What is an API and how do they actually work?

By AdviceBridge

You’ve probably come across the term “API” and everyone seems to bandy the handy little acronym around, but what does it actually mean and why are they so popular?

When speaking with current or potential providers, it helps to understand the benefits (and drawbacks) of using APIs, as they don’t always provide the utopia that many think they do.

So, let’s start with what API stands for: “Application Program Interface” and it is a defined set of protocols for building and integrating application software.

Essentially, APIs are used to allow a product or service to communicate with other products and services without needing to know how they’re implemented. A user interface is typically intended for human beings while APIs are for an application or computer.

One reason they are so popular is that their flexibility creates innovative opportunities.

You interface with APIs behind the scenes every day. Whenever you use an app on your phone or computer, you’re interacting with multiple different APIs.

Almost all businesses using modern technology will use APIs to some degree to retrieve data or interact with a database that customers can use.

An API explained

Let’s take a simple food order as an example.

Imagine you’re a customer in a restaurant. The waiter (the API) acts as an intermediary between you (the user) and the kitchen (the web server).

When you give the waiter your order (an API call), the waiter will take your request to the kitchen (the web server).

Then, the waiter will return with the food you ordered.

In this metaphor, you don’t need to know how the kitchen or restaurant operates to get your food, you just need to know how to order it.

Why an API isn’t always the best way

APIs can be a useful way to collect data quickly, but they aren’t necessarily reliable.

Control of any API lies with the sites who own them. They get to decide what information to share, what to withhold, and they may choose not to share their API with external parties.

Which is why providers don’t rely solely on an API.

Practical Application

Many advisors use back-office systems to store their client data.

The way these work means customers can use different fields to save information. And every firm using these services do so in different ways.

While many apps integrate with back-office software, it isn’t always the best way for systems to collect data, because the back-office API won’t necessarily provide the information required or in the way that it should, hence they “fall over” or you receive incorrect data, if at all.

This can lead to a lot of time-consuming manual intervention to fix – sometimes on a weekly basis if an API is insisted upon

So, while providers may support APIs, it isn’t always the most practical way for you to integrate your client data.

Make AdviceBridge your next digital decision

AdviceBridge takes unengaging, complicated and time-consuming tasks and replaces them with engaging, insightful and meaningful information and recommendations.

The platform is easy to implement within your business, integrating with existing software and significantly improving your business.

Whether you want to spend valuable time with your clients, make your business more cost-efficient, or automate your advice journey, the AdviceBridge platform is great for maximising profits.

By digitising many of the manual, time-consuming processes, you waste less time on admin, compliance and reports, allowing more time to focus on your client relationships.

Advisers and clients get their own separate dashboard along with an easy-to-use interface. The simple and meaningful interface creates an engaging experience by allowing your clients to see how altering their finances will affect them now and in retirement.

Get in touch

If you want to find out how AdviceBridge can help you grow your business, please get in touch. Email hello@advicebridge.com or call us on 020 3925 3850.