Banking and financial services have been traditionally one of the most conservative industries in the world: changing the way banks operate often poses risks to security and the client's wealth management. This is why the digitalization of this sector has always been a hurdle. Yet, there is a selected pack of companies leading the way on this bumpy road.
A few years ago, we joined efforts with Temenos to develop a new product that aims to personalize the banking experience. The goal was to create a unique mobile financial messaging tool that would develop 1:1 relationships between bank staff and customers using an SMS style interface that is familiar and comfortable to users.
Today that goal has become one of the most disruptive products in banking - it's called Engage.
Initially, our collaboration began with Pivotus, the innovation unit of a traditional financial institution known for its intense focus on customer relationships: Umpqua, a U.S. bank headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Pivotus was best known for its product Engage, a communication platform that connected financial agents with clients. It was a promising product, but at that stage, the young startup lacked the software development team that was needed to scale up that kind of solution and turn it into a robust, commercially viable product.
Developing such a solution also required taking risks: We agreed with the client to build the architecture of this platform on Lagom, a software framework that was not very popular back then. It was a big challenge, but it was technically the way-to-go if we wanted to meet one of the most important requirements in this project: Develop an application capable of scaling easily over time with customer growth while supporting a large numbers of users simultaneously.
Lagom is a reactive microservices framework developed by a collaboration between a company called Lightbend - formerly known as Typesafe - and Jonas Bonér, the creator of the Akka middleware. It is based on Scala and Akka and is implemented based on new technologies (design patterns) including event sourcing and CQRS.
Later in 2018, Kony, an established fintech company, made the move to acquire Pivotus. It is not uncommon to hear about a traditional financial institution making an investment in a start-up but this was a breakthrough because it was exactly the other way around: the smaller fintech company had decided to purchase the innovation subsidiary of a traditional bank.
Kony wanted to transform Engage so that it could be marketed to other financial institutions as well. But given each bank's individual needs to guarantee the protection of their client's information, they needed to redesign the product's architecture to allow separate instances of data. That's when we began to move from a single-tenant into multi-tenant architecture.
It was far from simple. Engage was developed using Lagom, which wasn't originally thought to support multi-tenant architecture. Our team worked for a full year around this solution and often consulted the creators of the Lagom framework during the process.
While we continued to concentrate on solving technical problems, there was yet another major change in product ownership on the horizon. In August 2019, Temenos, one of the world's leaders in banking software, acquired Kony - As in other industries across the world, consolidation is also a growing trend within fintech software companies and as a technology partner, it is critical to be able to adjust to any kind of collaboration framework.
After four years of coding and problem-solving, Engage is now a complete, unique mobile financial messaging application that has allowed Temenos to revolutionize the banking and financial services industry by helping build 1:1 relationships between bank staff and customers.
The application can connect more than 10,000 concurrent users without problems and it is used daily by 100,000+ people across the USA, Europe, and Australia.
From a business standpoint, Engage is marketed as a software-as-a-service (cloud) product that offers each bank the possibility to configure and brand it according to their needs. Thanks to its multi-tenant architecture clients can have the product live in just a matter of weeks once customization preferences are completed.
The project has now entered a new phase, that is often defined as continuous improvement in which we collaborate with Temenos’ team under an agile framework, adding and releasing new features on a quarterly basis that continue to incorporate value to Engage. Additionally, we support the company with a dedicated team that audits the application on a monthly basis, in order to apply best-security development standards (OWASP security development practices) and avoid regular hacking practices. Among the security measures used to run this process are: