Sparkybit develops the core product from scratch and becomes the key technical partner for one of the TOP fintech companies in the United Kingdom.
About the Client
Neyber(London, UK) is an online platform for employee financial well-being. Founded in 2014, it started from the brilliant idea: caring for employees' economic well-being should be easy to practice for UK employers.
In 5 years, Neyber raised £149.5M of total funding, had 300,000+ active users, and served Police Mutual and clients from FTSE 100. Neyber successfully went through M&A with Salary Finance on Mar 11, 2020.
In this case study, we dive deep into our 5-year cooperation with Neyber - from the Big Idea to a full-scale financial platform that improved thousands of UK employees' lives.
Since 2014 researchers have highlighted a growing number of UK employees having significant problems with their financial well-being. The growing cost of living increases the percentage of working people having literally no savings. Moreover, low-interest loans became less and less accessible from day to day. These tendencies created a frustrating trend of employees taking high-interest debts, affecting their quality of life.
Besides, financial well-being affects people's mental stability and overall life satisfaction. More recent research provides a deeper statistic, claiming employees with money worries and debt burdens are 14 times more likely to suffer from severe insomnia and 4 times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Progressive employers started to consider supporting employees' financial well-being and preventing them from falling into financial difficulties. So what were the options for such companies?
Solution: Neyber, an online platform for employee financial well-being
Where one sees a challenge, another finds an opportunity. In 2014 Martin Ijaha, Monica Kalia, and Ezechi Britton got a clear vision of responding to market demand. The core need was about making care for employees' financial well-being easy to practice for UK employers. It was all about helping employees be better with their money. Moreover, the future Neyber's CEO, Chief Strategy Officer, and CTO were clear about the cornerstones of the big idea. Neyber's team took on the mission to give hard-working people access to fairer finance when they wanted to borrow and save money.
The first step was ensuring accessible loans; for many UK employees, low-interest debts were something from sweet dreams.
Thus the full-scale platform started from a straightforward and transparent model. Being a Neyber's client, a business was providing employees with benefits of a much better value by opening access to low-interest personal loans on literally anything. End customers got a decent rate even if their credit scores were less than perfect. And what was absolutely outstanding: workers with varying credit scores could still be eligible for a loan even with a poor credit history. Can you even imagine the value of this human-centered solution for the end user? It was going to change the very essence of employer care for employee financial well-being.
Can you even imagine the value of this human-centered solution for the end user? It was going to change the very essence of employer care for employee financial well-being.
Sparkybit becomes Neyber's key technical partner
In 2014, Neyber was a small team with brilliant visioners and a Big idea. The technical implementation came to the agenda as the idea was sharpened and adjusted to fit the market perfectly. Neyber's approach to finding a partner was a mix of high standards for technical expertise and shared values. We fell in love with their vision of implementing the business idea as it was awesomely empathetic to the end customers' needs.
The Sparkybit team joined Neyber on the exciting 5-year journey. Our CEO, Alexey Nayda, performed as the Head of Development, leading two technical teams from Neyber's and Sparkybit's sides. Product development, Product technical strategy, team development, and all the related processes were Sparkybit's core fields of responsibility.
Project Scope & Flow
From the first code line to one of the leading financial partners for the UK police force
There were two well-known challenges with institutional banks: affordability of loans with fair rates and exhausting multi-step bureaucratic procedures. Neyber and Sparkybit focused on them first. Let's be honest: going to a bank requires lots of patience and moral stamina. Dealing with annoying bureaucracy and going in circles with tons of papers doesn't make a good day. The classical roadmap of applying for a loan includes lots of hustle, starting from the eligibility check. And there is no guarantee you wouldn't need to visit another bank and repeat the whole journey.
We aimed to resolve these pains gracefully, ensuring a transparent and fast loan-receiving process. User experience and interface were about to be as simple and pleasant as possible, as opposed to the frustrating experience with institutional financial vendors.
A company had to become Neyber's client, so its staff could enter the system and request a loan online.
No papers, no queues, no stress. There were three transparent fixed rates: 4.9% APR, 6.9% APR and 9.9% APR for loans from £2,000 to £25,000 up to five years. And for an employee with nearly any credit score, everything looked super easy and comfy: login, request money, wait for automatic results of eligibility check, receive money from Neyber. The loan repayments were designed awesomely unobtrusive: they were automatically withdrawn from salary each month.
The technology behind this seemingly simple mechanism was extremely complicated from a technical perspective. Our engineers recall those days with nostalgic smiles and describe them as “old good but hard days of pure .NET and complex infrastructure.“ They say so because the technical entry threshold for such a product development was extremely high and required solid technical competencies. But no doubt this was a reasonable price for the best quality and minimum compromises, which harm the end-user experience. What we did with Neyber changed the essence of the loan-related customer journey.
Immense effort maximizes the chance of achieving great results. In our case, the first win had 70 000+ UK police officers as Neyber's end users.PoliceMutual is part of Royal London, the largest mutual life, pensions, and investment company for police forces in the UK. It was the first Neyber's weighty contract, and being their key technical partner, we were indescribably happy to celebrate this first win.
Exponential growth: the challenge of scalability
Creating something big and promising means you can never stop if you don't want to lose all the positions. At some point, it became evident that the market demanded higher speed and enhanced capacities. For Sparkybit as a technical partner, this meant not only business cases diversified drastically but hundreds of thousands of end users visited the platform every day. Neyber team, which radically grew from Day 1, analyzed the trends and came to the Sparkybit team with news that would change the whole platform: the system needed to speed up exponentially. As you may guess, it was when Salesforce first appeared on the radar.
But before we go there, let's see what we had in Version 1. The quite complicated system was designed to perform thousands of eligibility checks daily, including various types of hard and soft checks. It also included the interaction of numerous entities on Employers' and Financial providers' sides. Considering this, the Sparkybit engineering team was clear about Neyber having to switch to another technology, as an extension of the existing ones would be extremely expensive and slow.
Sparkybit and Neyber stakeholders conducted several strategic plans and devised a non-standard solution. It was decided to make Salesforce the core loan processing engine. Indeed, it required not only additional development but team expansion as well. And it was
Sparkybit's duty to arrange both team growth and delivery boosts.
Moving to Salesforce & Salesforce customizations
Moving to Salesforce was an uncommon but correct decision. As expected, it was easier, faster, and cheaper since the core was already based on Salesforce. We did not have to design everything from scratch: CI/CD, application setup, frontend, etc. Instead, we just focused on smoothing out the user experience and diversifying functionality to serve various business cases. The market was snowballing, so the pace was vital for us.
We bought a thousands-pound license for a ready-made Salesforce component, which had already become the industry standard for loan processing at that time. But, the component itself did not work as it should. For the kernel to “take root” in our system, it was necessary to perform lots of custom development. Moreover, the standard package covered just some super basic things: payment calculation, eligibility checks, and that's it. The problem was that Neyber's user cases were much broader, and there were much more variable scenarios. So the lion's share of development and settings we had to do with our own hands. The Sparkybit tech team strategized, designed, and implemented everything to serve different user journeys: from the core architecture to all third-party integrations.
And what is more critical, standard Salesforce features didn't consider the actual UK legislation. Therefore, to comply with UK laws regarding salaries and financial operations, we developed various custom features. The customization included a custom eligibility check and custom API integration with Equifax, the global credit reporting agency.
Salesforce was architecturally complex at that time. It worked with other parts of our system through API. And since we did all the UI exclusively by ourselves, the users didn't even know that they were interacting with Salesforce. And as hundreds of thousands of users were in the system, rapid scaling was a constant challenge. In fact, the reason for that was that Salesforce was not designed for such extreme loads. We had to design the API from Salesforce's side and other components in such a way that it provided high availability & scalability.
And as a result, we got a classic front-end with a very easy, intuitive, and pleasant UI - and a complex, intricate .NET backend. But the “brains“ of finance, settlements, underwriting, payments, and related processes - it was in Salesforce. Salesforce also had a database, as in any full-fledged CRM. We integrated three things: the first full-fledged version of the platform, Salesforce, and all the necessary improvements and integrations with various payment systems and marketing tools.
Such changes also increased the need for advanced data processing and analytics. We took standard reporting features from Salesforce, designed a constant data synchronization between Salesforce and Microsoft SQL Server, and created MI Data Warehouse for reporting. This allowed Neyber analysts to build advanced projections to analyze customers' behavior and assess business efficiency.
By the time Neyber fully moved to Salesforce, Neyber had 100+ people on board and raised more than £100m from Goldman's merchant banking arm and other investors including PoliceMutual. Among Neyber's client base there were 15 FTSE-100 companies.
Key Results & Value Delivered
The most exciting thing about our 5-years journey with Neyber was being there with founders in their business creation and development process all along the way. We all agreed that launching a product for UK citizens' financial well-being is a great mission and is of immense value to society.
Helping Big Idea via technology to evolve from stickers on board to MVP and then to one of the most successful products on the market is unforgettable. So we are deeply thankful to the Neyber team for all the trust and cooperation.
We are happy for Neyber raising £145M of total investments in 5 rounds, becoming the UK's number one financial well-being provider, while staying faithful to the original mission of caring for the financial well-being of the UK employees. The acquisition created the UK's largest employee financial well-being platform. Salary Finance now serves 500 client partners and reaches 3 million employees. The client combined portfolio includes 15% of the FTSE 100 and many household name employers, such as BT, Dixons Carphone, Virgin Active, Co-op, Asda, and public sector organizations including NHS Trusts. 1 in 10 UK employees is now able to access financial well-being solutions through their employer.
Tech Stack & Expertise
Frontend: AngularJS, Sass 3, ES6, Bower, Gulp
Backend: SalesForce, .NET Framework C# 4.5, ASP.NET WebAPI 5.2, AspNet.Identity, OWIN 3.0, EntityFramework, NodeJS, Docker, SAML Federated SSO
Database: Microsoft SQL Server, MongoDB, ci\cd, TeamCity, Octopus Deployment
Hosting: AWS Cloud
Analytics: Salesforce + MI Warehouse
Salesforce: Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Marketing Pardot, API integrations
Project management framework: Scrum
Communication tools: Slack, Google products
Project pipelines & knowledge base: Jira, Confluence
Routines: strategic sessions; regular stand-ups, plannings, retros.
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