Inside Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s cloud journey

With a strong DevOps culture, Australian bank has been moving its most important applications to the cloud in a journey that has already reaped returns

Like most financial institutions, Australia’s Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has acquired a plethora of IT systems over the years that it has been consolidating and modernising to deliver new digital services and become more responsive to business needs.

Moving those systems to cloud is a key focus for the bank, including those used by its lending business for which a new lending platform is being built, according to CIO Andrew Cresp. Jointly located in the cities of Bendigo and Adelaide, the bank has over 7,000 employees and more than two million customers.

“No stone is unturned – every time we do a refresh, we’re going cloud- and API [application programming interface]-first,” said Cresp, adding that the bank is also leveraging cloud to support compliance and improve processes as it seeks to deploy services faster and be more relevant from a digital perspective.

That does not mean the bank is doing lift-and-shift migrations where systems are moved to the cloud without refactoring or taking advantage of cloud-native services. “We wanted to focus on moving the most important applications to the cloud and refactor them,” said Cresp.

“I’ve worked in places where people moved 500 workloads to the cloud, including every non-important application. Everyone pats themselves on the back, but the business is still the same because you’re not moving the important parts.”

The bank is already reaping returns from its cloud journey. A recent move to run critical payments on the cloud, which Cresp said was a “high-compliance activity with lots of change”, has cut processing time from weeks to hours.

When it comes to cloud providers, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has “great capability as far as their maturity with Australian regulators”, said Cresp, adding that AWS also helped the bank to ensure its governance and risk controls were robust.

To manage supplier risk so that it would not have all its eggs in one basket, the bank also uses Google Cloud for customer engagement, analytics and data warehouses, “because we think they can bring a whole lot of capability for us there”, said Cresp.

Alongside the move to cloud is the bank’s adoption of DevOps, where DevOps teams are embedded into critical projects, said Cresp. Comprising a very diverse group of thinkers and thought leaders, they have developed the first version of an infrastructure blueprint that they are now looking to improve, he added.

In building rapport and creating learning opportunities, regular cloud sessions are organised for tech teams to get together and learn from each other.

“It’s pretty casual – there’s plenty of banter and it’s a good opportunity to showcase what people are thinking about and also what problems they’re looking to solve,” said Cresp.

“Our DevOps crew is leading that and creating curiosity in our engineers to say it’s OK not to know everything, and so why don’t we work on this together?”

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Keeping the skills of cloud engineers up to date is just as critical. The bank has invested more in training in the last 18 months than it did over the past decade, said Cresp. The availability of online courses was also helpful for the bank, which would not have been able to send its engineers to the US for training.

“That sort of democratisation of learning has been really important for us, and while you’d never say Covid-19 has been a good thing, in terms of learning and culture, the cloud sessions have been a really important way of connecting,” he added.

The DevOps team recently consolidated its DevOps tools – GitHub, Jenkins and Checkmarx – and switched to GitLab, lowering its maintenance costs and improving operational efficiencies as a result.

“The tech team worked through a process, decided what was best and worked through the migration,” said Cresp. “Now they are extremely proud of the engineering and automation that we’ve got in place there.”

The DevOps toolchain consolidation effort had reduced the bank’s cloud usage costs by 60%, with about a 20% performance increase and at least 30% improvement in resilience across migrated workloads.

Many forward-looking banks have teamed up with financial technology (fintech) firms to develop new services and reach out to new customers. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is doing the same, with its APIs being used by the likes of mortgage provider Tic:Toc.

“We are using capability like that to make sure that, as we simplify and modernise, we are enabling ourselves to connect with partners and fintechs easily, because they’ll think of channels and ways of interacting with customers that we won’t be able to,” said Cresp.

While the bank’s CEO and board have been supportive of technology initiatives, Cresp, who has had a long career in financial services, is sparing no effort to emphasise the impact of his team’s work.

“We’ve invested heavily in storytelling to explain what we’ve done and how we’ve improved our risk and financial position, backed up by data,” he said. “That has injected more trust in what we’re doing and how we’re going about it.”

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