APIs - Application Programming Interfaces, are increasingly part of the design of insurance products. They are also at the heart of the platformisation strategy of BNP Paribas Cardif.
Sabine Pham, API Expert DSI Corporate BNP Paribas Cardif & Abir Tahri, Application Asset Manager, DSI BNP Paribas Cardif explain everything about these interfaces.
What is an API?
An API is the interface of an application that facilitates the interactions of this application with other applications. The API, or interface, is composed of a set of resources that allow access to this application’s features (such as the creation of a client in the data repository, or the updating of a subscription), and to its resources (such as the customer’s identification number, first and last names, address, etc.), in a simple manner. Let’s take an example: let’s imagine a customer’s subscription on one of our partners’ sites. They come to the pricing step. In fact, it’s the “pricing API” that collects the necessary information for this pricing, and which will transmit it to the BNP Paribas Cardif pricing engine, which will then transmit the result to the partner site, and likewise to its client.
To simplify, is there an analogy to illustrate what an API is?
Let’s take the example of a restaurant menu. This menu offers various dishes, which contain several ingredients. So, to compare: the dish is our API, and the ingredients of the dish are all of the application, technical, or functional services on which this API is based and which to respond to a need. As a customer, I choose a dish on the menu, knowing that the recipe for that dish will meet my needs, since it’s made up of ingredients that I would like to eat.
Why create APIs at BNP Paribas Cardif?
Historically, we mainly focused on creating spaces for our partners: a subscription space, a compensation space, etc. In concrete terms, the partner’s customers were redirected to one of our spaces and had access to all of its functions. Today, we have to adapt to our partners’ needs. Giving access to an entire space may be too cumbersome or too comprehensive for some partners. That is why we’re now providing them with APIs. Firstly, we retain control of our insurance expertise, and secondly, we give our partners the means to operate our insurance products via these APIs, without inheriting the complexity of our IT system (pricing engine, rules engine, decision-making, etc.) This also allows customers to always stay on the partner’s site, without being redirected to our site. This is a better experience for them, as they complete their journey from start to finish in the same place. This is what we call a seamless journey.
What are the benefits of offering and using APIs?
In addition to improving the customer experience, APIs improve time to market, and time to delivery. Everything works faster. APIs allow us to be really proactive and agile in creating new offerings, and developing existing ones. We can also be more flexible and customise the solutions we provide. So, the same insurance product can be composed of different APIs, depending on our partners’ needs. For example: BCEF’s individual protection product provides a diagnostic API, which is not offered to certain CGPI partners, because it isn’t relevant to their needs.
And more generally, what are the other advantages of APIs?
APIs contribute to the agility of the IT system. They have also taken on a new dimension in recent years, because they make it possible to offer more ample services by developing an ecosystem strategy. They therefore meet the expectations of customers, according to the different stages of their lives. And we do this while combining our services with third-party services, such as direct access to an API of the Caisse Primaire de l'Assurance Maladie (local sickness insurance fund) to automatically retrieve daily benefits from one of our sites in the event a customer has to take sick leave. This greatly simplifies administrative procedures for the customer. This is also the case with our retirement platform, MonDemain1, which combines “in-house” products, with complementary external offerings, thanks to APIs. And this is in addition to the integration of technological services facilitated by third-party APIs, such as the integration of chatbots, online payments, geolocation, etc.
Why is it important for BNP Paribas Cardif to produce APIs?
At BNP Paribas Cardif, APIs have existed for many years and contribute to the IT system’s agility. Against the backdrop of major waves of digital transformation, APIs are central to the distribution of our insurance products. They facilitate access to our products and their integration into our partners’ ecosystems. The implementation of easy-to-understand and easy-to-use APIs has become a key value proposition for our partners and for improving the customer experience. In fact, these days, we have to produce APIs if we want to distribute an insurance product! You could even say that today we think of APIs as marketing products, with a value proposition, customers, promotion, and possibly even a price. Our API offerings are essential. We are seeing this more and more in our prospecting and our tender offers. It is even becoming a selection criterion. APIs are becoming a major issue, a business issue even. That is why we no longer design insurance products without designing corresponding APIs.
Moving away from the strictly insurance product viewpoint, how is the use of APIs strategic for BNP Paribas Cardif?
Summarising the strategic aspect of the use of APIs, consists of three elements:
Opening up BNP Paribas Cardif services via APIs to be used by third parties. Pension Savings Insurance and Digital Courtage for savings products distributed by their partners.
Using third-party APIs to offer our customers enhanced services on a digital platform, such as the MonDemain retirement platform in France.
Opening up to ecosystems other than financial ones, in order to offer our customers a complete experience that goes beyond their financial needs (e.g. the Tangata accessibility platform).
Finally, could you give a concrete example of an API provided by BNP Paribas Cardif?
Let’s take the example of a future customer subscribing to Solution Prévoyance, which is an individual protection insurance product. This product will be marketed via the Banque Commerciale en France (BCEF) network. In their customer journey, they will “encounter” various APIs, without being aware of it: an API for the subscription function, an eligibility API, another for the diagnosis of their guarantees, a document-uploading API, a health questionnaire API, and so on. All of these APIs work together, to market the individual pension product.