Digital banking with a microservices architecture: a UBank story

By Jeremy Hubbard

Digital banking with a microservices architecture: a UBank story

Operating since 2008 with a maximum of 200 employees forces UBank to attract new business through non-traditional methods. As Australia’s leading digital-only bank, UBank’s online home loan application process disrupted retail banking by delivering a simpler, better and smarter customer experience.

Recognizing the need to deliver value to customers faster, we began adopting a cloud native development model. By first engaging with the IBM Watson and Cloud Adoption team and then visiting the IBM Cloud Garage, we created a Facebook plugin referral app for home loans. In working on that first minimum viable product (MVP) and leveraging the Garage Method, we transformed our agile product teams into full DevOps teams focused on the business functions of what we wanted to create for our customers. Rather than waterfall project deadlines, planned outcomes in customer experience drove our delivery.

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A microservices architecture make RoboChat

For our next MVP, using Watson Conversation, our teams transferred the knowledge of call center staff and FAQs into an Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven chat application, RoboChat, which searches information based on natural language user requests. RoboChat uses an orchestration microservice built as a Node.js runtime to connect with the microservice we built in Watson Conversation itself. As needed, based on verbal cues, RoboChat transfers a customer session to one of our live Advisors for additional help. In such cases, as part of the DevOps cycle, relevant teams review details of the RoboChat session — stored in a Cloudant database — to determine how to further improve the Watson Conversation microservice, expanding the scope of questions RoboChat can automatically answer in the future.

A microservices architecture make RoboChat

Our teams delivered RoboChat — concept to production — in eight weeks, resulting in a dramatically new and improved customer experience. With just two MVPs, in addition to improving our customers’ experience in applying for a loan, we also established and improved our DevOps process to achieve consistently rapid delivery. Continuing to operate within this cloud native model lets us try different ideas in quick succession as we evolve apps into the next valuable customer experience.

A microservices architecture changes company culture

What excites me the most is the autonomy we’re giving to our product teams. New feature ideas are being put into production without the burden of waiting for multiple teams to sequentially coordinate. With each DevOps team responsible for a different microservice, and with the microservices capable of interacting through APIs, innovating customer experience can be driven from as many directions as we have business needs and teams.

We’re excited about continuing to leverage AI capabilities and a microservices architecture to innovate beyond the boundaries of banking.

An Australian direct bank, UBank (est. 2008) operates as a division of National Australia Bank (NAB), providing online and telephone-based financial services.

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