Mox Bank Launches in 18 Months with GFT, Thought Machine, and AWS
Mox Bank Limited (Mox), one of the fastest-growing banks in Hong Kong history, went from initial licensing to market deployment of its cloud-native and digital bank in 18 months. In the first month alone, it signed up over 35,000 customers. Developed as a joint venture, the cloud-native and mobile-only digital bank brings together Standard Chartered, a 160-year old international bank with the city’s telecom and lifestyle leader HKT, parent company PCCW, and Asia’s largest online travel agency Trip.com to pool their knowledge and customer bases.
GFT, a global technology engineering partner, brought its breadth and depth of engineering expertise to the project to help Mox deploy a microservices architecture. Mox also built a digital-only platform using Thought Machine for its core banking systems, running on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.
Tech-Savvy Consumers Want Modern Banking Options They Can Trust
In today’s always-on, digital world, banking consumers expect to see real-time transactions in their account and have 24/7, mobile access to personalized services. However, established banks face physical limitations when trying to meet these demands. Dependencies on retail store hours and on-premises core banking systems prevent them from offering truly innovative and personalized customer experiences. At the same time, FinTech startups, which can deliver cloud-native and mobile-first innovation, often lack a history of expertise in financial services and its regulation and compliance needs. This leaves prosperous, tech-savvy consumers stuck between two less-than-ideal choices.
Mox Started Fresh, Building a Customer-Centric Banking Experience
Mox is a cloud-native, mobile-only, and digital bank. From the outset, Mox knew it wanted to move away from the legacy technology constraints of the past to set the company on a long-term innovative path for future success. They wanted to assemble a secure and flexible platform made up of best-in-breed solutions that could be deployed quickly, would allow for ongoing adoption of new technologies, and supported a culture of microservices.
Mox enlisted GFT, a global technology engineering firm and AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, to help validate technology choices and integrate the selected components into a single banking stack.
“Ultimately, Mox adopted AWS and Thought Machine Vault because we saw speed as a key differentiator and wanted to be able to make changes quickly without compromising availability or security.”
- Andy Farmer, CIO, Mox
Mox Works with GFT to Develop a Cloud-Native, Mobile-Only Digital Bank
GFT helped Mox create a new virtual bank that puts the customer at the heart of everything it does. Working alongside the core Mox team, GFT deployed 70 advanced engineers focused on cloud engineering, DevOps, microservices, and testing to help design and stand up a virtual, full-stack bank in under 18 months. They accomplished this by configuring Thought Machine’s core banking system, Vault, and deploying it on AWS Cloud Services alongside other SaaS solutions. According to Andy Farmer, CIO at Mox, “By running Vault on AWS with Thought Machine smart contracts developers, we were able to build Mox in just 18 months.”
As the primary Solutions Integrator (SI), GFT was instrumental not only in developing the solution, but also in supporting agile methodology throughout the organization. When it came to selecting components, GFT looked for elements that would enable the bank to respond quickly to evolving consumer demands.
Vault allows its clients to develop financial products as code using Thought Machine's smart contracts system. A smart contract uses Python code to define the product, making it accessible to nearly any developer. Whereas other vendors might tightly control the customization, deployment, and (most critically) any updates of products, smart contracts give Mox direct ownership of the products, allowing it to make changes without having to wait for a vendor to intervene. Utilizing Vault’s smart contracts system, Mox will be able to deliver product updates significantly faster than banks operating on legacy technology.
The full-stack bank uses AWS for its underlying infrastructure. Vault runs Kubernetes on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for its compute and uses Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL to manage mission critical transaction data. Going forward, Mox will use Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) for cloud-native Kubernetes and Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK) for cloud-native Kafka. “Operating as an agile organization as well as a bank, I wanted our engineers to focus exclusively on solving business problems and creating a compelling customer experience,” says Andy Farmer. “Working with AWS to create the foundational infrastructure of the bank has enabled this, and utilizing more native AWS services in future will amplify this even more.”
Mox Enables Real-Time Customer Experiences
Today, a new Mox customer can be onboarded in under three minutes—a testament to the company’s goal of providing exceptional, real-time services across its customer-facing products. Mox delivers this level of service by leveraging event-driven architecture on AWS to prioritize activities and by using the smart contracts in Thought Machine’s Vault to update applications quickly. Andy Farmer explains that saying, “Using event-driven architecture on AWS allows us to handle peaks more gracefully and build on the reliability of our individual systems. By running synchronous and asynchronous integrations, we can ensure customer experiences are prioritized and no messages are lost.”
The Full-Stack Platform Accelerates Innovation and Agility
Building on AWS enables faster innovation by making it easy to integrate new components and providing a cost-effective environment for deploying microservices. “The cloud boosts new tooling because everything goes through Application programming interfaces (APIs) which are designed to share data. This makes it easier to get key information that can be used to drive bespoke customer interactions,” explained Jarosław Szczepankiewicz, Head of Architecture and Senior Cloud Solutions at GFT. “For instance, a new Vault instance can be provisioned in less than an hour on AWS.”
Each of the focused development teams at Mox own their unique application features from end-to-end, allowing them to work independently at their own speed. Andy Farmer describes how this flexibility fuels the focus on customer experience, “When we want to add a new customer-facing capability, we can easily spin up a new development group to work on it very quickly. We do this on a regular basis to continually make improvements.”
“Data integrity is paramount for our business. A bank needs to be safe, secure, and reliable to earn trust with its customers. We chose to work with AWS to support this key foundational requirement. AWS provides us with a trusted and secure base to ensure we deliver on this promise for our customers.”
- Andy Farmer, CIO, Mox
The Cloud-Based Design Decreases Development Costs
Traditional banks that operate legacy on-premises technology have to rely on careful customer forecasts to plan their investments and their product roadmap. By building on the cloud, Mox was able to start small and operate the bank at a substantially lower cost base, but with technology that can scale as customer numbers grow. Similarly, Vault’s cloud native technology allowed Mox to optimize efficiencies and the resources of AWS services, so teams could manage production without having to know the predetermined outcome of the bank. “Paying for usage is a flexibility that has never been available for core banking systems before,” explains Andy Farmer. “With AWS, we only need to consume the resources we need at any time, rather than sizing IT infrastructure for a predicted big demand a lot further down the road. In addition, AWS provides failover, backup, transaction loading, and more, all built in for the same price.”
GFT is a technology engineering firm specializing in the implementation of effective and innovative technology platforms that deliver modernization and true business transformation for clients in financial services, insurance, and manufacturing.
About Thought Machine
Thought Machine builds core banking technology enabling banks to deploy modern, cloud-native systems and move away from the legacy platforms that plague the banking industry.
Published December 2020