How we integrated Twitter into a Bank.

Last week Dubai Celebrated Innovation Week, as part of this I wrote an article for Gulf Business about how we integrated Twitter into Emirates NBD bank. The guys over at Gulf Business have kindly let me share the text below so you can have a read.

Earlier this year, Brndstr was approached by Emirates NBD to build one of our most innovative solutions to date. They wanted to see if we were able to integrate the popular social network Twitter into their extremely secure banking structure In other words, to allow customers the ability to send a direct message to the bank and trigger requests such as account enquiries and ultimately the payment of utility bills. Was it possible? Why, of course.

So how did we do it? A solution like this does not happen over night. In an industry such as finance it is refreshing to see banks recognise that the world is changing and that we now live in a lifestyle of ‘instants’. Everything needs to be done right away and waiting more than five minutes for an Uber seems like a hassle. Even having to login to bank applications and click more than five buttons is becoming an effort.

I hope my Mum is not reading this; it was not too long ago that she had to drive to the local bank to pay the bills.

It is true though — products and solutions need to be millennial-proof. This is also an exciting time for Dubai and the region as a whole. Huge companies calling upon startups to build their solutions shows that everyone is behind the entrepreneur spirit and startup community of the country. I always say a city built by an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs is an exciting place to run your business.

Prove you have what it takes

As a tech startup it is key to prove that your technology can both deliver and be stable. Prior to partnering with Emirates NBD, we had built up a reputation with various brands and agencies. In addition, we had built a strong relationship with Twitter, gaining a solid understanding of what they required from a product integrated into their system and the process to go through. Over the past two years, I personally visited their main offices in San Francisco, London and Singapore building relationships and getting feedback from their engineers about products. So we were more than ready.

Treat the relationship like a marriage

Like any relationship the first few weeks are spent getting to know each other. We had to go from building technology on a global fire hose of data like Twitter to not having internet access in a secure environment of a bank — yikes. This type of integration requires the minds and patience of everyone involved. We were very lucky to have such a innovative team work with us — as with a marriage it was a big learning curve on understanding both sides of the technology stack — Brndstr learning banking structures and NBD learning the data streams of Twitter.

After a few intense weeks it was clear we found the groove and were able to get to work on building the various components needed to create the product.

Expect the unexpected

Like any development, there are going to be bumps along the way. It was certainly the case for us. As part of the process we worked closely with the risk, security and marketing teams to make sure the product being created met their requirements. In addition, we had to flip the coin and make sure Twitter were happy with how the product was being built and integrated into their system. Being able to make core changes upon review by social channels is key to having a successful build. This also helps scale the product as needed later down the line.

It is also important to note that strong relationships do not happen over night. The approach taken in the early days goes a long way later down the line to make sure what needs to get done is completed.

Don’t stop innovating

When so much effort gets put into one product it can be easy to forget about the road map ahead and how to plan for future innovations. As we all know, technology never stops getting better and innovations are out of date before they even launch. During the build it was exciting to also see how far the bank was looking to take the product. The technology has been built in such a way that it will not be long before brands are able to send deals across Twitter and customers are able to book and pay directly from their Twitter feed by simply retweeting or liking them. Bill payment reminders will be as simple as a direct message from your bank and a simple response of ‘yes’ to pay. Sorry Mum.

As the spearhead and leader of Brndstr — projects like this are exciting for us. It is also fantastic to be part of an eco system where large companies are willing to look to start-ups to innovate. With Innovation week around the corner I look forward to seeing how other companies across the United Arab Emirates are introducing similar products.


#Simon / CEO

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