Name: Vaughan DixonTitle: Chief information officerCompany: hummgroupCommenced role: February 2021Reporting line: CEOMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 124 staff, 9 direct reports
Operating in difficult economic conditions with rising interest rates and rising cost of funds, like all finance companies, it’s been a challenging time for diversified finance company, hummgroup, of late. The company provides commercial, cards, and interest free (bnpl) finance across Australia and NZ, as well as a consumer finance presence in Ireland, UK and Canada
“As we emerged from lockdown, several buy now pay later companies began to close or consolidate across Australia and New Zealand,” chief information officer Vaughan Dixon tells CIO Australia.
“We needed to move quickly to exit unprofitable areas, carefully manage pricing, and focus our attention on getting value from our continued investment in credit decisioning, customer experience, and technology platforms to stay one step ahead.”
With cybersecurity on the increase, further enhancing data safety was also a primary consideration. To remain competitive, it was essential for the technology team to develop and deploy sustainable solutions to accelerate hummgroup’s profitability and set it up for future growth both in Australia and new markets.
Designed to drive growth
Over the last 18 months, Dixon and his team have helped the company move from multiple, legacy platforms to a single platform for its installment products. Built so it can be deployed into new markets, the platform is designed to drive growth and increase speed to market, plus delivers higher levels of security, says Dixon.
“We focus our build efforts on the parts of the solution where we add competitive advantage and utilise packages where this is not the case. It also enables us to deliver new products to market quickly in partnership with leading brands.”
Previously, numerous platforms were managed in-house.
“Our new solution, a combination of Salesforce and [financial services software] Q2, leverages industry best practice to significantly reduce cost and complexity,” says Dixon.
“We are now able to manage the buyer and seller experience from a single platform, including processes like contract and account management.”
Dixon’s team also managed a transition to Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has transformed the way the business operates, he says.
“With security built in by default, the transition means that teams access what they need operationally rather than storing a wide range of unnecessary files on our systems.”
The move to AWS has been an important learning curve for the team, especially those new to DevOps and AWS toolkits. This has been a key challenge for many in the team as we shift the attitude from the old school approach of applications running on tin in data centres, to an infra as code managed by the squad DevOps model.
Keeping focused on delivery
Establishing an architecture committee, design authority and project portfolio steering committees has kept the technology team focused on delivery while providing greater visibility and transparency to projects and progress within the team and across the business, says Dixon.
“It also provides the opportunity for teams and individuals to showcase their work and effort, which contributes to our culture.”
Built once, the platform can be rapidly tailored for the needs of local markets. It also significantly enhances customer experience by enabling greater self-service functionality through digital channels and the development of new apps, Dixon says.
“It enabled us to establish a presence in a new country within a very short time, and then adjust the offering as we adapted to the market drivers” says Dixon.
The system also provides a 360-degree view of customers and merchants. This supports sales growth and customer service, and the development of dashboards, while streamlining the onboarding process for new merchants. Syncing customer data has enabled the development of customer-facing apps with the management of lifecycle communication for customers and merchants also improving.
Salesforce Service Cloud is replacing eight disparate systems used by hummgroup’s contact centre to enable more personalised and efficient case management and support.
The platform also provides enhanced privacy features, including the management of large volumes of data within multiple regulatory environments, as well as improved security and data protection across all geographies.
Overall, the move to the new platform gives hummgroup a competitive advantage, and saves the business money while significantly reducing complexity, says Dixon.
“By early 2024, we will have moved from fully in-house run legacy systems to become more sustainable, faster and better able to support the growth of the business.”
Technology transformation enabling growth
With technology transformation a key enabler in driving growth at hummgroup, Dixon focuses on transparency, always-on communication, delivery of a clear development roadmap and regular organisational updates.
Developing leaders and radically changing the way the IT team operates has had a flow-through effect to the wider organisation, he says. Investing in leadership training for the wider technology leadership team and bringing in laser sharp clarity on expectations is breaking down the historical silio’s that often exist in technology teams. Combining this with a strong focus on raising the bar, being honest about capability in various roles, as well as under performance and misalignment in direction, is steadily reshaping the capability of the technology team.
In the last two years, Dixon has moved the team from a focus on products to capabilities enabling more agile ways of working.
“This involved strengthening capabilities within the team so they would scale across the business and break down silos,” he says.
“To unlock potential and support rapid growth, the team was realigned into squads – multidisciplined teams who could design and deliver innovative products on one scalable platform, phasing out the older legacy and duplicated systems that were holding us back.”
This has accelerated humm’s progress in multiple areas – enabling the delivery of products into new geographies, while improving processes and the ability to resolve issues and stabilise the systems customers rely on.
Dixon outlines there is still a way to go as the business has built up a lot of historical legacy systems over the many years of operation, but the progress to date in our instalment, cards, and commercial portfolios has been positive. His moto is to be better today than yesterday, and to focus on the leading indicators. If you get both of these right, the results will naturally occur.
Louis van Wyk