The Bank as an Operating System (bankOS)



Germany’s Fidor Bank, one of the three or four most-progressive financial institutions on the planet (and a FinDEVr presenter next month) uses an interesting term when discussing its strategy with developers and third parties. They call it the FidorOS (bank as an operating system). Here’s how it’s described on the bank’s tech site:

Public APIs serve as a welcoming front door to new business clients. Fidor seeks B2B clients to do for banking what Apple did for mobile applications with iTunes. Easy to use; easy to integrate. The Fidor operating system is API-based.

I’m not sure the general public will ever think of their bank as an “operating system” (ChaseOS?), but it’s a good way to describe what the most developer-friendly FI and fintech players are looking to accomplish.

fidor_tool_iconWill it work? Absolutely. Financial websites/apps will be stitched together with APIs just like every other website. Most banks already use at least one API, a third-party map to lay out bank locations. It’s just a matter of time before more behind-the-scene functions are enhanced or replaced with APIs, SaaS providers, and other integrations. It’s why Silicon Valley Bank bought API specialist Standard Treasury a few months ago.

The exciting thing about the API revolution in banking is that it doesn’t have to end in a rush to the bottom price-wise. Banks, unlike many ecommerce players, are in an enviable position of selling much-desired trust, security, risk management, convenience, service and financial connectivity. And with huge regulatory barriers to entry, they don’t have to worry about being Amazoned or Netflixed out of business, at least not for a generation or three.

Banks are more like a cable TV company, albeit without the service-dulling monopoly powers (an important distinction), bundling together a wide variety of programming/services for a fat monthly fee. I see no reason why the BankOS of the future won’t be able to collect monthly subscription fees of $20 to $25 per person in each household ($30/mo single; $50/mo couple; $75/mo family) for a highly secure, and 100% guaranteed, financial “pipe” that brings transactions, insurance, loans, investments and payments into the home.

With the entire industry going through a down-to-the-studs rebuild, it’s a great time to be a builder—whether developer, designer, IT architect, product manager—in the financial services/fintech industry.


Join Fidor Bank as we delve into these issues and much more at our second annual FinDEVr conference on 6/7 October in rocking Mission Bay (future home of the Golden State Warriors, maybe). And don’t miss Finovate next week as well.


(1) See just how far ahead of the pack Fidor Bank was in its 2011 FinovateEurope demo
(2) Top slide from Fidor Bank’s Munich Developer Days (2015)

Mobile Monday: APIs to Power Thousands of Banking Apps


Not long after the dawn of the app age—when Apple opened up its very closed iOS garden to third parties in summer 2008*—we predicted 20,000 to 30,000 mobile banking apps would be available by 2025. My thinking was that banks would offer multiple apps for their various customer segments especially commercial, small business, mortgage, credit card, and so on.

While most banks still offer a single app for all customers—two if you count iOS and Android—it’s not because they don’t desire multiple apps. It’s because multiple, high-quality apps are still too expensive for all but the largest banks—American Express, for example, has eight in the U.S. store alone—to build and update apps for single segments. This should be a perfect opportunity for third parties to step in and provide white-label solutions. We’ve seen a bit of that, but it’s not yet taken hold for one very good reason: The integration with back-end systems to deliver timely account information is too costly.

The rest of the ecommerce world has developed a good workaround to integration headaches. It’s called an API (application programming interface). While not unheard of in banking, APIs are just beginning to take hold. Early leader Credit Agricole two years ago unveiled its API app store at FinovateEurope. And just last week, Silicon Valley Bank acqui-hired the Standard Treasury team to push forward on the banking API front (press release).

When banking APIs become SOP, we will see an explosion of niche apps for every demographic segment, product offering, industry segment and life stage. It’s going to make banking and money management more approachable, and valuable, for a wider range of customers. I have little doubt we’ll reach that 20,000+ app count. And with universal APIs, we could see two to three times that number.


We’ll be looking at these issues and more at our second annual financial services developers event, FinDEVr, on 6/7 October.


*Source: “Online Banking Report: The Case for Mobile Banking,” p. 6 (published March 2010)