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Digital product development across a $42bn US bank

"The product development process that DCX has helped create allows us to bring our experience up to a level that our customers would expect, whilst retaining a human-centred focus that puts people at the heart of the communities we serve. The future sees us building on this foundation and creating more digital products and services for Valley in partnership with DCX."

Stuart Cook, Chief Digital Product Officer, Valley Bank

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Background

With $42 billion in assets and on a mission to drive growth opportunities beyond New Jersey, Alabama, Florida, and New York, Valley Bank wanted to improve the banking experience with new digital products and services.

They had a vision to grow revenue by shipping and supporting great products that would perform nationally, whilst providing a digital service that represented its commitment to being a community bank.

The bank had the ambition to create capability that allowed for fast product discovery and rapid development. The other determination was to do this in a contemporary way that future-proofed ways of working and was more akin to a challenger bank than a regional bank.

It was imperative that we built something that did this, and allowed Valley Bank to make sense of how to solve the needs of the business, the customer, and technology

dcx-case-study-valley-bank-1-2000x1000

Solution

We embedded a product team within the bank and then worked together to unlock product value that we could own by expertly fusing the disciplines of viability, feasibility, and desirability.

This allowed us to understand if there was an investable business case for shipping a product that would generate ROI. Equally, it mitigated risk and avoided wasting money on building a product that wouldn’t solve the bank's challenges.



Building a digital service for Homeowners Associations (HOAs)

The first opportunity assessment we supported was HOAs. HOAs are private organisations responsible for the management of residential developments, including service provision, payments, and development rules and regulations. In the USA, there are over 370,000 HOAs representing over 40 million households (over 53% of the owner-occupied households in the USA). HOAs, like other businesses, need banking facilities.

Before we could even begin thinking about what a digital product could look like, the DCX team needed to understand the HOA market in more detail.

We began with an opportunity assessment and interviewing stakeholders from across the bank and its HOA members. This was eye-opening, as we soon realised that many banks had essentially overlooked HOAs, often providing them with the same offers as small businesses, when their needs are substantially different. The majority of banks focused on retail customers, and those that did have offerings specifically for HOAs, tended to have a poor digital experience.

By discovering this gap in the market, Valley Bank stakeholders approved the investment case for the team to explore this in more detail, and we soon moved on to the product definition and build stages. This way of working is broken down into two cycles that look at the desirability, viability, and feasibility of a product, before it’s taken into product creation and launch of a minimum viable product (MVP).

 

Product development

After identifying there was a market opportunity, we were able to start creating the first HOA product.

Firstly, we looked at what the issues were with the current experience and figured out how digital could improve this. We noted what other organisations were doing in the market, and spoke regularly with the bank’s customers and stakeholders to ensure we understood their pain points in depth and got their feedback at specific intervals throughout product ideation.

When it came to building the product, we were focused on creating the ideal experience and trying new technology tools to future-proof Valley Bank’s product creation.

There was a continuous cycle of test and learning throughout the build, with iterations based on customer feedback, and increases in functionality detail as the product progressed. This was all linked back to the initial opportunity assessment phase, with things like competitor research and customer ethnography taken into account along with the business case requirements.

The products were built in a test environment with alpha and beta release cycles, before being ready for a pilot launch into the bank’s environment.



Technology challenges

One of the earliest challenges we discovered from a technology perspective was when looking at what the bank already had in place.

As a Microsoft-based organisation, Valley Bank had invested heavily in Azure, in addition to the Salesforce enterprise CRM stack and Kentico CMS. It was therefore we capitalised on this investment.

Our chosen solution deployed Kentico as a headless CMS, providing content through APIs to a React-based application hosted on the Azure Cloud. The React app integrated through to Salesforce using Azure functions, taking customer data captured from the public web and routing this through specific web services (e.g. registration) to create records in the back office that can be actioned by other teams within the bank.

We introduced new technology such as Microsoft Azure Personalizer, an AI reinforcement learning solution, in order to provide a targeted content experience for different website users and help drive both user engagement and lead conversion.

2B$+

loans applied for

170K+

jobs saved

25M+

in revenue opportunities

Results

The work on HOA has been valuable and re-usable beyond that initiative. For example, the e-signature process created as part of customer registration was re-purposed to provide a new product when Valley Bank needed to rapidly pivot during the Covid-19 outbreak.

It was used to provide financial support for small businesses with loan applications, backed by the US Government and Federal Reserves CARES act. Over 11,000 digital applications and $2.2bn loans were successfully applied for in one week in April 2020, saving more than 170,000 jobs.

Since working with Valley Bank, DCX has conducted more than 10 opportunity assessments and identified over $25m in revenue opportunity.

By putting in place a 'Digital Factory' set-up, the team was quickly able to support the bank scaling their digital product capabilities, including embedding defined ways of working. This rapid scaling shows how effective the process is and how having a focused team with a specific skill set is vital to this way of working.

Do Financial Services. Better.