Building a Digital Bank – The Lessons I Learned Part 1

The mission was to launch a new bank in one year.

From securing funding and getting approval for a banking license, to building the technology and people infrastructures from the ground up, it seemed impossible. That’s what made it so appealing.

I was part of the exec team that accepted this challenge in 2019. My role was to provide an enterprise-level software platform. Normally a two-year project, we had just 3 months to get to MVP 1 (Minimal Viable product). To add to the complexity, the bank was to be launched in Australia, but the core tech was to be built and managed from the UK.

We rose to the challenge and completed the mission successfully, with the bank launching in May 2020. It was a tough project from which I learned many lessons. Here are just some of them:

Lesson One: Success is a mindset

From the first engagement with the CIO back in January 2019, it was clear that success was the only option.

I recall him laying out the plan, how he wanted to attack the project and what was needed.  Despite my shock at the timeframes indicated (to be honest I was still unsure at that stage whether it would be possible), we got to work building an enterprise lead platform controlled and managed through Appian with Mambu handling transactions and a front-end App built internally by their own tech team.  It turned out to be one of the most impressive idea-to-build, first-time-right solutions I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.

At the time, I was unaware that ASIC (Australian Securities Commission) was using this bank as a test case for the Limited Banking License, since none of the top 5 incumbent Banks that dominate the Australian market wanted to risk their reputation and money to launch a digital-only offering.  So, a new start-up with financial backing was the best option to see whether it was viable for the Australian market and how effective would they be at disrupting the space.  All eyes were on this project.

With a lot of blood, sweat and tears from a highly dedicated team (and with a little luck) we met the timelines which allowed the digital bank to be one of the first in the Australian market.

The technology stack is already the envy of their Tier 1 competitors, to the point where other providers in the marketplace are courting the bank to white label it.

Lesson Learned:

From the outset, I was immediately struck by how successful this team was going to be. It seemed inevitable. Even if others did not think so, or the odds were against them. Most importantly their drive, passion, self-belief, and confidence in what they wanted to achieve and how they wanted to build it made me recognise that being a part of their journey was going to be a big part of my success.

I use this knowledge today when driving change through financial institutions with intelligent automation technology. I have created 90-day accelerators that create real change at pace because in today’s market if you are not evolving your offering every 90 days, you are inadvertently going backwards.

In my next blog, I reveal how we dealt with the time difference between London and Sydney (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse) and the importance of going the extra mile.

Click here to read part two ‘The Extra Mile’


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