The industry requires all FinTech players to be flexible, integrable, and snap-in. As long as advisors want a great user experience, automatically pulling in data from as many custodians as possible, and data aggregation usage, platforms should constantly add up integrations and maintain a connectible inner structure. They can integrate with each other as a result of a merger or to achieve access to financial data and facilitate communication with banks. Overall, integrations make apps more intelligent and facilitate Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or other cutting-edge tech usages. The list of capabilities integrations may give WealthTech solutions is impressive:
- Account opening
- Cash movement information
- History performance
- Customer activity
- Goal planning and investing
- Sending alerts
- Pulling marketing info
- Legal documents structuring
Being outside the trend deprives companies of being competitive; they won’t be able to find enough customers and will fizzle out.
When companies merge, two main aspects come to the forefront: tech implementation (e.g., unification in data structures) and team management (e.g., changes in outsourcing politics, etc.) In this article, we’ll pay attention to integrating platforms through API because it’s the most widespread type among WealthTech companies due to its low cost and high efficiency. Moreover, the low-level data warehouse merger is a complex topic with too many variables to be covered in just one article. So, keep reading to get the best integration practices.
No one knows platforms thoroughly
A central problem here is that no one knows both platforms thoroughly. WealthTech is relatively young, and so are the industry players. Sometimes CRM, client portals, planning apps, and so on do not have sufficient documentation; in such cases, team members are the only source of information, and communication becomes essential. Therefore, an integration team should include business and technical experts from both sides, including business analysts (or product owners), software architects, and developers as knowledge holders. To ensure a smooth knowledge exchange, business trips for team members can be useful because it enables real-time communication.
Integrations with custodians are mostly file-based, so it’s worth looking at workflow, user experience, and deployment ease while considering integration. For that reason, integrating through API usually meets the principles of microservices. It’s best if your solution’s architecture is already compliant with these principles because it’s going to save much effort.
Bad (or no) requirements
Usually, the integration team creates business and technical requirements before they start working. In fact, WealthTech evolves so dynamically that it’s hard to keep requirements relevant and well-documented. A platform should react to the changes immediately, so the team should focus on the core question: What should be changed on both platforms to enable them to integrate smoothly?
It is important to eliminate input data format discrepancies (e.g., SOAP and JSON, different data structures, or field names) and create clear rules according to which the API calls can transfer data to a custodian, a financial planning tool, or a risk analyzer. Every client can be given a specific API key to use in each of their requests to designate themselves and a specific API key to designate session. A single standard of data exchange also needs to be provided. Often, existing APIs cannot be used efficiently by new standards; in such cases, new APIs should be created.
Also, to avoid miscommunication while working on the integration, ensure that all members of the integration team have a robust understanding of the terminology—and this does not only refer to specific wealth management terminology. In different companies, the same processes may be referred to using different terms. To remove confusion, figure out a unified terminology. This problem should ideally be solved in the early phases to prevent misunderstandings, mistakes, and idle time.
Transformation of development departments
In the case of merging companies, a change in software systems occurs alongside the transformation of the established development departments. Along with the technical aspects, this transformation affects legal and social relationships in the development teams.
The legal aspect is related to business processes, workflow, and documentation, each of which may be changed, adjusted, and reestablished after the merger. There might be a period of confusion over contracts, project orders, invoices, roles, and so on. For the subsidiary company’s team, this may mean worsening bureaucratic procedures and discrediting developers, which would lead to inefficient work. These difficulties can only be solved by establishing clear communication and transparent processes from the subsidiary’s side.
Integration testing is more complex and demanding than any other testing type. The bugs affect both systems, which is why it requires a comprehensive approach and skilled specialists. In the WealthTech ecosystem, QA departments face limited sandbox and testing environments and a lack of available interactive online documentation. For an offshore integration team that has access to production only via a staging box, testing can require excessive overhead; in this case, they may set up a local testing server with obfuscated data to ensure code quality before it will be deployed. It’s important to schedule sufficient time for this testing because it will involve QA experts from both sides.
Advisors must adapt
An equally important question to ask is this: How will the integration influence system users? Informing users about enhancements is crucial because they will inevitably affect the business processes and product lines of the clients—advisory firms, hedge funds, other WealthTech tools, and so on. Informing users goes beyond publishing press releases and showing pop-ups with new functionality and fixes; the business, marketing, and production teams should be involved to obtain comprehensive information about the changes and form a list of enhancements along with training and performing demos for existing and potential customers.
Integrating companies in WealthTech has many intricacies to think through before implementing. However, those who manage to pass over the pitfalls will get great performance and be able to withstand millions of requests per day, as well as economic benefits:
- Banks can increase AUM and improve their own offering.
- WealthTech platforms can create new products.
- Investors can enjoy great customer experience.