The digital banking landscape has changed a huge amount in the last 10 years, and the pace of change is accelerating. As the needs of the finance industry changes, new demands are put on how we build our technology. What worked yesterday is no longer fit for purpose.
The first generation of digital banking in the 90’s, though revolutionary at the time, was relatively slow moving. For a long time ‘check my balance’ was all that was required of it.
With the introduction of mobile, the second generation of digital banking forced architects to separate a services tier from the presentation tier. Still, beyond the new device, the pace of change within the financial experience was fairly modest.
In the last seven years, though, the pace and speed of change have exploded. Digital banking has become a feature arms race, and entirely new business models like platform banking and embedded finance dwarf the complexity that multi-channel pose to banks. Banking institutions are constantly pressured to deliver new, seamless and innovative digital experiences to their customers in an increasingly digital world. The demand for online banking services has surged in recent years, and with it comes the need for robust, scalable, and agile technology solutions. Traditional monolithic architectures struggle to keep pace with these demands.
Think about the new banking innovation that has become commonplace… 3-minute mobile onboarding, open banking, Revolut and the entire wave of neobanks, buying stocks through your banking app, and many more examples – all from the last 7-8 years. The change in that time has been dizzying compared to the previous period.
Today, the ultimate competitive currency is agility. How quickly can a business change and iterate? And how do you build a technology stack to accommodate this as the new normal? How can evolution become as painless and low-cost as possible?
MACH is the technology industry’s answer to the immense pressure and speed of change in financial services – but what is it?
The capabilities that power the digital bank are separated from each other, operating independently. A single microservice could vary from searching transactions in the mobile app, to staging a payment.
There are 2 main scenarios where a microservices approach is uniquely competitive.
Firstly, when the business needs to change and the requirements change subtly, this can be done by adding, or changing, a single microservice. The capabilities are event-based and hence operate autonomously. Rather than conducting the equivalent of open-heart surgery on the technology landscape.
Secondly, when exposed to entirely new requirements, such as entering a new geographical market, or adopting a new business model, the new requirements can be mapped against the existing library of microservices and the only effort needed is the delta between the two. Quite literally, it prevents businesses from having to reinvent the wheel each time their plans, or the world, changes in significant and unforeseen ways.
In building a digital banking app for the first time, most businesses are caught off guard by exactly how many of these services are needed for even a basic mobile banking app to work. I often refer to this as the DIGITAL BANKING ICEBERG – but that’s for another article
API-first requires all functionality and logic to be exposed and available via APIs. In a paradigm that is built around modularity, APIs are what make that connectivity accessible. The metaphor of Lego is often used in technology. If that is the case, then APIs are the notches on the blocks that allow them to ‘click’ together.
Many legacy technology vendors will also talk about API’s. However, in those cases, they are tightly coupled to all other layers of the architecture and do not provide the right level of flexibility to build user journeys that matter to your customers. API-first is different because it is designed in a decoupled way to accommodate as many possible user journeys.
API-first within digital banking is a game-changer because it means that commoditised components can be combined with unique features created by your organisation, providing unlimited flexibility to have the digital banking layer behave as desired.
“Cloud’ has been a massively overused term for some time. In reality, almost any software can be put into the cloud. However, the primary advantages of modern, genuinely cloud-native technologies are elastic scaling, continuous deployment and high availability. To utilise these significant benefits, the code needs to be created natively to take advantage of this. Hence, a genuine MACH architecture means ‘cloud native’, not just cloud-ready.
Cloud has been slower in uptake in financial services globally, owing to complexities around issues like data residency and coverage from the leading public cloud providers. Happily, though, the global coverage is now significant, and I haven’t seen a case where a public cloud couldn’t work globally in the last two years. Today, the public Cloud market is as competitive as ever before. New regional cloud providers are joining the game, addressing the unique challenges of individual markets.
The headless architecture component of MACH separates the front end (user interface) from the back end (business logic and data). This decoupling enables banks to create a highly customisable and flexible user experience – critical in today’s environment. It’s important to remember that the previous generation of off-the-shelf and white-label solutions do not allow for creating unique experiences or capabilities, forcing banks to adhere to restricted features and design systems.
Creating a seamless and user-friendly experience is essential for banking web and mobile apps, but success as a digital business isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Rapid and sustained innovation and feature releases are the currency of success in the digital world. The age-old questions of when to buy and build are still relevant. However, ‘how’ businesses build capabilities is now as important as ‘what’ they build. Short-term thinking and architectural short-cuts will cost you dearly later on.
With its headless and modular design, MACH architecture allows banks to focus on improving the user experience without being constrained by the limitations of a highly-coupled system. Banks can continuously iterate on the user interface, making it more intuitive and responsive. They can also integrate cutting-edge features like AI-driven chatbots and embedded wealth solutions to provide customers with convenient and efficient interactions.
In the era of digital banking, MACH architecture stands out as the paradigm for creating web and mobile apps that meet the rapidly evolving needs of customers and the broader banking industry.
Plumery is the first fully MACH-compliant digital banking platform. It is suited for ambitious digital businesses that want to leverage the speed of pre-built capabilities without compromising their ability to quickly build additional features or create unique and differentiated user interfaces.
MACH might not be for everyone, but if you’re considering adopting a MACH approach to creating or modernising your digital banking solution, Plumery is here to help and ensure the adoption journey is seamless.
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