Raiffeisen Bank International Launches Scalable Finance Platform Using AWS
Around 5 years ago, Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) needed a change. Its IT organization was struggling to provide the agility and flexibility that RBI expected. Its staff were tied up dealing with capacity issues and scaling up to meet computing needs, so the bank decided to develop all new initiatives with a cloud solution in mind.
RBI is a leading financial services provider in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe with a presence in 13 countries. It provides for corporate, investment, retail, and private banking, as well as other financial services such as asset management, insurance, and merger-and-acquisition services.
The bank selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its first public cloud provider and began developing the Merlin platform, which would support its ambition to create and provide digital products that were more customer focused. These products include a mobile banking app, its corporate web portal, and open banking capabilities compliant with the Revised Payment Services Directive regulations.
If you want to do something really advanced, it's good to get the expertise and tooling that will equip the team with capabilities they didn’t have before.”
Head of IT, MIB Group Delivery Center at Raiffeisen Bank International
Building a Centralized, Digital FX Platform
Fast forward to 2019, when Merlin became the foundation for a centralized digital platform to address the foreign exchange needs of RBI’s clients.
In many of the markets covered by RBI, its subsidiary banks previously used third-party foreign exchange (FX) platforms that were outdated, offered a poor customer experience, and were expensive to run. Some markets didn’t offer a digital service at all.
RBI’s R-Flex platform was built using agile methods and reusable blocks of code enabled by Merlin. This would allow the capabilities to be rolled out to RBI’s various subsidiary banks with limited re-engineering work. As a result, RBI could expand the service to bring value to different markets while keeping a tight rein on costs.
“Our vision was to provide a simple and intuitive digital solution, because most of our clients don’t need an overly complex FX platform—they need something simple where they can buy and sell currency and immediately see the impact on their accounts, and check their balances,” says Pavla Delmotte, sales steering leader, capital markets, corporate, and retail sales at RBI.
Going Live with R-Flex
Romania served as the pilot market for R-Flex, going live in early 2021. A second market, Croatia, was recently added. The RBI development team has been able to update R-Flex every quarter and plans to launch in additional markets soon.
Using the capabilities of Merlin, R-Flex provides a simple, browser-based interface to allow business users to make transactions in foreign currencies.
It gives RBI customers a simple dashboard to control all accounts and access real-time rates. It can be personalized to show whichever currencies the customer most often needs to exchange. Each currency window shows live rates for buying and selling. After completing a transaction, customers can see the account balance updated in near-real time, and can track the list of transactions in real time.
Since launching in Romania at the beginning of 2021, R-Flex has seen around 800 active corporate users making more than 6,800 transactions equating to €603 million in trading volume. Customers onboarded on R-Flex have traded 48 percent more volume this year, compared to the same period in 2020.
RBI plans to constantly improve R-Flex. And, thanks to the way in which the platform has been built, the company will be able to “act fast based on customer needs and develop R-Flex based on what customers want—and stay flexible,” according to Delmotte.
“We are talking about a modern approach for the FX area, one common, unified platform within the RBI group, and, thanks to AWS, we can remove the glass ceiling that impeded our development in the past,” says Cywinski.
The Magic of Merlin
Currently, more than 50 RBI engineering teams in Austria and CEE countries are using Merlin. They build and run more than 170 microservice environments on AWS.
The capabilities that Merlin provides have helped transform the working culture at the bank, enabling it to become more agile across the board. For example, RBI has embraced Amazon’s two-pizza team model—the idea that teams should be small enough that two pizzas will be enough to feed them—to reduce communication overhead and make teams more focused on their purpose. These smaller teams work across disciplines, not just in IT and banking.
RBI aims to use the capabilities of AWS to move toward a No-Ops model. Using that, different teams will be able to work with Merlin independently of one another, and won’t need to wait for other teams to make progress on projects.
“With everything as code—infrastructure, configuration, and applications—you get rid of manual effort, but also gain the ability to deploy in different environments,” says Stephan Lippert, Merlin product owner, platform and services for cloud-based banking products, RBI. “This resolves dependencies between different teams, so people don’t have to wait for each other.”
This approach means employees who are building products don’t need to be experts in the technology. “It’s really powerful to have overall autonomy within the teams,” says Cywinski.
Using AWS is also part of RBI’s strategy to use the best technology to attract the best developer talent to sustain innovation. The bank plans to develop its mobile capabilities further and become more data-driven as it looks at ways to provide insights into customer behavior.
The digital transformation made possible by AWS also feeds into RBI’s ambition to act less like a traditional financial services provider and more like a software company—by placing a greater focus on user experience and having a more automated and iterative release process for new digital products and services supporting RBI’s ambition to become the most recommended financial services group in the region.
Lippert says the benefits add up nicely: “In the financial industry, you’ll rarely find such common ground and platforms like Merlin that really scale and adapt to local requirements.”
About Raiffeisen Bank International
Raiffeisen Bank International is a leading financial services provider in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe. It is present in 13 countries, servicing more than 18 million customers.
Benefits of AWS
- Creating a cloud-based development platform for innovation
- Developing and implementing a centralized FX platform to be used across different markets
- Having the technology capabilities to attract the best developer talent
- Changing the company culture to be more like a software company than a traditional financial services provider
AWS Services Used
AWS Lambda is a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets you run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers.
Amazon API Gateway
Amazon API Gateway is a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale.
Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) service built for high performance, security, and developer convenience.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.
Companies of all sizes across all industries are transforming their businesses every day using AWS. Contact our experts and start your own AWS Cloud journey today.