Up's next gen banking

  • By Christine St Anne

Within a day of UP’s API launch, the neobank's customers were already trialling a number of “crazy” ideas but importantly, the initiative helped boost financial engagement and literacy.

Up launched its beta release of the Up API in July. 

According to Up co-founder Dom Pym, within five minutes – “no word of a lie” – its customers were tweeting about the “little simple apps” that they had built on top of the neobank’s API. 

Pym cites a number of app examples including simple initiatives such as a quick view of their account balances.

“Within the next 20 minutes a customer had a build a dashboard that showed their app transactions and their merchant transactions within a web browser.”  

Pym speaks of another customer developed an ‘automated sprinkler’ that donates money to charity. Here, money would be sent to an Up account that was routed to a special savings account which can be donated to their charity/organization of choice. 

This sprinkler app would be prompted to push illustrations of ‘rain’ or ‘a bucket of water’ depending on the level of donations. 

“This is all automated and magically happening through our API.” 
 
Pym adds that while it is a “little gimmicky,” any offering that helps financial literacy and engagement is important. 

“In this example, our API inspired someone to create an app that could collect charitable donations automatically. It also makes it fun and interesting and interactive and helps people reconnect with their money. 

We just build the things that we think will help our customers with spending and saving. Our customers then can literally build their own tools on top of our API. 

That was just “one crazy example”, according to Pym.   

Another Up customer integrated the app feature into their home. When a salary payment came through, all the lights in the house would flash and music would play. 

“Over the first few days, we had hundreds of people signing up and dozens or scores of people building apps on top of our API.” 

The API has been in development for a while in parallel to Up’s open banking initiatives. 

But for Pym, open banking is not the core focus for the business. 

“It’s legislated and so there is a lot of constraints and restrictions around what you can do and why you do it.

“What we did with our API is we built a tool which anybody can use. You don’t have to be a really hardcore software developer.”

An Up customer just scans their QR code which gives them a secret and unique key that allows them to access their data. 

“There have been other banks around the world that have experimented with APIsa over the last few years, but no one's done it in the way that we have done it.” 

Pym calls this nextgen banking,. “I think this is the future of banking.” 

Importantly he notes that Up’s small team of 60 people means they do not have to build everything. 

“We just build the things that we think will help our customers with spending and saving. Our customers then can literally build their own tools on top of our API. 

“It's incredible because it's putting the power of the consumer.”