M&T Bank launched Nota to create a time-saving fintech solution using APIs

On the northeast corner of Lake Erie, a former Rust Belt city has been slowly working to reimagine its future and retool its workforce. With state incentives, an increase in private investment, and several startup incubators, Buffalo, NY is fostering a growing startup ecosystem.

One recognizable company that supports this ecosystem and has committed to hiring and training a new generation of tech workers in Buffalo is M&T Bank, a Fortune 500 banking institution with more than 750 branches serving several U.S. states in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions. In addition to creating a “tech hub” for more than 1,000 new fintech jobs at the company, M&T is actively looking to solve problems in the financial sector by creating new apps and digital solutions that easily integrate with M&T’s established banking services.

Nota: a small banking startup and its big fintech idea

M&T not only supports the idea of tech growth, they are putting their foot on the gas. The bank recently launched a startup and product that are both named Nota, Latin for “note.” While the Nota startup sits fully under the M&T umbrella, it operates independently. Its focus? To solve the problem of managing client trust accounts and Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) for solo, small, and midsize law firms.

Client trust and IOLTA accounts are used for real estate, personal injury, and other types of legal transactions. The American Bar Association (ABA) and state law require these accounts to be kept separate: funds cannot be placed in shared accounts or commingle with the firm’s business finances in any way.

While many firms use various software to help manage these highly sensitive accounts and reconcile funds across numerous financial statements, M&T wanted to create a solution that directly integrates with trust account records held in the M&T Banking system. This would replace manual bookkeeping tasks that lawyers are not typically trained for, reduce costs by no longer needing to outsource this work to accounting firms, and eliminate human errors—such as manually entering the wrong account or balance information gathered from online and paper statements. From a business perspective, this would also incentivize law firms to utilize M&T Bank over competitors.

Using Postman for API development and collaboration

APIs are the key to developing a new system that integrates with M&T’s existing systems: they allow users to get or update account information and make changes to their records, as well as manage sessions and metadata on the backend. Like many fintech organizations, the Nota team turned to Postman to help manage their API development.

“We highly value the collaboration features in Postman,” says Cory Donnelly, director of engineering at Nota. “A team consisting of full-stack engineers all rapidly prototyping and delivering new features for our users requires close collaboration on how our APIs should evolve.”

To help guide this process, Nota uses Postman’s Mock Servers to design call flows in the backend as it is being developed alongside the frontend to support a full feature for the application.

Kevin Ridgway, a senior full-stack engineer on the team, says they are exploring “a workflow where the backend and frontend development of a feature can be completely decoupled” while providing feedback to other engineers earlier in the process. With Postman’s commenting and user tagging functions, this feedback can happen directly and transparently inside the platform without getting lost in emails or instant messages.

The team also leverages Postman to contract test third-party API integrations with the Nota application’s backend API. Donnelly calls this “test driving” endpoints and gives the example of a collection where they walk through an API flow via the Postman Collection Runner to ensure a third-party authentication API works as expected. “Being able to run our login collection with the right endpoints in the right order pointing at the right environment really helps us focus on the development of our APIs.”

Moreover, when Nota uses APIs from other teams or third-party vendors, such as when they need to access a specific client database, they always ask for a Postman Collection. With a collection, particularly when it is well-documented and has multiple examples, it is much easier to bring it into a shared workspace to figure out how the API works, thus simplifying how the team documents the integration with the Nota API.

Meeting growing demand

While Nota is a young team, they’ve already encountered one of the many challenges of the API lifecycle: creating a successful application in an environment dependent on being both an API producer and consumer. Postman is helping solve this challenge. With an idea that went from proof of concept to production in only a matter of months, the Nota platform is now used by more than 200 attorneys and small legal firms across eight states. These early adopters will help drive Nota’s development further, while Postman removes constraints internally.

As part of one of the largest commercial bank holding companies in the U.S., there are expectations that Nota will become an invaluable financial solution in the legal services industry. To help them meet those expectations, Postman is glad to provide an important collaboration tool so that the Nota team can more quickly deliver solid releases.

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