Fast growing home loan lender, Pepper, has shifted to Microsoft-based cloud infrastructure to simplify its processes and keep pace with an increasingly regulated Australian financial services sector.\nPepper Money\u2019s chief information officer, Jeremy Francis told CIO Australia that the organisation had several vendors providing different services. He said some services were not being used, and a more simplified and resilient IT environment that supported staff, third party brokers and external customers was needed.\nPepper Money is part of the Pepper Group and it is majority owned by US investment firm KKR & Co. Since 2000, it has grown to 750 staff across Australia and New Zealand. It opened its first European office in London in 2012, and also has offices in Ireland, Spain and South Korea.\nThe company has moved from internally-managed older versions of Microsoft Office tools to Office 365 and Azure.\n\u201cSo instead of trying to go down the route of upgrading and managing everything internally, we went down the Office 365 route,\u201d said Pepper\u2019s senior manager, enterprise services, Nilang Shah.\nShah said this was a \u2018risk-oriented decision\u2019 and moving to the next generation of the cloud solutions was the driver, but it also came with the added benefit of access to the latest software updates.\nPepper had previously started moving a signficiant portion of its workloads to Azure and the shift to Office 365 has been its biggest step away from an IT environment run from its own premises.\nBefore implementing the technologies, Pepper had to change the way its staff worked.\n\u201cWe went through a big process last year to move to an agile way of operating. And that was a big change that helped us deliver applications more rapidly. It helped us embed things like Azure and the infrastructure technologies in a much faster way,\u201d Francis said.\nThe Office 365 roll out took around six months. It was a multi-stage project, which started with a refresh of devices. This was followed by the move to the latest versions of the Windows OS and Office and then eventually to Office 365.\nThe changes also allowed the business to leverage Azure and scale up infrastructure without having to purchase additional equipment for its data centres.\nFrancis said shifting to the cloud wasn't an isolated move but part of a wider strategy to make sure that the whole IT environment was moving in the same direction.\nAlthough the company has been around for 20 years, it is nimble enough to easily adopt new technology, he said.\n\u201cWe're unlike a FinTech in the sense that we've been around for a long time.\u00a0But we're in a position where we're still small enough to be very nimble with technology and adopt new technologies and do new things in the same way that a smaller organisation might . So I think I\u2019d describe Pepper from a technology perspective as being in that middle ground where we get the best of both worlds,\u201d Francis said.\nImproved collaboration\nApart from simplifying the business, another benefit from the move to Office 365 and Teams was improved collaboration and productivity.\n\u201cAnd that was everything from our rollout of Microsoft Teams - we created an environment where our people were able to use the sort of things that they were familiar with using at home or on their mobile device,\u201d Francis said.\n\u201cEven simple things like being able to put gifs in messages and post on teams\u2019 sites. It's a lot more familiar to the way that people interact at home these days as well. We got really simple benefits, like the ability to collaborate on a document or a PowerPoint together. These are very small things but they can make a big difference when you extend it out across the whole organisation,\u201d Francis added.\n\u201cWe realise that there's a direct link between the experience that our employees have and the experience that then flows onto our customers and so we're always conscious of both.\u201d\nThe cloud move also allowed Francis\u2019 team of 80 people to focus on building proprietary applications.\u00a0Pepper works mostly with third party brokers selling mortgage and personal loans as well as auto and auto equipment loans. Digital tools are used quickly determine whether a customer will be approved for a loan.\n\u201cWe've just built two broker support tools that allow our broker to be able to get a really quick response to their customers on what solutions are available to them,\u201d Francis said.\nFor instance, if a broker goes to a bank and their customer is rejected, Pepper can automatically provide two or three other potential solutions that they can present to the customer. These are also online tools that integrate external data from credit bureaus with Pepper\u2019s internal data for credit decision allowing for an immediate response to customers.\nFrancis expected that Pepper will have more flexibility to access and use data and also scale the technology platforms to keep pace with the company\u2019s growth trajectory.\nHe added that the company will continue to move more services to the cloud from its own data centres - which makes up about one-third of its infrastructure - with one-third running in Azure, and the remainder provided as SaaS apps.