The Year Of Programmable Banking

12 January 2018

The Root team has a big year lined up. We’d like to kick it off with a bang by sharing some updates on our mission and the plan for 2018.

Root - Code All The Money

Our mission at Root is to make it easy for developers to create useful products in the world of financial services. We’re building programmable banking: REST API’s to send inter-bank fund transfers, code that executes when you swipe your card, webhooks, virtual cards for better online security – root access to your money.

Until now, we’ve spent a lot of time getting some things in place: from tech and processes to legals and compliance. That includes everything from migrating to Kubernetes and optimising our know-your-customer onboarding flow, to building simple features like 3-month bank statement exports.

This year, our mission is to get a Root account in the hands of every software developer in South Africa! 🙌

Programmable insurance

One of the building blocks of banking is insurance. While working with some great people at MMI Holdings, we had the opportunity to experiment with “Insurance as an API.” Making something that’s traditionally very heavyweight, programmable. What we discovered here is rather exciting!

Root - OfferZen Make Hackathon

Like the world of banking, insurance is a highly regulated industry. To get a product to market can take months and literally require millions of rands. But in collaboration with insurance experts, we’ve been building an API that will take care of the complexities of insurance licenses and legal compliance. That means makers can focus on their product and customers, leaving the red tape to us.

We’ve been running user tests on two different types of insurance products: long-term insurance (like life insurance and funeral cover) and short-term insurance (like gadget, household and vehicle insurance) on the platform. We decided that the next few apps will be focused on life insurance, allowing us to optimise the platform in one area first.

The first life insurance product went live in December! It’s called Hero – a low-cost life insurance product for young parents. Development started during an insurance hackathon we co-hosted in August, and the team is now selling real policies.

Root - Hero Insurance Screenshot

We’re particularly excited about the product possibilities when programmable bank cards are combined with insurance. This will soon be open on the Root platform, and we can’t wait to see the insurance products makers will come up with.

What lies ahead in 2018

All good things take time, and launching a powerful bank account takes a surprising amount of time. We still have a long list of things to figure out, but we’re making good progress.

We’re still in private beta, only accepting selected people onto the platform, but are planning to break into public beta early in this year – however, no promises on timelines yet, but we’ll keep you posted. 😄

A few cool features are coming to Root accounts in Q1 this year, including scheduled RootCode (think: AWS Lambda * cron + bank account). Now you can easily program your bank account to do things like send recurring dynamic payments (that ever-changing electricity bill!) or send yourself weekly usage summaries by email. We’re also working on tools to prevent yourself from accidentally transferring funds out (for when you misplace that bracket).

Oh, and we’ve been testing out open-sourcing our iOS and Android apps to our beta users. This has been working great so far, and we’ll be looking to improve the processes and tooling around this as well.


As always, our community of beta users have also been up to a few cool things. We’ve seen some exciting apps being developed, from a sleek Facebook Messenger Chatbot, allowing you to talk to your bank account like you would your personal banker, to a “Couples Card” that allows two partners to collectively track their finances in Google Sheets (this has been shared and adopted by a handful of other users).

Root - Momo Facebook Chatbot

We love helping people solve real problems and improve their lives. Going forward, we’ll start sharing some of our community’s creations and stories on our blog. Stay tuned by subscribing below. 😎

Root is by developers, for developers. We’re always iterating on the product, and appreciate all feedback and suggestions from our users and the community of developers out there. If you’ve got any suggestions, ideas or recommendations for us, please feel free to tweet us @RootWealth or mail us at hello@root.co.za.

This year is going to be awesome! 🎉

Oh, and we’re actively looking for great people to join our team, please take a look at our careers page and get in touch! :)

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