would move the space forward at the speed and scale everyone desired.

To help break the log jam within the federal government, healthcare, and other industries someone needed to help assure business and technical stakeholders of the benefits of doing APIs, with sensible discussion regarding how they could mitigate the risk involved. The problem in the banking space is that you only have the vendors and hype pundits dominating the conversation, and much-needed trust is never established. Banks are extremely risk adverse because of money, but also because of regulations, and when you have just technologist, vendors, and hype analysts stirring the pot, nobody ever really helps alleviate bank’s actual concerns around security, privacy, and other areas that keep them up at night.

I remember sitting down at a table in Vegas with Anthem, Kaiser Permanente, and other health insurance providers who were all about business when I sat down, but after an hour or so I convinced them they weren’t in my sales pipeline, and the tone changed completely. They are so used to be sold to and pushed vendor solutions to their problems, they were just seeing APIs as the next vendor product. I help show them I didn’t have a product to sell, and genuinely wanted to help them understand the API potential, and break down the security, business, and other concerns they faced as major players in the space. I have seen this play out over and over, across many different industries over the last seven years, and is something that the waves of enterprise sales teams, vendors, and analysts never fully grasp is actually gumming up the gears of their progress–a bi-product being so narrowly focused.

For the last five years, I have been trying to groom up evangelists who could tackle specific industries like finance, healthcare, education, and others, but it is really, really difficult to patch together a consistent paycheck to keep anyone engaged. Plus, it seems to take a certain type of obsessive-compulsive personality to stay dedicated to what is going on. If folks are really interested in clearing some of the gunk that is slowing the progress in the banking and credit union API space, you all should get together and establish some sort of vendor-neutral group to help fund and provide a platform for financial sector API evangelist(s) to work independently with banks to help alleviate their concerns, and help showcase the positive motion forward when it comes to banking APIs–otherwise things are going to continue to sputter and jerk forward at an uncomfortable pace.

P.S. The evangelists have to actually give a shit about what is going on and be personally invested, otherwise it won’t be sustainable.