Rebooting home lending through global engineering: FST Future of Financial Services summit




NAB Executive CIO Personal Banking, Paul Norman, today spoke at the FST Future of Financial Services event in Sydney about how NAB is tapping into a global engineering workforce to reboot the home lending paradigm.

Good morning everyone and thank you for having me here today. I’m Paul Norman, the Executive CIO of Personal Banking and it’s a pleasure to be with you at the FST ‘Future of Financial Services’ conference, sharing with you our global engineering story.

I’m sure many of you have experience working for, or with a bank over your career. And if you haven’t, I am confident that you have all had the experience of being a customer of one. So, the least surprising statement you’ll here from me today is that banking technology operates at huge scale and complexity.

As someone who works for a bank and within the technology team, I know first-hand the never ending tension between delivering new capabilities and simultaneously attempting to simplify an environment. It’s a classic case of ‘easy to say, harder to do.’ But the real challenge extends beyond this. In the Australian banking sector, we’re in an arms race to meet – and exceed – customer expectations. As one institution takes a giant leap in one area, the others fight to keep up.

However, when it came to home lending– there was very little leaping going on.

Looking back at the home lending experience

Historically the home lending experience left a lot to be desired. It had a knack of that turning a highly anticipated and exciting moment into one that was often filled with dread and disappointment.

Picture this.

As a prospective buyer, you would spend your weekends from open house to open house, pouring over the dimensions of floor plans and desperately trying to imagine yourselves in it.

Eventually, you would find the one – the perfect place. The one that brought you to the big city. The one where you could raise a family. Or the one where you could see yourself retiring happily. So, you’d head to your existing bank or broker – payslips in hand – to get the unconditional approvals you needed to make your dreams come true. But often that’s where the nightmare began.

Your excitement would slowly diminish as you come to terms with the long drawn-out and manual process of applying for a mortgage. And though you found your dream house, your bank tells you they’ll have an answer for you in the next 30 days.

You ask yourself in doubt: “will I get approved? Should I put a bid in anyway? How much should I go to?”

Fortunately for customers of Australian banks, those days are a distant memory. The banks looked at the experience and said: ‘that is not even close to good enough.’

So we set out to do something about it.

Tapping into a global workforce

We started the journey with our engineering capability.

As a technology division, we wanted to be known as the best engineering bank in the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s a big, audacious ambition – and to make it happen we needed a conscious effort across a number of fronts. And central to that, is our engineers.

But with Australian talent markets remaining stretched and the lowest unemployment figures in decades, we knew we needed to tap into a bigger talent pool.

We needed access to a global engineering workforce that opened new talent markets – some tapped, some untapped – that would give us the confidence required to make future focused, buy and/or build decisions for large implementations such as home lending.

The answer for us was to create an extension of our local teams, by building teams in Vietnam and India – where we now have hundreds of NAB colleagues in locations such as Gurugram, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi. Our colleagues in these locations have deep technical expertise across a range of fields including technology, engineering, cyber security and financial crime, working alongside Australian colleagues on projects that matter to our customers.

In addition to our global offices, we also made the choice to continue insourcing our engineering capabilities. After years of watching talented colleagues ‘ebb in’ and ‘flow out’ as part of our vendor resources, instead, we wanted to bring them into the fold permanently, helping us to better align the work that needed to be done for our customers and improve our customer service with a 24/7 ‘always on’ model.

We’re extremely proud of the global capability that we’ve built. Since 2018, we’ve moved from a workforce that was 70% outsourced to 37% at the end of last year – and we’re still working to progress that.

In the same time period, we’ve also hired over 1, 000 technology interns – with 60% of them going on to obtain a permanent position – making us one of the largest employers of technology resources in Australia.

For home lending, access to this global team was the critical enabler for our ambitious program. Across nearly two years our global engineering teams worked with our local teams to deliver over 1000 features, develop 30,000 story points and complete over 100,000 hours of automated and manual testing.

Beyond this, we were able to bring together one team that crossed geography, culture and engineering capability – and create something special for our customers. Where we integrated both new and existing technologies to build an experience that was simple, digital and – most importantly – one that was able to return joy to the experience of buying a home.

But of course, you can’t just hire talented engineers and point them at a problem. We needed a mature delivery model to achieve it.

A home-grown solution built on cloud native architecture

Which brings me to the technology itself.

Four years ago, we made a bold decision to launch a cloud-first, multi-cloud strategy and as of today, more than 75% of our cloud applications are on the public cloud. It’s a story we’ve told many times before, and that one decision has proved to be the single most important technology foundation driving better experiences for our customers and colleagues.

So with our cloud foundations, we had the tools. And with a global engineering team embedded with our business, we’d created the space. We were crystal clear on the problem: ‘how could we home-grow a fully digitised origination solution delivers customers an unconditional approval in less than an hour.’

The answer was three-fold:

  • A cloud native, digital engine that converged the many ways customers and brokers applied for a home loan into a single reusable process
  • Digitisation of reimagined operational processes
  • Full automation and straight through processing using world class digital and data capabilities

Over the last two years our global team have worked together to develop an all-new, modular ecosystem.  One that can not only drive better customer and colleague outcomes at a fraction of the cost, but transformed the way we respond to a changing lending market.

In the past banks would need to scale up or down physical operations teams to respond to changes in demand. The focus on full automation and straight through processing through all parts of the home buying journey has digitised unnecessary manual processes and retained human intervention where it counts most.

Our cloud native services can now respond immediately and independently – changing the business of home lending operations forever.  It’s a solution that is so advanced and flexible that it is capable of supporting all of our future lending requirements. But far more important than the benefits we get from the technology is how it’s transformed the experience for our customers.

Which brings me to my final point.

Bringing joy to home lending

By being able to return confidence and excitement to moments like buying a home brings sharp purpose to working in both technology and banking. It’s what gets me out of bed. It’s what drives our engineers. And it’s what drives our company.

In closing, I wanted to leave you with a real story from one of our brokers reporting back on a particularly happy customer.

Upon completion of the loan application, they had received full, unconditional approval in less than twenty minutes – with digital documents delivered to their inbox ready to sign.

The experience was so surprising, that the customer had to call the broker to confirm that the documents were in fact genuine.  And that, my friends, is an experience worth writing home about.



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