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A software-driven challenger bank

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The parent company, ABN Amro, characterized Moneyou as a ‘challenger bank’, a friendly competitor that would challenge the big bank to evolve in step with the rapid changes in the financial world. So the main mission of Moneyou is to grow, in customer numbers, services, and the countries where they are represented.

To facilitate rapid growth and change of the frontend applications, the system integration framework (midlayer) was improved, ensuring secure and stable communication with the existing and future backends. The development team was composed of Moneyou itself, Schuberg Philis, and the partners Mirabeau, Boondoggle, and Sopra. Together they rewrote the existing code. Moneyou retains responsibility for release management and quality assurance, on the basis of advice from the whole team.

The functionality of the midlayer was increased fourteen-fold, the effect of including a new investment product for the German market, but without increasing its complexity – something the team is proud of. The new midlayer went live in November 2015. The bank’s customers were not negatively affected at all. The greatly increased stability and flexibility has allowed us to achieve the ambition for 2016: further growth at lower cost.

Hugo Trippaers is one of our colleagues who has personally experienced the shift to more software engineering. When he started with us ten years ago, as Mission Critical Engineer, he focused mainly on infrastructure architecture. Now he spends about the same amount of time on software engineering. “This changes the way customers relate to you, and you find yourself talking to different people. In the past, I spoke to the CIO and I would ask what I could host for them. Now I‘m sitting with the marketing people, to see what new features they want for their customers.” I like to talk to the business people, to see what they really need, so I can help them create a technical roadmap. By including system integration on a software level I can draw a much more comprehensive picture.
 

SUCCESS DEPENDS ON HOW FAST
“Quality in infrastructure is clear:100% availability. In the case of software, it’s more complex. Every time you add new features, you have to think about refactoring, testability and security. We can’t say: we'll add some quick copy-and-paste code for now, and tidy up the spaghetti code tomorrow. The quality must remain constant, whether you are adding 100 lines or 10,000. And, at the same time, we mustn’t forget that often the success of the change depends on how fast you can deploy it to production and run it reliably. There infrastructure and software go hand in hand.”

Hugo is now part of the Moneyou team. Moneyou is a rapidly growing challenger bank. At the start of 2016 it had a staffing level of 50 FTE; today that's 250. We have grown with the bank, from 0.8 to 30 FTEs in the team. After years of working together to get the application landscape running stably and flexibly, growth was the explicit ambition for 2016. But how can you maintain momentum in the independent teams, when so many people have to work together? Hugo: “Then you have to crosslink the teams. Moneyou has done it well with consultative bodies: there’s a partner meet, an architecture meet, the product owners meet, and the scrum masters meet.
 

Hugo Trippaers

Mission Critical Engineer of Schuberg Philis

"Moneyou has done it well with consultative bodies: there's a partner meet, an architecture meet, the product owners meet, and the scrum masters meet."

WELL-OILED MACHINE
Raymond de Castro leads the transition from waterfall to agile, and he is the intellectual father of this organizational model. They have really taken the lead in this respect, and it works really well for us.”De Castro: “I don’t have any technical knowledge myself; I was appointed to make development tick over like a welloiled machine, with a steady rhythm. I report on this to the board of directors. The first step was to move from one big project team, working according to the waterfall method, to small teams that combine development and operations. At first the teams were defined by the various horizontal components of the application landscape: front-end, midlayer, and back-end. We tried that but it was not long before the separate teams started to function as silos.”

Because of the rapid growth, there were all sorts of coordination problems between the teams, exacerbated by the fact that the teams were also geographically separated. “The desire for quick delivery sometimes comes at the expense of a sustainable solution. New insights show that past choices were not optimal. The midlayer architecture seemed good, but it proved difficult to  innovate further with it at the necessary speed. There is so much that has to be refactored now.”  

RADICAL OUTCOME
So at the end of 2016, Moneyou called everyone together for a consultation, with a radical outcome. The teams were no longer defined by technical components, but by eight functional business features: Savings & Investment, Loans, Mortgages, Smart Accounts, Generic Features, Open Domain, and Mobile and Fraud detection. This means that the experts from Moneyou, Schuberg Philis and thevarious partners can work together more intensively. Another consequence was that many people had to work at multiple locations: “It’s not always fun, traveling from Brussels or Leuven to Amsterdam but, despite modern technologies, it’s not possible in the long-term to do everything from your own workplace instead of working all at one location.” He also realizes what it means for people like Hugo. De Castro: “The company culture at Schuberg Philis is their strong point. 100% availability of the environment is in their genes. And they have autonomy, they take care of everything. When you require them to shift from component teams to feature teams, it affects their autonomy. Hugo has been working at Schuberg Philis for ten years now, and suddenly he is spending two days a week at an anonymous workstation at Moneyou. But, when I see him here, sitting with one of our people to demonstrate programming in Java, I know why we are doing it this way.”
 

MONEYOU TEAM REPORTS START WITH THIS MANTRA
“Why do we change? Moneyou is in a process of change and learning how to work ‘agile’. Why? Because we have chosen to become a ‘challenger bank’. Remember our aspiration: “We are pioneers. We thrive when our actions challenge the status quo and we boldly go where no one has gone before.” To do this, we need to streamline and speed up the way we deliver working services to our customers. Agile scrum supports us in this.”

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