Name: Eglantine EtiembleTitle: Chief technology officerCompany: PEXA GroupCommenced role: March 2022Reporting line: CEOMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 421 staff, 8 direct reports
Having already established itself as a crucial part of the Australian residential property market – being involved in more than 80% of all land transactions nationally, PEXA set its sights on expanding internationally.
Beginning with the United Kingdom, PEXA wanted to replicate its model in other markets. But since technology had advanced exponentially since PEXA’s conception, its infrastructure needed significant modernisation work to allow it to be usable in other jurisdictions.
Under the leadership of chief technology officer Eglantine Etiemble, PEXA’s technology team embarked on three distinct but complementary project to help make this new venture possible, and to help ensure the organisation remains stable and grows in the Australian market.
First off the block was to build a modern, evergreen platform to support the UK expansion at a rapid pace and which could be reused for other markets.
“This platform was constructed from the ground up, and designed with modern technology standards,” Etiemble tells CIO Australia.
The platform features capabilities such as microservices – smaller domain aligned services with a continuous delivery mindset, and an API first model where a composable set of modules within the platform allows expansion into multiple markets from a shared code base.
It was also developed on a native cloud basis using resilience of the hyper-scalers while building differentiating business features.
Live with zero defects
Having an API-as-a-product mindset has allowed PEXA to better use existing capability in its partner systems, simplifying adoption and reducing ongoing support complexity, says Etiemble.
“The re-mortgage capability of the UK platform went live with its first transaction in September 2022 with zero defects and without any customer training. Specifically, the user interface design was lauded by our conveyancers and lenders,” she says.
The second program launched was to undertake the modernisation of the core exchange in Australia, while driving reusability across the UK and Australia platforms and merging them into a single ecosystem.
To enable that, Etiemble led the design of a group platform strategy which aligned the architecture principles and teams – and brought forward the reusability of different elements of across the two platforms.
A key element of her strategy was to create a single platform mindset in the product and technology teams, and to progressively develop roadmaps for convergence.
She also evolved PEXA’s platform architecture to reduce obsolescence in heritage systems using a strangler pattern to break things up and replacing them with new capability built for international markets.
In addition, data and analytics were added to the platform, using modern tools and architecture to ensure the safe consumption of data internally and externally.
Finally, to underpin the first two initiatives, the focus switched to resiliency. A framework was designed to help PEXA enhance the robustness of its architecture on an ongoing basis, despite the significant growth and change it was experiencing.
Designing and implementing a resiliency framework helped ensure the availability and reliability of systems, while a view of the leading indicators for the framework was created so proactive action can take place.
The overall three-pronged approach was fuelled by the need for Etiemble to deliver on the technology team’s key priorities, while juggling funding limitations.
“This model helped in minimising reinvestment and was strongly endorsed by all the executives in PEXA as well as the group board,” she says.
The value of re-useability
Tapping into the value of re-useability, Etiemble focused on looking at technology holistically as an ecosystem of platforms, while driving expansion and managing technology debt simultaneously and building resilience innovatively and from the beginning.
This approach resulted in the successful delivery of several business outcomes – particularly launching PEXA in the UK.
The focus on reusability means PEXA’s newly built technology capability is portable to other markets, with the company actively exploring entering new markets such as New Zealand and Canada.
Another was outcome achieved was cost avoidance.
“At least 25% less CAPEX required was avoided given the initial plan of separate workstreams for UK build and Australian modernisation,” says Etiemble.
Other outcomes include:
Core to her success in these initiatives has been Etiemble’s empathetic leadership approach and offering vision, encouragement, trust and transparency to her entire team.
“The mantra for our technology leadership team is ‘we are the connectors’ and building strong stakeholder relationships is a key objective for everyone,” she says.
Etiemble aims to consistently bring technology and innovation to board room conversations and clearly outlines the business value of tech so that her team’s vision is supported.
Meanwhile, Etiemble has also helped accelerate PEXA’s focus on women in tech through a recruitment process revamp, external partnership and internal diversity and inclusion activities, raising the number of women in the technology workforce from 21 to 30% in less than a year.
Etiemble was also integral in sponsoring internal activities such as Ladies in Tech (LIT), which was established to empower, support and advocate for women’s career growth, and foster inclusive diversity and culture.
Louis van Wyk