How the takeover of NAB 86 forced 400 to pick up its data game – cloud – software

When 86 400 was acquired by NAB last year, the neobank was suddenly faced with the need to up its data analysis game.

As a startup with fewer than 100,000 customers, 86 400 focused its early efforts on growth, gradually adding new features to its smartphone-only offering.

But with their technology platform that will soon power hundreds of thousands of new UBank customers, as well as their own, data and analytics could no longer take a back seat.

“Up to this point we had taken a largely tactical and reactive approach to data and analytics,” said Alex Gyde, head of data and analytics at 86 400, at a Databricks event in Sydney last week.

“There was a data platform, but it was really just a rudimentary score for reporting and business intelligence (BI) information.”

Gyde said that while the platform was suitable for 86 400 as a startup, it was less suitable as it became a scale-up.

It also brought with it a number of challenges that began to emerge even before adoption, particularly around “repeatability and reusability”.

“Data assets were always built with a single use case in mind…so there wasn’t really a concept of a common data model for the business,” he said.

This meant that “Teams across the organization [were] asking the same question and getting completely different answers”.

Costs also “started to increase,” which Gyde attributed to “organic customer growth and data volume.”

“The volume of data was already starting to give us problems, so we had a really high operational overhead for this platform that we were running, which was based on Postgres databases,” he said.

six months

Of course, had the bank “evolved organically,” its approach to data analytics would have “matured,” Gyde said, as the company found solutions to any problems that arose.

But with the takeover by NAB and their customer base that “will grow about fivefold within six months,” 86,400 no longer had the luxury of time.

“We knew that all these problems that we were starting to encounter were going to get a lot bigger, and then all of our pipelines would just kink,” he said.

“So that was the main reason for our move to [Databricks] House by the lake.”

Gyde said the bank took the opportunity to reinvent its data stack and set up an “all-in-one data and analytics processing platform.”

“Let’s have a business-centric presentation layer and then also a collaborative space for data science, workflows and model development,” he said.

However, the short timeframe meant that 86 400 had to focus its efforts on the ‘most critical elements’, which it did, establishing a ‘steel thread’ to guide implementation.

“We decide [to build] a vertical prototype, something that went really deep into the technical implementation of the platform but only gave you a very small part of your horizontal capabilities,” he said.

The team first focused their efforts on getting the platform live, which involved deploying the environments and rolling out static data so the team could start exploring.

It then “moved core banking system and lending system data into the platform” and implemented access controls before finally being integrated with the bank’s BI tools.

empower data citizens

With a staff of just 10, Gyde said the data team isn’t in the “empire building” business and wants to “consolidate the platform’s capabilities across the organization.”

He said this would allow the bank’s “data citizens” to “get into self-service and discover themselves whenever they want.”

“As a smart bank, you can imagine that the hunger for data across the organization is pretty overwhelming,” Gyde said.

“From our product teams looking to build new experiences like Coming Up, our invoice prediction engine, to financial crime teams.”

As a result, Gyde said the team thought long and hard about “what our target state would be for the platform” and “what that audience would expect from the platform.”

The bank opted for a “medallion architecture” for the platform, which allowed other lines of business to “get in and evolve and develop data assets in a sandbox” in a safe space.

“We saw in the medallion architecture an opportunity to set up some secure areas where other lines of business could come in and sandbox and evolve data assets,” he said.

“And then my data team would take responsibility for ingesting new data sources into the bronze layer and then modeling what we call strategic data sets.

“These data assets serve multiple lines of business, and a particular team can point to trying to scale up an asset in their own database space.

“So delineating these responsibilities was a big step for us as it allowed my team to be more proactive in focusing on expanding and improving the platform.”

Sprint to the goal

While it’s still “a few months” before UBank customers start migrating to the 86 400 platform, Gyde says preparations are well underway.

“We’re basically sprinting to the finish line,” he said.

“But what’s really satisfying for usage is that we can see the platform growing every day, both in size and capability.

“And we’re already live with a number of our critical use cases, so report integrations into the NAB group, BI reports for the enterprise, and then some use cases for outbound marketing as well.

“In a really short period of time, we’re talking four to five months, we’ve done a really big transformation.” How the takeover of NAB 86 forced 400 to pick up its data game – cloud – software

Jessica MacLeish

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