Monday, July 27, 2015
MasterCard Worldwide and NYPAY co-hosted a summer evening celebration of financial technologies on July 22, 2015, in New York City. Sixty-five attendees enjoyed a casual dinner, networking and panel discussion held at MasterCard's Technology Hub and titled APIs in Fintech: What They Do and Why They Matter.
The technology hub, which opened in October 2014 in New York's tech-friendly Flatiron District, leverages what MasterCard Chief Executive Officer Ajay Banga described as a "pre-eminent technology and product talent pool." The open design environment spans three floors and 60,000 square feet, housing 200 employees from five MasterCard technology teams, including MasterPass, the Digital Enablement System, OpenAPI, MasterCard Labs and Start Path. Banga said the office will build on the work of similar teams in Dublin, Singapore and St. Louis that focus on innovation and emerging digital technologies.
NYPAY, a professional organization for payments industry leaders and innovators established in 2006, has hosted a series of events designed to facilitate "between-panel conversations with interesting people you don't meet during your daily routine." The group's growing membership base includes senior executives from around the globe with expertise in finance, government, banking, journalism, payments and emerging technologies.
After an informal hour of networking, refreshments and pizza, NYPAY President David True moderated the panel discussion. In his opening comments, True noted that APIs (short for application programming interfaces) have evolved from an esoteric engineering term into a popular news topic and staple of popular culture. He cited the practice of using Facebook credentials to log into a website or app as an example of widespread API use.
True entreated the audience to think beyond the API acronym, commonly defined as protocols, routines and tool sets for use in building software applications, to explore "what they are, what they do and why they are so important to payments, data and security."
He then introduced panelists T.M. Praveen, Head of Platform Transformation Service at Opus Consulting Group; Dave Matter, Head of Product at Marqeta Inc.; and Brien Buckman, Product Manager of MasterCard's API Platform.
APIs' multifaceted value proposition
Here is a sampling of API benefits for consumers, business owners and programmers cited by panelists:
APIs enable companies to build products quickly and efficiently by accessing a range of functionalities within a technology platform. Buckman said MasterCard's policy is to use data in an aggregated, anonymous way. "For example, we can identify popular establishments using spend data from people who patronize restaurants in a specific geography," he said.
Matter said APIs are designed to "delight engineers and be a pleasure to work with." He cited quality, ease-of-use and economic feasibility as key components of well-designed APIs. He also stated that "idempotency," in which the same inputs yield the same effects, is a benchmark of API testing, and most companies will stress test a product built around an API in a "sandbox environment" to ensure the product is ready for market.
The design process itself can be a delicate balance between a paint-by-numbers approach versus providing broad-brush suggestions, Matter added. "You don't want to go all the way to canned solutions," he said. "When you give tools to creative people, they can come up with interesting permutations."
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