Financial Services Transformation
At the time of writing, we’re a team of 9, but have another 5 members joining the team this quarter. The team consists of 5-functional consultants; Mariana, Martin, Freddie and Jason, Jaco who leads Functional Tech Integration, and 2 tech-wizards in the form of Francois and Levin. The team is headed up by Associate Director and Solution Architect Marinda and Senior Delivery Lead Pawel. Mainly based in South Africa but also in the UK, with many of us travelling when required between the two countries. We have all worked in customer orientated roles for most of our careers across various verticals including retail, SME and commercial lending, agricultural, development, asset and micro-finance.
We’ve worked together over a number of years, at different companies and collectively we have built 200 years combined experience in several IT service delivery positions, with a focus on business analysis and design as well as financial management and internal audit. We have implemented CML systems since 2002, of which many are still in use which we are proud of. As a whole, we share a real passion to always be adding value to projects through transforming strategy into reality in order to improve productivity, reduce costs and create new products and expand markets for clients.
Together, as a South African based team, we have worked on 20 plus customer projects for many big brands such as Standard Bank, Scania and JD Financial Services, including global projects with Commonwealth Housing Department, Nova Scotia (Canada) and Suhail Bahwan Group Holding, Qatar.
If we had to mention one project in particular that stands out, it would be the successful SAP Loans Management implementation for South Africa’s most innovative consumer financial business, JD Group. We were tasked to replace the previous Loans Account management and Collections engine with SAP CML and Business Rules Framework. The project scope included implementation of secured and unsecured loans as well as development of a new revolving credit product.
In total we migrated over one million client profiles and 600,000 loans with a debtors book valuing R9 billion. CML was successfully integrated with the other systems within the financial services solution including account origination, payments, general ledger and collections. The project benefitted all areas of the credit life cycle as well as 800 branches, a contact centre of around 300 employees and a centralised back office servicing four countries.
Freddie Nel, Senior Functional Lead added ‘‘I think what makes this project stand-out for the team is just how impactful JD Group’s approach to offering accessible consumer finance has been within the South African market. Knowing we played a part in that brings a huge level of satisfaction.’’
Another project that stands out is with our friends and partners at Business Partners Limited. Initially we implemented not only simple structure loans, but also complex 3-tier structures across multiple countries and currencies, an exciting opportunity that made a real difference. What also stood out was seeing how they were able to react during the pandemic, by introducing a new COVID support loan product in a matter of days, was impressive and made such a difference to SME’s who were able to access funds much quicker.
Marinda Fullard comments ‘‘The success story at BPL was a classic example of how quick business thinking could be enacted in real-time thanks to the power and flexibility of SAP Loans Management’’.
We have worked collaboratively together for so long that the team is like a well-oiled machine, each cog playing their own part and fitting together perfectly. Everyone in the team values open and honest communication, which builds trust, respect and long-lasting relationships with each other and with our clients. We strongly believe in active collaboration to achieve common objectives, and proactively share knowledge from across different markets with each other so we are always learning and adding to our skillset. Importantly we all support each other, can rely on one another and come to work with enthusiasm to do the best job we can.
Our individual strengths perfectly complement each other, with everyone playing their own key part in the team. Marinda, Business Architect, is definitely the mother-hen who maintains a positive working environment and works hard to make sure every member of the team feels involved and valued. She’s also engrained in the lending market within Southern Africa and has a wealth of proven experience. Delivery Lead Pawel is of course very organised and structured, he’s never fazed by project hurdles and manages to see project blockers from a mile off. Jaco is one of the best functional and technical solution architects in the business, with incredible knowledge and the ability to understand the bigger SAP landscape and its integration possibilities. Francois is also one of the best, a great communicator who can explain the solution in granular detail. Freddie brings a sense of calm to every project and call he joins, always open and honest, so the team and clients have absolute confidence in him. Mariana is never too busy to help, if you need a last minute wing-woman, she will be there no questions asked, we often say she’s managed to invent a 28 hour day. Jason is extremely reliable and able to diffuse any situation with his objective and balanced view which instils trust when facing tight deadlines or approaching key project milestones. Martin is the one to call when you have a problem, he is a very effective problem solver and loves a challenge. Last but by no means least, Levin has a huge amount of energy, passion and enthusiasm which spreads a positive vibe through the team and on every project and lifts the mood when the going gets tough.
Pawel Smolak, Senior Delivery Lead, goes on to say ‘‘Project success is just as much about people management as it is project management. Clients can instantly recognise that this team has formed over many years, and they are assured in knowing that they’ll benefit from that. This is a special team and one that gives me real confidence knowing we’re able to deliver what we say we will.’’
Marinda Fullard, says “We’re really excited to welcome five new joiners to the team over the next few months. Some familiar faces we’ve worked with in the past plus some new talent who we cannot wait to integrate into the team. In addition, we will be rolling out our Southern African trainee program throughout Q2. We’re all looking forward to having some young and raw talent join the team and cannot wait to watch them master their craft over the months and years ahead. Watch this space!”
Many of us have a background in finance reporting and accounting, but found that this work became repetitive and monotonous. Our personalities and skills lend themselves to work that is more dynamic, challenging and ever-changing. Consulting and project work allows for this, and provided a natural career progression. It offers the opportunity to work on different problems to create unique solutions which is very rewarding. We get to work with different and interesting people across the globe who we are able to learn from.
SAP Loans Management is a very well designed and effective solution; however, there are not many doing it with the same level of experience and expertise, which has created a niche market for us where client demand is creating great opportunities. Particularly in Southern Africa, as a developing country, these opportunities are powering growth and the macro-economy.
Jaco Louw, Solution Architect, explains “What makes working with SAP Loans so rewarding is knowing the solution is so versatile and proven in so many lending verticals. Even more so, its compact architect and low TCO makes it an affordable and viable solution for institutions of all sizes and budgets.’’
Mariana van Wyk, Senior Functional Consultant, continues “Mastering a solution that caters for all lending types provides variation to the role. Knowing you’ll be supporting an agricultural lender throughout one project, to then being able to support a lender specialising in lending to SME’s, brings a real level excitement to your career.’’
SAP Fioneer S/4 Loans Management is the latest version of their lending engine SAP Consumer Mortgage Loans, a solution designed to help financial institutions manage loans efficiently. The key benefits are:
Martin Pellow-Jarman, Senior Functional Consultant, comments “S/4HANA Loans Management, and its predecessor, is one of the only solutions available that provides comprehensive coverage for all lending types. That, coupled with its open architecture, user experience agnostic ability and proven scalability makes for a market leading proposition.’’
Levin Surajballi, Senior Technical Consultant, adds ‘‘After all the implementations the team and I have been involved in, I’m still amazed at just how flexible, scalable and versatile SAP Loans Management is, it really does tick all of the boxes for institutional lenders of all sizes.’’
Most notably clients are becoming increasingly cost conscious. Since the pandemic, budgets are tighter than ever and clients need to see value for money. Many are looking to leverage existing SAP systems and infrastructure to optimise business processes to improve efficiency and in turn reduce costs. As a team, we believe in empowering the in-house customer team with the skills and knowledge to enable self-service once we hand over the project, so there are no further external costs for the client.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic we have also seen an increase in demand for automation. Business during the pandemic demonstrated how low-touch processing is required as well as enabling greater digital transformation. Many clients are doing this by adopting S/4HANA, for example for a client running on ECC (SAP predecessor) giving them the opportunity to standardise through newly introduced features or leverage standard API’s to increase connectivity, as well as many clients adapting or migrating to Cloud technologies.
Institutions are requiring increased flexibility from their Lending Platforms, which is becoming an even greater priority as many ageing systems cannot couple. Clients now demand a scalable system which is able to handle all their different Lending products with the various permutations or structures within each product, S/4HANA Loans Management is an ideal solution for this level of flexibility and has proven to be a market leader for over 20 years.
A client necessity for this year, is focus on the customer journey. For too long the focus has been on the lenders, opposed to borrower, where customer journeys are over complicated and often require the borrower to provide information which the institution already holds. This has changed over the past 18 months, where we’re now seeing institutions invest more into innovating the front-end and putting extreme focus on the user experience. This plays to the strength of SAP Loans Management which, with its open architecture, enables it to be coupled with nearly all CRM or self-developed origination journeys.
Marinda Fullard, comments “I am really blessed to have a highly technical team for whom these challenges are nothing new; they have seen it all and have come up with world-class solutions. My team are passionate about helping make sure that money is best spent where it will make the biggest difference.”
Many clients seem to be intimidated by the system believing it is complicated but with simple, compact architecture it offers ease of implementation and allows for improved efficiency helping financial institutions streamline loan origination, servicing, and collections processes, reducing the time and effort required to manage loans. The solution can also automate loan processing, allowing for faster loan approvals and disbursements.
Another common misbelief is that it requires a lot of enhancement and customisation which is time consuming and expensive. However, low production configuration time provides the ability to define and implement a product in just days. Better still, it’s intuitive user-experience allows business users to become more independent and less reliant on IT or Technology teams.
A lack of flexibility and not capable for complex loans, but flexibility is what sets the solution apart. A flexible product configuration without the need for programming, it can fit to different loans businesses and integrate with different customer servicing or CRM solutions. This flexibility extends to deployment models.
Finally, is that it isn’t widely used or recognised which is false. With over 700 users worldwide spanning retail, commercial, banks, insurance and cross-industry companies.
Jason Govender, Senior Functional Consultant, says “Not many technology providers can quote that their software underpins the loan-book of over 700 institutional lenders worldwide. Knowing you’re enabling customers by implementing proven and scalable technology gives us all confidence when articulating the power of the solution.’’
What we all mentioned first when asked this question is the culture. Since the start, bancon has built an international family of highly skilled and professional people who are empowered to contribute to the company not just work for them, collaborate on global projects and share experience, knowledge and ideas. Proposition and people are the focus, not profit. The company offers a dynamic and agile working environment that is more personal than the hierarchal structure of big companies.
Joining bancon was a great opportunity to be part of a new, highly skilled, global team who are working on exciting projects. They have a focus on improving in their Loans Management competency so naturally with our experience this had great appeal. For a niche company they have an impressive history and background through their ties with SAP and SAP Fioneer, involved in developing many of the standard solutions. They are committed to investing in South Africa, and this made it feel like by joining bancon we would be part of a new wave of technology growth and advancements in the market - the sky is the limit and we had to be a part of this.
Francois le Grange, Senior Technical Consultant, adds ‘‘Not only is bancon investing in its talent, but we’re also aggressively investing in a suite of tools and accelerators that are aimed at increasing project efficiency and effectiveness through automation. Knowing my experience is valued and seeing my insight impact the development roadmap provides real job satisfaction.’’
Not only will you get a team who have deep understanding for the technology at hand, you receive experts who have an understanding of the lending market, consumer habits and understand the important elements of specialised lending segments including development lending, micro-financing and agricultural lending. A team who combined have over 200 years of global experience and applied knowledge of best practices from around the world. We aim to be more than a technology partner, enabling wider business change through our deep knowledge and passion for the lending sector.
Marinda Fullard, comments ‘‘What sets this team apart is their unwavering trust in each other and knowing that between them, any challenge can be met, and expectations exceeded. That, and their absolute unparalleled knowledge of the lending landscape across multiple lending verticals. Knowing you have a team who can understand and convey solutions to stakeholders from varying segments and seniorities is unquestionably the single biggest USP.’’
More than a technology partner and more an honorary ‘member of the board’ whose experience you can lean on to validate ideas, challenge conventions, advise on where money is best spent or bring into ‘blue-sky-thinking’ sessions. We aim for our relationship to evolve to such a point where we can take an active role in helping you to define propositions, approaches, architectures and overall transformation strategies. A true long-term partner who can help guide you through many of the hurdles we’ve experienced in other accounts across the globe.
Lastly, you can expect fun and a great collaborative culture. We’re a dynamic, growing and agile tech-consulting family, who enjoy what we do and the people we work with.
Marinda Fullard, laughs ‘‘We’re growing, and fast. And not just in South Africa. Our vision for the team is to concentrate our SAP Loans expertise in South Africa and Germany to enable global coverage, to increase access to talent but also to ensure domestic coverage, as a large portion of the install base is situated in either country. We invested heavily in our SAP Loans capability over recent years, and that investment is already paying off. Keeping up with demand is our key priority, but what is critical is that we maintain the standards that we’ve become known for - that’s the challenge I’ve set for the team.”
Pawel Smolak, continues ‘‘Preparing for the wave of clients who will be transitioning to the latest version of Loans Management, S/4HANA. Enabling clients to make the move more efficiently is important and one we’re confident we can provide through the experience within the team and the automation capabilities we have access to through our transition focused and proprietary bTools.”
Jaco Louw, agrees ‘‘Ramping up to support clients in transitioning to S/4HANA, definitely. With the 2027 deadline approaching, our clients are looking to us to help them plan for that move. We’re seeing clients using the transition to S/4HANA as a reason to simplify their landscape through adopting standard processes and removing unused custom code. ’’
Francois le Grange, adds “Bringing through the new generation of experts. It’s our responsibility to make sure we have a solid succession plan which is vital for us to keep up with the demand, and ensuring clients have access to deep experience over the next five, ten or say fifteen years.’’