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How to launch a full-fledged digital bank in six months. Part 2

In the first part of the material, they told how in six months they managed to launch a full-fledged digital bank for SMEs with fast transactions, foreign economic activity and a merchant's personal account. In the second part, we reveal the technological behind-the-scenes of the project: the best user scenarios on the market, an experimental design concept, a trending Flutter technical stack and progressive microservice architecture.

The bank was designed based on qualitative and quantitative research and taking into account the benchmarks of the CIS and the world. This is a conceptually different approach: we studied all market scenarios, tested each one and defended the best solution for each bank. Based on these target scenarios, the bank built and rebuilt the processes inside. 

"Another challenge was that we had nothing to rely on: usually they either follow the path of as is to be, or copy the working functionality, transfer it to a new design and launch it.  We designed from the ideal client path — and adjusted all processes for it both at us and at the bank," says Agiis Konkabayeva, CEO of red_mad_robot Central Asia.

According to the idea, the main page of the application should be organized as a stack of cards with information about the state of the business: account balances and transaction statuses, as well as operations that entrepreneurs most often turn to — statement and transfer to the counterparty. In the "My products" tab, now only the tariff, in the future all the bank's products will appear here. In the near future — online accounting and currency contracts.

"The content of the application now and in the future is based on the needs of the entrepreneur — the functionality that he faces and will face on a daily basis. The Bank is ready to connect both financial and non-financial services. And the backlog is thought out for a year ahead," she explained Agiis Konkabayeva, CEO of red_mad_robot Central Asia.

Therefore, the bank and its digital partner have set themselves the goal that in the first release, three main functions of the service will work fully at once. 

1. Daily banking. Open an account, receive and send payments, see the current balance and transaction history — this is the base from which any bank starts for an entrepreneur. It is important to do this quickly and conveniently both in the digital channel and inside the bank: to give the entrepreneur the right speed for his operations — to simplify communication and speed up payments.

2. Foreign economic activity. It was not immediately decided to include foreign economic activity in the first release. But the market analysis showed that more and more entrepreneurs from different business segments of Kazakhstan are already engaged in foreign economic activity — for example, the trade turnover with the EAEU countries in January-April 2023 amounted to $9.5 million, which is 12% more than in 2022. Kazakhstan's trade with China is also growing: in the period from January to May 2023, its volume increased by 21.6%, to $10.7 billion. For the same period in 2022, the figure was $8.8 billion. At the same time, entrepreneurs often do not have accountants in the state and face certain difficulties.

"Usually, most of the tasks of foreign economic activity entrepreneurs are solved in Internet banking, banks bring minimal functionality to mobile applications. Our goal is to simplify foreign trade and make all the functionality available in a smartphone, based on previous experience of transferring foreign trade clients to a mobile application. At the same time, the focus was kept on the needs of not only large and medium-sized businesses, but also micro and small business entrepreneurs," commented Arina Lepikhova, Head of Digital SME Home Credit Bank.

3. The personal sales account also appeared in the first release as a tool that helps to track statistics and increase business turnover using installment programs. Now it displays the number of sales per day and the balance. In the future, there will be a dashboard with summary information about the business: income and expenses for the period, the dynamics of sales in a slice, growth dynamics, forecasts of growth and decline, or a portfolio of assets.

The design concept, like other solutions, r_m_r CA was also defended before the bank, having collected an evidence base. The focus was to cover the needs of entrepreneurs, not to distract from the main tasks and to natively integrate the application into the daily life of the user. Therefore, we chose a minimalistic solution with two accent colors — black and red.  

They abandoned the popular 3D illustrations that are used everywhere, in favor of the style that the team called "dvaton-isometry" - 2D illustrations that simulate 3D. There has not been such a solution on the market yet.

In the screens with errors, we took the path of leveling the negative in order to dilute the possible unpleasant impression of the user with an illustration. So there was a cute robot that gets into various embarrassing situations.

The Flutter framework, an innovative cross—platform development technology from Google, was chosen as the technical stack. 

Home Credit Bank uses Flutter in the development of other products, so it would be easier to integrate the new solution into the bank's systems. 

"The development phase began with a study of the bank's IT landscape. We have identified the key technologies that can be used in the implementation. We agreed on transparent rules for the introduction of new IT components and libraries for the bank, which had to be approved by the architectural committee and coordinated with information security," says Alexander Kuttukov, CTO red_mad_robot Central Asia.

Flutter allows you to develop one application for two mobile platforms iOS and Android at once, so we managed to significantly gain in speed, which was important for each of the stages of the project.  It was not without difficulties. There are few banking applications developed on Flutter in the world practice, although this is an upward trend: Alibaba, Ebay, Google Ads and others work with it.  We needed the best platform specialists, which are almost non-existent in the country. But in red_mad_robot, this practice is actively developing, so we managed to attract the best developers. 

Choosing the architecture of the application, we kept in focus the ambitious goal of Home Credit Bank to enter the top 3 digital banks for entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan - for this, the bank must be convenient, accessible 24/7 and, most importantly, easily scaled in services. 

Therefore, a microservice architecture was chosen. Unlike Monolith, it gives flexibility and speed, allowing you to develop functionality by independent teams and reduce time-to-market. And an application with a microservice architecture allows you to flexibly scale services, thanks to which it is able to withstand a growing flow of users and provide a high response rate. It was important to lay the right foundation to enable the bank to go in this direction and help spread the best practices inside. 

We managed to meet the tight deadlines at this stage, among other things, thanks to the synchronization of red_mad_robot Central Asia and the bank's IT team, with which there was an open and effective interaction.

It was possible to achieve a full-fledged result in an unprecedented six months thanks to partnership interaction with the client, effective project management and technological expertise of red_mad_robot Central Asia.

"We have so penetrated into the client's processes that sometimes the Home Credit Bank team can work in the red_mad_robot office – and vice versa. This is what we call insourcing — like outsourcing, only better. Because the team that works for you combines the best qualities of outsourcing: the expertise of the external market, the economic advantages of an external contractor, business expertise and the main advantages of inhouse - immersion in the problems and tasks of the customer, as in their own," she shared Agiis Konkabayeva, CEO of red_mad_robot Central Asia.

At the start, it was decided that the entire development would be incremental and concrete results should be given every two weeks. Therefore, we immediately decided to follow the Scrum framework. 

We worked in sprints with transparent goals, previously jointly agreeing on them. This allowed us to see and record real progress. As part of the sprints, secondary studies and demos were conducted on the bank's team, and functionality was also tested.

We divided the teams into four streams based on the functionality they were developing: 

  1. core banking 
  2. payments
  3. Foreign economic activity
  4. personal sales account. 

This facilitated communication and unloaded regular meetings. Each stream had a project manager, designer, developer and analyst who were responsible for a specific scenario. 

We have agreed with the Home Credit Bank team on areas of responsibility, work processes, decision-making points and escalation, and in each stream we have established basic hygiene for the production cycle. 

It was important to see transparently at what stage the work of the streams is throughout the project. This made it possible to effectively manage changes in live mode. 

"For some time, I took over the synchronization and implementation within the bank's systems — I built processes, backlog management, project management, participated with IT in the formation of areas of responsibility and initiated the allocation of resources to core teams across the bank's departments. A little later, product owners and business analysts joined my team - this helped, together with r_m_r CA, to create new business processes and quickly master them," comments Arina Lepikhova, Head of Digital SME Home Credit Bank.

At the start, the team consisted of 10 people, now more than 70 are working on the project: developers, designers, managers, analysts are one of the largest project teams in red_mad_robot Central Asia.  

In six months, the way was passed from the beginning of the design from scratch to the publication of the application in stores. This is an unprecedented period for the world and Kazakhstan markets. 

What have you done:

  1. We launched a digital bank for entrepreneurs from scratch in record time.
  2. We implemented the functionality of basic daily banking and made a personal sales account for sellers. 
  3. Launched the function of online management of foreign economic activity.
"We managed to do all this thanks to digital partnership, well-coordinated joint work with the bank, business expertise and technological competencies of the team. The experience of working with Home Credit Bank once again confirms that red_mad_robot Central Asia's ambition to become a top-1 IT company in the Kazakhstan market is fully justified. We have all the unique competencies to make large-scale digital products in the Central Asian market in a short time and change this market, showing concrete results," emphasizes Agiis Konkabayeva, CEO of red_mad_robot Central Asia.

The Central Asian market is already showing a tendency to quickly create products and accelerate time-to-market: competition is growing, there are fewer free niches and delay leads to lost profits. It is important to quickly assess the market situation, design and launch the best solutions and flexibly respond to growing user requests, relying on the expertise of strong digital partners.

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Интересная статья, спасибо !