Fast-growing home loan lender Pepper has switched to a Microsoft-based cloud infrastructure to streamline processes and keep pace with Australia’s increasingly regulated financial services industry.
Pepper Money CIO said Jeremy Francis DSI Australia that the organization had several vendors offering different services. He said some services were not being used and a more lean and resilient IT environment supporting staff, third-party brokers and external clients was needed.
Pepper Money is part of the Pepper group and is majority owned by the American investment company KKR & Co. Since 2000, it has 750 employees in Australia and New Zealand. It opened its first European office in London in 2012 and also has offices in Ireland, Spain and South Korea.
The company has moved from older, internally managed versions of Microsoft Office tools to Office 365 and Azure.
“So instead of trying to upgrade and manage everything in-house, we went with Office 365,” said Nilang Shah, senior director of business services at Pepper.
Shah said it was a “risk-based decision” and the move to the next generation of cloud solutions was the driving force, but it also came with the added benefit of the access to the latest software updates.
Pepper had already started moving a significant portion of their workloads to Azure, and the move to Office 365 was their biggest step forward from an IT environment running from their own premises.
Before implementing the technologies, Pepper had to change the way their staff worked.
“Last year we went through a big process to switch to an agile mode of operation. And that was a big change that helped us deliver apps faster. It has helped us integrate things like Azure and infrastructure technologies much faster, ”said Francis.
The deployment of Office 365 took about six months. It was a multi-stage project, which started with a refresh of the devices. This was followed by the move to the latest versions of the Windows and Office operating system, and then finally to Office 365.
The changes also allowed the company to leverage Azure and scale its infrastructure without having to purchase additional equipment for its data centers.
Francis said the move to the cloud was not an isolated move, but part of a larger strategy to ensure the entire IT environment is moving in the same direction.
Although the company has been around for 20 years, it is nimble enough to easily adopt new technologies, he said.
“We are different from a FinTech in the sense that we have been around for a long time. But we’re in a position where we’re still small enough to be very agile with technology and embrace new technology and do new things the same way a smaller organization might. So I think I would describe Pepper from a technological standpoint as being halfway where we get the best of both worlds, ”said Francis.
Along with simplifying the business, another benefit of moving to Office 365 and Teams has been improved collaboration and productivity.
“And that was it since our deployment of Microsoft Teams – we created an environment in which our employees were able to use the kinds of things they were accustomed to using at home or on their mobile device,” said Francis.
“Even simple things like being able to put gifs in messages and post them on team sites. Nowadays, the way people interact at home is also much more familiar. We got some really simple benefits, like the ability to collaborate on a document or PowerPoint together. These are very small things, but they can make a big difference when you extend them across the organization, ”Francis added.
“We realize that there is a direct link between the experience of our employees and the experience that then flows to our customers and so we are always aware of both. “
The move to the cloud also allowed Francis’ team of 80 to focus on building proprietary applications. Pepper works primarily with third party brokers who sell mortgage and personal loans as well as automotive and automotive equipment loans. Digital tools are used to quickly determine if a client will be approved for a loan.
“We have just created two broker assistance tools that allow our broker to be able to get a very quick response to its clients on the solutions available to them,” said Francis.
For example, if a broker goes to a bank and their client is rejected, Pepper can automatically come up with two or three other potential solutions that they can present to the client. They are also online tools that integrate external data from credit bureaus with internal Pepper data for credit decision making, allowing immediate response to customers.
Francis expected Pepper to have more flexibility in accessing and using data and also evolving technology platforms to keep pace with the company’s growth trajectory.
He added that the company would continue to move more services to the cloud from its own data centers – which make up about a third of its infrastructure – with a third running in Azure and the rest delivered as SaaS applications.