Empowering transformation with a digital architecture
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Empowering transformation with a digital architecture

Sooraj Shah — December 2017

UK challenger bank’s CIO explains how a new digital platform allows it to rapidly respond to evolving customer needs.

Becoming a truly digital business means taking some decisive steps. To exploit digitally driven market trends and emerging technologies, companies need to ensure the enterprise architecture they use to align IT capabilities to business strategy and execution is rewired for digital.

As a UK-based challenger bank, seven-year-old Metro Bank appreciates that such a digital foundation is critical in establishing the distinctive customer experience it needs to take on the country’s venerable Big Four banks.

CIO Martyn Atkinson explains that the digital transformation strategy that the bank has been pursuing for the past two years has at its heart a new digital architecture that supports multi-channel digital banking, based on the Backbase platform, and draws on core systems of record and an operational data store. Atkinson says that digital architecture enables Metro Bank to build out core services on a middleware layer while protecting back-end systems, delivering the flexibility and agility that helps it consistently meet evolving customer needs.

“Martyn

“We have a loosely coupled platform — something that other [traditional] banks have been striving to achieve for years — which enables integration quickly,” he says. The extensive use of application programming interfaces (APIs) in this digital architecture is another facet that sets it apart from classic models — and is critical in fulfilling its strategy of being the UK’s first new full-service bank in more than 100 years. “If we want to be a retail bank, a commercial bank and have a private bank partnership, combining unparalleled store experience with cutting edge digital innovations, we have to make sure we have the technology foundation that enables rapid and smooth integration,” Atkinson says. The architecture uses the Apigee API platform, which “allows the bank to be more nimble and fleet of foot.”

Digital culture

But digitalization isn’t just about the technology. Atkinson suggests that one of the biggest reasons Metro Bank has an edge over traditional banks is its entrepreneurial culture and willingness to try new ways of working. “With digital transformation at Metro Bank, responsibility and decision-making have been extended all the way down the chain. I think that’s a necessity for a digital program to be successful,” says Atkinson.

The digital change team also embraced agile approaches, applying the Kanban lean method for software development and using tools such as JIRA and Trello for project and issue management. “We now have a much more DevOps mentality that supports continuous integration and deployment,” says Atkinson.  

Related to that, there has also been a shift in how the business and IT teams engage. Whereas previously IT was viewed as a service provider to the business’s transformation roadmap, the lines are now blurring. “Having boundaries around IT and digital and the rest of the business is increasingly unrealistic — and, indeed, irrelevant in the context of the economy we all operate in,” he states. “The actual digital strategy and proposition remains in the business, however. We make sure the [potential for any] technology is formulated in and around the business, having digital developers, digital middleware specialists, product owners and testers engage right across the bank.”

These underlying changes are helping Metro Bank to deliver end-to-end services such as its rapid, streamlined process for new account opening. “In a single engagement online or in-store, customers can open an account, register for internet banking, download a mobile app, get their account number and start transacting, all of which is verified digitally,” he outlines.
First published December 2017
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