Case study

OTP Group goes low-to-no-code to boost innovation and slash time-to-market

Shiwaforce lends integration expertise to OTP Group as the banking giant embraces a new development approach for greater agility and productivity and less overhead.

“On a more practical level, we had to make sure that there would be an up-and-running mobile banking app, cash register system and frontend interface so MBH Bank could successfully get off the ground. The timeline for all that? Three months”

József Mura

Head of IT, OTP Retail Lending Tribe

12

countries

17.5 million

customers

1,750

branches

41,000

employees

HUF 36 billion

balance sheet total

The Story

The largest commercial bank in Hungary and the fastest growing banking group in Central and Eastern Europe, OTP Group (OTP for short) serves some 17.5 million private and corporate customers in 12 countries. It does so through its 1,750 branches, 4,600 ATMs and internet and electronic channels as well as subsidiaries in insurance, real estate, factoring, leasing and asset management, investment and pension funds. 

Over its 70-year history, OTP has gained a deep understanding of customer needs and remained committed to finding the best technology solutions to fulfill them. In recent years, it has completed multiple acquisitions, establishing itself not only as a prominent industry player in terms of size and product offering but also as a financial services innovator, leveraging synergies within the group and driving digital transformation in the region.

The Challenge

The expansions have given a major boost to OTP’s competitive position but added to the complexity of its IT landscape. Depending on the size of their customer base, market maturity and digital readiness, OTP subsidiaries in different countries have relied on wildly different technology solutions to deliver the same banking and financial services. 

“Currently, the number one goal of OTP is to create processes that are in line with country-specific requirements but are also consistent, transparent and easily transferable to any subsidiaries,” explains József Mura, head of IT at OTP’s Retail Lending Tribe. “More specifically, we’re looking to develop an IT and risk governance framework that allows members to tap an array of highly innovative and competitive solutions without having to invest major resources in building them from scratch.”

The Central and Eastern European region is marked by significant cultural differences between countries, not to mention a patchwork of market demands and regulatory frameworks. Within OTP, subsidiaries are viewed as partners who work side by side with the Hungarian headquarters to explore local consumer trends and preferences and find ways to accommodate them. OTP in Hungary aims to function as a shared service center of sorts, providing value-added services to subsidiaries through service-level agreements. 

As part of this paradigm shift, OTP first looked into off-the-shelf lending platforms that might be suitable for group-wide rollout. It soon turned out that no ready-made frontend solution was available on the market that could single-handedly support the digitalization ambitions of a banking group this large and dispersed. The only way subsidiaries were able to get any use out of such products was by completely dismantling and customizing them to their specific needs, based on their own development frameworks.

The Solution

To avoid this pitfall, OTP decided to focus on platforms and capabilities that allow for the swift development of backend and frontend systems while ensuring that the modules created remain reusable. First, József and his colleagues identified critical architectural layers, building blocks and elements and made sure they came together as a distributed architecture, where the replacement of a single module wouldn’t discard the entire system.

In lieu of a single-source solution to cover the credit assessment process from start to finish, OTP decided to establish a three-supplier model. In this setup, a SAS solution runs in the background, handling the key elements of the credit analysis process. This is connected to a component provided by FlowX.AI in Romania, which enables the rapid development of business processes to drive growth and speed up go-to-market efforts.

Given our extensive experience in both DXP and CMS platform implementation projects as well as in the financial services sector, Shiwaforce was tasked with the integration of FlowX.AI’s software. As part of the project, we had to first complete the implementation process, and then establish a robust competence center other OTP Group members could rely on for guidance in projects with a similar scope and level of complexity. 

A crucial requirement on OTP’s side was to have code of the same quality across all subsidiary applications. Meaning that low-code and no-code standards had to be defined and specific principles and procedures established. It was also important that quality should never be compromised due to organizational or personnel changes. In terms of integration technologies, Rest.API and Kafka were selected as the primary stack.

The Result

“We chose an unconventional way to test if the suppliers were a good fit,” explains József. “We invited them to a workshop where they had a chance to see what working together would look like, including solving problems that may come up in the development phase together.” Shiwaforce dedicated a mixed team of core developers, architects, testers, agile project managers and business analysts to the project. The crew took the challenge in stride, showing their ability to effectively aid OTP in addressing a variety of obstacles down the digitalization path.  

One of the biggest advantages of the hybrid collaboration model is that it fosters an environment where internal and external developer teams can seamlessly move towards a shared goal together, improving efficiency and project outcomes. Another one lies in the fact that business and IT management are closely aligned across all OTP departments. This, combined with the use of full-stack teams, allows the bank to run development projects with less coordination, lower overhead costs and no gaps in communication. 

Overall, OTP’s three-pronged development strategy has helped the banking giant drastically reduce time-to-market in more ways than one. Think: backend development times cut in half and frontend development times by 70%.

Empowering non-IT staff to design business-critical applications, it has eliminated the need to recruit entire cohorts of in-house core developers whenever a demand for business innovation arises. Instead of the 3-6-month training period recommended by most workflow management tool providers, users only need a few days or a week to learn their way around using FlowX. As József points out, “A fresh economics and information technology grad can basically set up a business process in Serbia in three days. In the past, this would have taken a team of developers three months.”

The results speak for themselves

After 20+ years with Central Europe’s leading IT and Telco stakeholders, we gathered a few instructive and inspirative stories worth sharing with those who are brave enough to dream big.