Banks Should Take Advantage of API Opportunities Before They’re Gone, FI.SPAN Says

EXCLUSIVE—Banks need to start integrating with more fintech services and building out more products through APIs, FI.SPAN CEO Lisa Shields told Bank Innovation, before regulations on open banking start to cramp what FIs can build.

“What we are betting our business on, is that there is a massive opportunity for banks to innovate,” Shields said. “We aim to put fintechs behind the banks, not in front of banks, with our customers.”

An API marketplace started in 2016 by Shields, a fintech veteran, FI.SPAN is focusing on the B2B space for now. It currently has 15 fintechs loaded into the platform for banks to integrate into their own systems, with about 15 more in the pipeline, Shields said.

The startup works to integrate banks with third-party tools and services that will help build out an ecosystem of open banking, albeit one that will allow “banks to hold on to their privacy, even in the era of fintech,” Shields said.

FI.SPAN is not focusing on the big tier banks like a JPMorgan Chase or Wells Fargo, but rather those in the middle tier, who have between $15 and $50 billion in assets, according to Shields.

These are the banks that need to direct more energy towards APIs especially when it comes to processes like “KYB,” (Know Your Business), according to Shields. FI.SPAN’s long-term goal is to become the “primary transactional service provider” for these banks, Shield said.

To that end,  FI.SPAN isn’t betting that a similar “regulatory imperative” like PSD2 will force U.S. banks to begin sharing data, Shield said, but rather on a slow move towards open banking born out of necessity — as fintechs and other startups have already begun to use APIs to greater effect.

“If banks can’t differentiate, they are willing to turn to third-party services,” Shield, a Hyperwallet veteran, said. “And fintechs definitely value banks as a channel.”

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