Neo Financial Uses AWS to Drive Innovative Fintech Offerings in Canada
The Canadian financial services startup Neo Financial (Neo) is bringing technology-driven alternatives to the classic banking model. Currently, much of the banking industry relies on cumbersome paperwork and lengthy approvals at physical branches, with deep-seated regulations that limit the ability of new players to enter the market. Neo is carving out space with a stack of digital financial services that provide customers with simpler, more agile money management opportunities featuring robust rewards systems. Neo has incorporated Amazon Web Services (AWS) solutions into every facet of the company—including security, data storage, and analytics—to create a highly secure, scalable, and agile architecture that meets the rigorous demands of its customers, partners, and regulators. Since its inception, the company has added users across Canada and thousands of retail partners.
We had a bigger vision right from the get-go. Our services that we use—all the tooling, all the testing, all the pipelines, and all the automation—are all on AWS.”
Cofounder and Head of Technology, Neo Financial
Supporting an Infrastructure Built Entirely on AWS
Founded in 2019, Neo serves Canadian consumers with innovative financial products and services. Its first product was the Neo Card, a combined credit card and secured card that is simple enough to set up that customers can do it while they are standing in line to pay. The Neo Card launched with an extensive rewards program in partnership with thousands of merchants, from large national corporations to local stores. Neo separately partnered with Hudson’s Bay Company, one of Canada’s biggest retailers, to offer a cobranded card that offered sizable incentives for shoppers. Simultaneously, Hudson’s Bay Company was able to rapidly revamp its marketing strategy to an approach driven by data analytics. “We’ve been able to grow our user base faster than we even imagined when we started the company,” says Kris Read, Neo’s cofounder and head of technology. “Our scalable cloud architecture, which we built using a suite of AWS services, is the reason for our ability to handle that in stride.” From the beginning, as a point of differentiation, Neo set out to build its own technology using AWS services instead of enlisting third-party vendors. Neo credits AWS for paying attention to its needs as a customer. “Of course, there’s the tech support,” says Read. “But as we’ve grown and scaled up, there’s also been more big-picture support, like architectural reviews—especially related to network redesign.”
Innovating Using Serverless and Scalable Services on AWS
Neo uses out-of-the-box AWS services that seamlessly work together to create a modern architecture using serverless components that save time and reduce costs. The company rapidly builds and tests code using AWS CodeBuild, a fully managed continuous integration service that compiles source code, runs tests, and produces software packages that are ready to deploy. Neo doesn’t have to provision, manage, or scale its own servers, helping it to quickly launch products, such as its no-fee savings account in December 2020. The company’s rapidly growing developer team can improve products and update software quickly using AWS CodePipeline, a fully managed continuous delivery service that helps automate release pipelines for fast and reliable application and infrastructure updates. “Right out of the gate, we could use AWS services and scale them to hundreds and hundreds of pipelines as our needs grew,” Read says.
To create and deploy applications faster and more securely, Neo uses several containerized service solutions on AWS that work together. For example, the company uses Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), a fully managed container orchestration service that makes it simple to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications. Amazon ECS works seamlessly alongside AWS Fargate, a serverless, pay-as-you-go compute engine that lets users focus on building applications without managing servers. Plus, using AWS Fargate helps Neo achieve the scalability it needs for its machine learning applications.
Neo uses serverless, scalable AWS services for its entire event bus so that each service can scale up and down with demand. Instead of having to write specific sequential code, Neo developers use AWS Step Functions, a low-code visual workflow service that developers can use to build distributed applications, automate IT and business processes, and build data and machine learning pipelines using AWS services. Neo uses AWS Step Functions to modularize code to simplify the workflow for use cases such as credit card requests by users. AWS Step Functions works alongside other AWS services, such as AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets users run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers. Using its solutions built on AWS, Neo developed the Neo Card from idea to launch in about 9 months, less than 50 percent of the time a traditional bank might take to launch a comparable credit card.
Neo’s compliance team also uses a host of AWS security services. “From a security and compliance perspective, AWS is far ahead,” Read says. Neo enhances its security posture by running applications and storing data close to home in the AWS Canada (Central) Region. Proximity benefits Neo’s customers with uninterrupted use of service, which for Neo translates to resiliency. “That’s a testament to us having our technology working correctly: no news is good news,” Read says. “We are always active using AWS. Our customers don’t have problems with access.”
Continuing to Modernize the Industry
To accurately maintain the integrity of its financial data, in late 2021 Neo launched its core ledger using Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (Amazon QLDB), a fully managed ledger database that provides a transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable transaction log. Using Amazon QLDB, Neo has a flexible, efficient, and highly accurate system of record without the added database configuration and administration burden associated with a traditional database. And because Amazon QLDB is a serverless service that automatically scales, Neo doesn’t need to worry about provisioning capacity in the future as its customer base expands and the company considers adding new services, such as mortgages, investing, and retirement planning. “It’s not just about hosting,” Read says. “We had a bigger vision right from the get-go. Our services that we use—all the tooling, all the testing, all the pipelines, and all the automation—are all on AWS.”
Founded in 2019, Neo Financial is a Canadian technology company that aims to reimagine spending, savings, and rewards for its customers and partners by using technology to simplify finances, create rewarding experiences, and build community.
Benefits of AWS
- Cut time to bring new credit card to market by about 50%
- Built and controlled its own technology stack
- Created hundreds of serverless data pipelines
- Simplified workflow for business processes
AWS Services Used
AWS CodeBuild is a fully managed continuous integration service that compiles source code, runs tests, and produces software packages that are ready to deploy. With CodeBuild, you don’t need to provision, manage, and scale your own build servers.
Amazon Quantum Ledger Database
Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) is a fully managed ledger database that provides a transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable transaction log.
Amazon Elastic Container Service
Amazon ECS is a fully managed container orchestration service that makes it easy for you to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications.
AWS Step Functions
AWS Step Functions is a low-code, visual workflow service that developers use to build distributed applications, automate IT and business processes, and build data and machine learning pipelines using AWS services.
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