Banco Sabadell's Hackathon Asks Developers to Imagine the Future of Digital Banking

Spanish bank Banco Sabadell will hold its first-ever hackathon next month in an effort to spur innovation in the banking sector.

The Instant Banking Hack Day hackathon will be held on Oct. 11 and 12 at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona. The challenge for participants: build the digital banking functionality of the future.

Specifically, Banco Sabadell is inviting developers to come up with novel ways for consumers to interact with the bank through Web and mobile solutions that address payments, customer service, the Internet of Things and predictive contextual services. For instance, Banco Sabadell's APIs can be used to build applications that help customers better manage their personal finances, initiate payments from a variety of connected devices and receive real-time purchase recommendations.

Developers participating in the two-day hackathon will have access to a sandbox development environment that supports all the same APIs as Banco Sabadell's production environment, and Banco Sabadell and other event contributors will be on hand to provide training, mentoring and assistance.

Winners will be selected in a number of categories based on multiple criteria, such as creativity, usefulness, use of the Banco Sabadell API and the overall viability of the concept. One of the prizes offered is fast-track access to Banco Sabadell's BStartup 10 incubator program, which provides €100,000 in funding to the companies it helps, as well as operational support. Other prizes include cash, grants, free development resources and office space, and a discount on training through Deloitte's security-focused CyberSOC Academy.

Helping Developers Help the Banking Industry

Banking is often seen as one of the stodgiest of industries. Part of that is due to the amount of regulation banks must comply with, and with vast sums of money at risk, there are very good reasons banks can't take a Facebook-like "move fast and break things" approach to innovation.

But that doesn't mean there is no innovation taking place. Upstarts like Standard Treasury, which builds commercial banking APIs, are working to help banks modernize and involve third-party developers in their businesses. And banks are themselves increasingly supporting innovation in a variety of ways. For instance, major banks like BBVA and Credit Agricole have launched APIs and developer initiatives of their own, and Wells Fargo recently announced a new accelerator program to invest in promising fintech startups.

One of the biggest challenges for banks looking to tap into the creativity of developers is the fact that most developers don't have professional experience working in financial services and therefore are not familiar with the strict controls and often rigorous testing and certification requirements associated with building and deploying real-world financial applications.

That's precisely why events and incubator programs like ones Banco Sabadell has created are so important. If banks want to broaden the ranks of developers actively engaged in building the future of banking, they need to provide more than good APIs and investment dollars. They need to provide support and training so that a wider range of developers can successfully navigate one of the most technically complex industries on the planet.

Patricio Robles Follow me on Google+

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