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Leeds Building Society embarks on digital services push with HP Cloud

The building society wants to make it easier for customers to manage their money online using HP technology and support services

Leeds Building Society has signed a 10-year agreement with HP that will see the hardware giant assist the firm with delivering an improved online banking and digital service to its customers.

The financial institution has more than 60 branches in the UK and has a limited online presence to back it up, which is a situation it’s hoping to rectify with HP’s help, said Leeds Building Society CIO Tom Clark.

“We offer quite a traditional service today that is predominantly branch-based with some telephone support,” he told Computer Weekly.

“If you were a savings customer, for example, the options for you to interact with the society through non-physical means were quite limited,” he added.

It’s a situation Leeds Building Society was keen to address, given that customers readily expect to have easy access to online and mobile banking services so they can manage their money.

“We wanted to be available through all the channels our customers want to use to deal with us, so we went to market with quite a broad proposal of activities we wanted to look at,” said Clark.

As such, prospective providers needed to be able to deliver a system that could provide the firm with web content management and marketing tools. The provider would also need to open up digital-friendly lines of communication with customers.

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After a six-month search, running from November 2013 to May 2014, the company opted for a package of products bundled together by HP’s Application Transformation Services arm to create an integrated customer engagement (ICE) platform.

The set-up is hosted in HP Helion Managed Virtual Private Cloud and features Tibco’s ActiveMatrix BPM software to help the firm digitise its business process, along with Numéro’s omni-channel management offering.

The latter is designed to help companies such as Leeds Building Society manage their traditional methods of interacting with customers alongside newer communication channels, such as web chats.

David Rimmer, director of UK financial services at HP Enterprise Services, said the capabilities Leeds Building Society was looking for are fairly typical of what other companies in the financial services sector are demanding from their IT suppliers.

“The need to have a strong online presence or an omni-channel capability, where one can integrate the newer digital channels with the more traditional ones, is prevalent across the whole industry and other sectors too,” Rimmer told Computer Weekly.

“It’s a really important project for Leeds Building Society, but it’s also a big industry-wide issue and the technology partnerships we’ve selected to deliver on this project would be relevant for lots of companies in the financial services sector,” he said. 

To start with, the set of tools and technologies HP has pulled together will be used to change the way the company handles requests from mortgage applicants and customers who hold savings accounts, but the new-look services are not yet ready to go live.

The services are planned to come online later this year, with Clark describing the building society’s approach to the project as a “phased roll-out” rather than a “big bang” deployment.

“This is really about putting something in place flexible enough to take this approach to delivery going forward, and won’t stop us making changes as we go along,” Rimmer said.

“It’s designed to be flexible and responsive beyond that initial delivery,” he added.

As such, that’s why – despite the length of the contract – Rimmer said he’s confident the technology it’s using to deliver this project will stand the test of time.

“Each one inherently has some in-built configuration capacity and that’s how we’ll maintain the ongoing usability and relevance of the products over time. Each one has a product roadmap that will also keep them in-line with what’s going on elsewhere in the market,” he explained.

“It was a deliberate strategy because we didn’t want to build a bespoke platform that would be fine for two and a half years, or however long, and then that’s it,” he added.

A cloud-first approach

The inclusion of HP’s cloud platform was also an important factor for the Leeds Building Society CIO, Clark, who is keen to see the company move more of its infrastructure off-premise in time.

“Part of our architecture proposals is that cloud should be the first choice unless there are sound reasons not to do that,” he said.

“It’s providing a level of resilience and business continuity we can’t do with physical kit, and HP’s managed virtual cloud piece gives so much more security and protection than you could do yourself,” he added.  

This is a view the financial services community is slowly starting to share, according to Rimmer, having previously been a market sector many considered impervious to the technology’s charms.

“Traditionally, the financial services sector has been wary around cloud, but there is starting to be a bit of a mood change as people realise that some of their concerns around security are better addressed through the cloud than through traditional solutions,” he said.

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