Ulster Bank, a brand of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), has announced that the organization has introduced a new banking open API and portal for developers. The Ulster Bank API allows approved third-party applications to access limited customer information. The API will initially only provide access to customer balance information and the last six transactions, upon request and consent of the customer.
Ulster Bank along with other banks in the UK are developing banking open APIs largely as a result of two pieces of legislation: the EU Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) and the UK Open Banking Standard. Adopted by the EU in 2015, PSD2 is a directive that revised the rules for payment services. The directive will become applicable in 2018, and it includes a number of provisions that take into account emerging payment technologies and financial services. The directive includes provisions such as protecting consumers from payment problems and fraud, promote the adoption of innovative web and mobile payment services, and make internet payment services easier and safer.
Open Banking is the organization set up by the UK Government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to enable customers to control and share their financial data. This past July, Open Banking launched two API specifications; Accounts and Transaction InformationTrack this API and Payments InitiationTrack this API. Open Banking provides API specifications as well as open data APIs (beta). At the time of this writing, the Open Banking APIs Dashboard lists a total of 17 open data APIs which includes APIs for Barclays Bank, Danske Bank, Lloyds Bank, and RBS.
While there are Ireland-based banks with open data APIs listed on the Open Banking APIs Dashboard, the Ulster Bank API is Ireland’s first open banking API that uses limited customer data. An Ulster Bank press representative told ProgrammableWeb that "the Ulster Bank API is for the Republic of Ireland only" and explained that there are actually two Ulster Banks; Ulster Bank Ireland and Ulster Bank Northern Ireland. "Ulster Bank Ireland (a completely separate entity to Ulster Bank Northern Ireland) has launched the Ulster Bank API which is Ireland’s first open API, using customer data (with their explicit permission)," said the representative.
The Ulster Bank API was developed by digital engineering services in RBS with the support of a number of other core technology teams. According to the press release, the API uses OAuth and a secure token exchange so that information is shared securely. In addition, the bank sources, engages, and manages third parties so that they comply with regulations and Ulster Bank policies.
"RBS continues to invest heavily in innovation to become the number one bank for customer service. We’ve been working with developers and designers from outside the bank using our test API BlueBank, to explore the potential of open banking for our customers," said Simon McNamara, Chief Administrative Officer, RBS in a prepared statement. "In February of this year, we launched our first set of open APIs which provided access to branch and ATM locations. The Ulster Bank API has allowed us to expand on this further, making this our first open API using limited customer data. The Ulster Bank API is an example of real, customer-centric innovation and that’s what we are all focused on, across RBS."