MAS to offer data in new format

API makes data easier and cheaper to capture for use with other software, says central bank

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has identified open application programming interfaces (APIs) as the necessary foundation for financial innovation here - and plans to lead by example.

APIs are tools and protocols used to build software applications.

In the coming months, the central bank will make data published on its website available in a format that can be used readily with third-party applications, MAS head of IT Lawrence Ang said at a two-day API conference yesterday.

This will make it easier for innovators to grab MAS data and mesh that with other data sets to create useful new applications, Mr Ang said.

"There's no compliance issue here, no data leakage," he said, as APIs are a technology for standardisation across different data providers - like a common language.

Uber, for example, uses this technology to link Google Maps and messaging services to deliver a ride-hailing app.

MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty said on the sidelines of the event, organised by MAS and the Association of Banks in Singapore: "Uber just fired the innovation of the industry... API doesn't mean you're changing the system. It's an alternative path. It cuts down your cost."

While other central banks such as the Swiss National Bank deliver data in API, the MAS is the first central bank to lay out an official road map for API, and rally local banks, insurance companies and fintech start-ups around building that architecture, as it did at the Ritz-Carlton ballroom yesterday.

For example, Mr Ang hopes that if MAS publishes real-time official exchange rate data in API rather than in PDF format, a solution provider can use that API to build an auto-submission form for income tax filings. This would solve a problem for many firms which have to make forex conversions in their accounting.

Ms Janet Young, UOB group head of channels and digitalisation, who attended the conference, said: "We were very supportive of this when MAS first mooted it. Our UOB Mighty app uses the Visa API. There are many opportunities we can study and learn."

Mr Pranav Seth, OCBC Bank head of e-business and business transformation, said: "We have started leveraging APIs to provide select start-ups from our fintech accelerator access to our anonymised data to test their ideas and prototypes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'MAS to offer data in new format'. Print Edition | Subscribe