Judo Bank, a disruptive force in the Australian banking industry, has made significant strides in providing tailored banking services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Their branchless, relationship-focused approach has fuelled impressive growth and recognition. In 2021, Judo Bank partnered with Rapid Circle to tackle two critical Azure projects: enhancing Customer Identity Management and rebuilding their Data Platform. Judo also invested in Azure Virtual Desktop to facilitate secure access to engineering platforms and applications.
The solutions implemented by Judo Bank and Rapid Circle enabled streamlined online banking experiences, reduced deployment times, and improved data processing capabilities. These initiatives have not only empowered Judo Bank to better serve its customers but have also underscored the importance of careful planning and trusted partnerships when embarking on large-scale Azure projects.
“Rapid Circle’s expertise and commitment to our goals has made them an invaluable and trusted partner at Judo Bank”.Chris Bayliss, Deputy CEO, Judo Bank
Judo Bank is Australia’s first challenger bank for SMEs and is the first fully licensed Australian bank to IPO in 25 years. Named purposefully after the traditional wrestling sport, Judo Bank’s strategy is based on the art of using size and agility to outwit larger opponents. Built to be fast and nimble, Judo Bank is focused on providing banking that’s tailored to SMEs. According to Judo Bank chief executive Joseph Healy, “Banks are neglecting the lending needs of small businesses and startups, with an estimated $120 billion in unmet need outstanding.”
“We’re a relationship bank and having a personal relationship with a banker is something we believe small-medium businesses really resonate with. It’s been a key to our success over the past six years.”Lawrence Hunt, Head of Engineering at Judo Bank
Undervalued and underserved SMEs are attracted to Judo’s human-centred approach which brings back the craft of relationship banking, and has led to the banks exceptional growth. Being branchless hasn’t hindered awards from being hung on them either, in fact this year (2023), Judo Bank was ranked #4 in the Financial Times Top 500 High-Growth Companies Asia Pacific. The key to their success? Never straying from their purpose and their commitment to backing Australian SMEs “with the funding they need and the service they deserve”.
Without branches, Judo relies heavily on technology to enable its relationship bankers to spend more time with their customers, so in 2021, Judo Bank approached Rapid Circle about two large Azure projects: Customer Identity Management and Data Platform – to improve their banking experience further.
“At Judo, we invest in industry best practice and expertise to make sure we are architecting and delivering the best solutions for our customers.”Lawrence Hunt, Head of Engineering at Judo Bank
Judo Bank has used Azure AD B2C (Business to Consumer) for a number of years for internet banking, however there were enhancements the challenger bank needed to make to uplift its online experience, for example, a mobile app or the ability for customers to start a term deposit online. The nature of this project meant leveraging identity as the key to accessing all the customer facing systems that underpin the customer experience, using a single set of credentials. To do this, Judo knew they needed to expand beyond their core banking system, into broader channels and platforms such as nCino, Backbase, and Open Banking.
In addition, Judo wanted to mature their processes around cloud engineering, as previously when Judo Bank was testing a change – it had to be elevated through several different pre-production or non-production environments for compatibility testing with all of the different applications they integrate with. A lot of that process was manual, so it could take them two to three days to be able to get a change out from non-production to production, including simple copy changes. The Rapid Circle team recognised the need to automate the configuration of B2C using Azure DevOps, Infrastructure as Code, and bespoke scripts through automated deployment pipelines (CI/CD).
Judo also had several pre-existing data solutions which were used to gather critical data from several different banking systems used within the business – data such as identity, risk, and statement data. These systems were now considered legacy and had a heavy reliance on traditional infrastructure, spread across both Azure and AWS. Judo had identified that they wanted to rebuild their data platform and make better use of their data, streamlining the way they processed and analysed the data across the bank.
“The key thing for Judo is that they don’t want data to automatically make decisions for them, because as a challenger bank, Judo prides themselves on having a really, great customer experience. The data that they’re now leveraging is to help their bankers make the best decisions or best interactions with their customers and provide a relationship-first experience along the way.”Gavin Lewis, Azure Solutions Lead, Rapid Circle
The solution design for Judo Bank’s Identity Management was collaborative from the start as Judo’s team had created an enterprise architectural diagram which outlined the multiple different touch points in their present and future, and how they wanted it to work. From a design, a solution design perspective wasn’t technically complex, but the way in which we needed to implement it in B2C was technically complex as the user experiences Judo wanted to create fell outside of what the Standard User Flows could support and required Rapid Circle to develop these experiences through custom policies.
A source of truth was to be established and the solution was that Azure AD B2C needed to sync customer data across multiple de-coupled vendor systems including their core banking platform, nCino, Backbase and Open Banking. “All of the vendors needed to be involved to say, well, if we’re going to be making this change, these are all the different people who then have to help us implement these changes in all of the identity-reliant systems” says Gavin Lewis.
Rapid Circle was able to successfully integrate with the new systems and initiatives through various methods, from providing guidance around technical integration details where Microsoft already had a provided method, to creating custom connectors to communicate with other systems which need to consume details about identity within Judo Bank, to creating the bespoke user experiences through Custom Policies in B2C. This was a long-term project where Rapid Circle embedded two team members, an Azure Architect and an Azure Developer, into Judo’s project team.
“After production release, Serena Yau, Head of Solution Design at Judo, said this was one of the most complex projects that they have ever undertaken as a bank due to all of the different touch points identity interacts with, from the website to various back-end systems which underpin Judo’s online banking experience.”Gavin Lewis, Azure Solutions Lead, Rapid Circle
For the Data Platform rebuild on Azure, after an initial period of requirements gathering, discovery and solution design (to understand their different data sources), stakeholder alignment and regulatory compliance items – the data platform design was finalised.
This design not only focused on the data platform itself, but several essential Azure governance and automation standards, as Judo’s previous Azure maturity to date needed to be uplifted. After the initial draft design was created and approved Rapid Circle embedded two team members into Judo’s project team, again an Azure architect and an Azure Developer over the preceding 12 months to build an MVP, and move to a production ready state.
To compliment the large Azure projects, Judo also invested in Azure Virtual Desktop to facilitate secure access to engineering platforms & applications.
“Rapid Circle workshopped a number of Azure access solutions with Judo. Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) was ultimately settled on as it not only facilitated access, but in a way which provided levels of protection that adhere to Judo’s security policies. AVD is a great solution for Judo’s use case, as access can still be granted to the systems and data staff and contractor, which they need to perform their jobs. Using Entra and features like Conditional Access we can leverage identity as the new perimeter to security rather than the network layer, and further protect Judo by creating a layer of separation between the end user’s physical device and the systems and data they need to access. Combining these strength’s with AVD’s RemoteApp streaming functionality we can provide the end user with a great experience without compromising security.”Gavin Lewis, Azure Solutions Lead, Rapid Circle
The implementation of the B2C initiatives touched from the initial user contact and interaction with Judo, all the way to their most critical backend banking systems and required input of more than seven different vendors (including Rapid Circle) to achieve. Judo’s mobile banking app and products such as term deposits are now available online for application.
“With some of the engineering excellence that we’ve been working through with Judo of late, we’ve also been able to reduce the time to develop and test a change all the through to production deployment, previously taking two to three days down to 20 minutes, which has empowered Judo to be able to make routine changes possible without necessarily needing to involve a whole technical team to facilitate it” says Gavin.
“The large Azure projects we’ve completed with Rapid Circle, have enabled us to launch our digital banking products into the market, allowing our customers to surface the information they need.”Lawrence Hunt, Head of Engineering at Judo Bank
Judo’s new Data Platform was released as soon as they had a minimum viable product and actively iterated on with the help of Rapid Circle. Judo is now processing several different types of data that they had previously identified, as key metric to solve data needs from within the business. As Data platforms are an ever-growing evolutionary component in businesses, the development of the data platform at Judo will never stop, but instead morph and change as their needs and requirements change over time.
“Our data platform plays a key role in the ability to self-service and surface the right information at the right time for our internal staff to service customers. And then similarly for our customers to have the right information they need, we’re not a purely self-service bank. We don’t want everything to be self-service. So, for us, customers talking to bankers and talking to our staff is actually a critical part of our proposition.”Isaac Davis, Head of Data Engineering, Judo Bank
“A lot of what we were looking to do was actually optimise operational efficiencies and leveraging data to facilitate those conversations. Most of our customers are pretty time-poor, they just want to pick up the phone and speak to someone. So, a lot of the data experiences that we created for our internal team will be supporting that interaction and conversation. Everything from our call centre to our internal technology supports people having the conversation.”
We asked Lawrence what advice he’d give to another institution wanting to make an investment in a large Azure project, whether it be identity management or data platform, and the simple advice he gave is as follows: “You need the time to plan it out appropriately and also factor in that there are going to be things that you uncover that you just simply can’t plan for. And given the complex nature of data, it’s often going to take a little longer than you expect.”
“We brought in Rapid Circle to help us with expertise in leveraging Azure and uplift what we’d previously built with Azure B2C to enable us to automate deployments and automate delivery or changes for identity management, and build a new Azure Data Platform. There’s been a high level of engagement throughout the project with Rapid Circle, and they’ve always been super helpful and amenable to any questions we have and making sure we’re delivering things appropriately. The collaboration has been great, they have good capability, expertise and responsiveness.”Lawrence Hunt, Head of Engineering at Judo Bank
Not only did we support Judo to implement these different initiatives, the Rapid Circle team continues to work with Judo Bank regularly, still acting as SME in this space and have managed services agreements to support Judo bank’s Azure infrastructure.
“Having a partner who we know knows our environment really well and is able to fix issues but also proactively remediate things and we can kind of have a trusting relationship with is really important.”Lawrence Hunt, Head of Engineering at Judo Bank
“The Rapid Circle team were instrumental in navigating our federated identity challenges in our origination, digital and open banking platforms. The outcome of their solutions anchored the bank with robust patterns for our customers for years to come. The RC team members were exceptional in their dedication to quality and delivery execution. We’re proud to have RC as our partner in our exciting start-up to scale-up journey.”Serena Yau, Head of Solution Design at Judo Bank