Moneycorp Chief Finance and Operating Officer Nick Haslehurst and Futurice Commercial Director David Mitchell explain what international finance can learn from retail banking and why it’s time for a more customer-centric approach.
UK-based Moneycorp is a global specialist in currency exchange, hedging and international payments, handling a huge volume of transactions for a wide variety of corporate, institutional and individual customers in over 190 currencies. Digital engineering and innovation consultancy Futurice has worked with Moneycorp since 2016 to design and build a new customer-centric online platform and service experience. In the following interview, Moneycorp Chief Finance and Operating Officer Nick Haslehurst (NH) and Futurice Commercial Director David Mitchell (DM) discuss some of the key lessons and insights they have gleaned through the partnership.
Can you explain what brought Moneycorp and Futurice together?
NH: With financial services becoming increasingly tech-focused, Moneycorp saw an opportunity to bring retail banking-style customer centricity to currency exchange and international payments. As a result, the company partnered with Futurice to co-create a best-in-class international payment platform for private and corporate customers.
DM: Initially, Futurice’s role focused on the technological transformation of Moneycorp’s digital platform. However, as the partnership grew, we took a deeper role, helping Moneycorp develop a more agile culture and getting employees prepared for digital transformation.
Why is ‘retail banking-style customer centricity’ important?
NH: Firstly, because International Banking and Foreign Exchange is not a joined up service that customers can acquire, regulation, currency restrictions and the lack of communication across payments networks, make accessing these services hard for companies and consumers. Secondly, because customer demands are rising rapidly in step with the growth of connectivity, companies can expect to experience constant pressure to reinvent themselves as the digital-first economy matures.
What were the key challenges in achieving your goals?
NH: There were external and internal challenges. Externally, Moneycorp needed to navigate the complex, interconnected mix of regulatory environments and financial systems in building the platform. This challenge was exacerbated by the fact that the international banking system is highly-fragmented and communicates poorly across borders. At the same time, the company also needed to recognise that there was a widening gap between the customer experience of domestic banking and international financial services.Internally, the challenges centred around evolving culture to future-proof the firm.
Can you expand on the point about Moneycorp’s culture?
NH: As a 40-year-old company, Moneycorp has a deep understanding and experience of technology, but needed to marry that with a more agile culture, that worked in weeks and months not quarters and years. Moneycorp’s new-found ability to introduce features and products on a monthly basis is a world away from where it was a few years ago.
How has Futurice contributed to this?
DM: A key theme of this partnership has involved Futurice being embedded in Moneycorp’s activities, rather than being a siloed and outsourced vendor. This has resulted in Moneycorp adopting aspects of our culture, becoming less corporate and more flexible in its mindset. One example is that Moneycorp has listened to what Futurice has to say about using ‘playbooks’ to re-evaluate standard operating procedures. A characteristic of successful playbooks is a tendency to invert the traditional hierarchical approach to decision making, giving people on the front line permission to make decisions. The rationale is that frontline employees are usually closest to the action and have the information to make the right decisions.
Was it easy to meld the two company cultures?
DM: There were clashes that we had to work through – on everything from dress code and hours in the office to remote working. The key thing we learned is that you need to address all of this upfront – how do we communicate and what is non-negotiable? This can’t happen by accident.
NH: We had people with 10-20 years’ experience in financial markets having their outlook challenged by people from a very different background. In the end that was what made the partnership so strong, but you have got to set the right environment in advance.
Can you give specific examples of how Moneycorp has changed?
NH: For a start, the shift towards a continuous data feedback loop means Moneycorp can respond quickly to what our analytics are telling us about online customer behaviour. If, for example, the company sees customers hovering over an area of the website for longer than normal, we can investigate whether the terminology there is not as slick or as clear as it should be.
Similarly, the new platform is much easier to adapt and customise to the different languages, regulations and customs we encounter in our various geographies. Other innovations have included a new online registration system, launched mid-2017, which doubled conversion rate from 40 per cent to 80 per cent.Working together, we also created an internal UI component library to support a white labelling solution and reduce launch time in new territories from six months to just one or two.
The beauty of the new collaborative approach is that existing and potential customers experience an intuitive, easy to navigate, fast, bespoke platform. They don’t see all of the backroom ‘plumbing’ that joins up the highly fragmented international banking network and makes moving money across borders as easy as moving money domestically.
What about changes to the way Moneycorp innovates?
DM: To evolve Moneycorp’s product launch strategy, Futurice helped roll out an iterative release process, something the consultancy advocates strongly to best in class companies across several sectors. In simple terms, this is about prioritising speed to market over perfection. Perfecting products or services takes enormous amounts of time and doesn’t always suit a competitive and rapidly changing environment. By focusing on speedy iteration, Moneycorp was able to generate real data with an MVP (a minimum viable product) in the first few months.
What technological challenges did you encounter?
DM: Managing the complexity of a large existing IT landscape is always a challenge. A big part of that is not underestimating the size and depth of certain parts and allowing enough time for development in case of unknowns. Integrating new technologies with existing legacy systems isn’t an easy task either. However, working closely with the Moneycorp development team made the integration much smoother, and that’s a lesson others can take away regarding co-operation.
What technological tools did you deploy?
DM:For the user-facing front-end we built a new architecture from the ground up using technologies like React, Redux, Styled Components and Typescript. The redesigned user journeys were co-created by Futurice designers and Moneycorp’s product team. The designers also mainly use Sketch and InVision to prototype and test new user interfaces and journeys. InVision, especially, can be integrated into the workflow of a front-end developer as it provides exact Stylesheet information that can be used in the codebase. React Storybook serves as an interactive component library and bridges design and development.
How important was it to use the latest in modern web tech?
DM: It was vital for various reasons. Firstly, there is the community aspect: getting help from people in the open source community when you need to find a solution for a specific coding problem is much easier with modern and popular frameworks like React. Secondly, it helps with attracting talent. Using the latest tech attracts developers to join your project or company more easily. Thirdly, it helps with writing robust and secure code (critical in a field like financial services). Using TypeScript allowed us to build software with confidence as small bugs were spotted much more easily and earlier in the development workflow.
What is your advice to other companies planning transformation?
NH: You’ve got to ensure the entire organisation is ready for transformation, not just the IT department. This is a business change, so the organisation from senior level down needs to be immersed in the actual project. There needs to be a high level of engagement with the business owners – they need a chance to input, be involved and sign-off. And you have to ensure that the client’s regulatory and compliance teams are fully engaged early on in the product development conversation. Only they understand the regulations in enough detail to stop developers disappearing down rabbit holes.