Building innovative digital products in record time

Standard Bank Logo

Standard Bank is not only one of the leading banks and financial services companies in South Africa but also Africa’s biggest lender by assets. As a bank that was formed in 1862, it is considered to be one of the most prestigious blue chip companies in Africa. Unfortunately, this long and celebrated heritage also comes with its complications as the bank struggled to modernise its technology stack and digitise its service offering.

The bank is often viewed as bureaucratic and slow when it comes to launching innovative digital solutions despite its strategic intent to become the leading, client focused, digitally enabled bank. In 2019, Retro Rabbit were fortunate enough to be onboarded at Standard Bank as a preferred partner for delivering innovative digital solutions as part of the bank’s acquisition of Liberty Life’s Short Term Insurance business.

The Retro Rabbit team managed to integrate the short term product into Standard Bank and relaunch the solution within 6 months - a significant delivery milestone for Standard Bank who typically takes much longer to launch new digital products.

The success of the project gave the Retro Rabbit team significant exposure within the bank and we were quickly seen as the experts in building innovative front end channels and integrating them into legacy back end systems. Some of our more noteworthy projects at Standard Bank are discussed below:

Short Term Insurance Chatbot

The short term insurance project was the first insurance product in South Africa that was able to perform the complete user journey, from onboarding through to self service and claims via a conversational user interface (aka Chatbot). After Standard Bank acquired the solution from Liberty we were tasked with:

  • Redesigning the user experience to be in line with Standard Bank’s brand guideline
  • Integrating the backend systems with the bank’s legacy systems
  • Re-engineering the channel layer to be compliant with the bank’s architectural guidelines
  • Reskinning the frontend to provide users with the expected Standard Bank experience
Standard Bank App screens

WhatsApp for Relationship Managers

After the successful conclusion of the STI project, the Retro Rabbit team were seen as experts in building conversational user experiences. This led to  the implementation of the WhatsApp for Relationship Managers (WARM) project.

The WARM system is used by relationship managers in the bank to manage all WhatsApp interactions with clients. What initially started as a system purely used to monitor and manage client engagement through Whatsapp, has now evolved into a full service banking channel for Standard Bank which includes self service, client queries and even transactional banking features, all performed through a generic chat inter-face and fully integrated with the bank’s core banking platform.

My 360 Mobile app

The My360 Mobile application enables users to better manage their financial life by giving them an award-winning overview of all their assets and investments in a single application.

The dashboard allows users to view details of all their assets in their investment portfolios including: properties, cars, pension funds, art collections, stocks, bonds, cash and ETFs.

This allows users to set financial goals and improve financial planning no matter who they bank with or who manages the investments. Retro Rabbit was initially pulled into projects to augment the resources of the existing development team, but as time passed the Retro team became core to ensure successful delivery of new features. Once again proving our ability to deliver innovative digital solutions in complex environments.

Standard Bank Website Screens

Challenges faced

A brief look into the biggest obstacles we encountered and how we overcame them.

Legacy systems

The bank possesses substantial legacy systems, whilst also on a journey to modernise their whole platform and migrating several systems into the cloud. This caused considerable integration challenges with internal architecture in a constant state of flux.

Internal Stakeholder Alignment

The culture of internal development teams were not aligned with Retro’s brand of taking ownership and placing project delivery at the heart of our team. Internal bank teams typically balance system delivery with myriad other corporate goals. Retro’s laser focus on delivery mandated serious efforts towards aligning with key internal stakeholders and motivating them to assist us with project delivery.

Competing for one of the top spenders in SA

We continually face serious competition from other vendors in the bank. Standard Bank is one of the top spenders in South Africa when it comes to software development and digital transformation services and everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Working with Silo'ed Teams

The bank operates in very distinct isolated silos and the work we do typically span many different departments and business units. Aligning all the relevant parties and getting them to work together is always a challenge.

System overload

During month-end, the bank’s systems often struggle to cope with the amount of data and transaction volumes it has to process on its transactional systems. These constraints lead to performance issues on all other projects and teams within the bank.

Results Achieved

Retro successfully built, integrated and launched the first chat based short term insurance product in SA for Liberty Life. This product was subsequently bought out by Standard Bank and Retro’s team then successfully redesigned the solution to suit the Standard Bank brand and integrated it into the Bank’s core systems.

Rapidly iterating over an initial concept for the WARM project, Retro was able to deliver a working chat based relationship tool within 4 months from inception. Based on the success of the project we have been involved with the continuous evolution of the product towards a dedicated banking channel.

Engineering load balanced solutions allowed Retro to optimise mainframe capacity, while successfully guarding against system overloads This reduced end of month computing constraints providing improved system uptime.

Retro deployed a well integrated development team with self sustaining internal mechanisms to ensure a cohesive delivery squad

A trust relationship with internal staff members and vertical team leads allowed us to implement and deploy at a pace that was previously not possible without significant investment from the bank This relationship building also serves as a platform for cross selling within the bank ensuring that we are best placed for future projects.

I used Retro Rabbit to develop custom software applications for my business unit, including building 2 separate short-term insurance apps and a stokvel app, and I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of their work. The team was highly professional, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. They took the time to understand my business requirements and provided excellent suggestions to improve the application's functionality. Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome of the projects and would not hesitate to recommend Retro Rabbit to anyone in need of top-notch software development services

Deepesh Thomas
Executive Head: Technology COE, Group Innovation
Standard Bank

About the author

Theo Crous profile picture

Theo Crous

Theo Crous

I co-founded Retro Rabbit in 2003 with my university friends. In my spare time I like to raise my two kids, drink wine, hit the mountain bike trails and learn how to sail with my beautiful wife. Read more from Theo Crous...