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TOGETHER’S TRANSFORMATION STORY

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For over 40 years, Together has been committed to providing no-nonsense lending in even the most complicated of situations.

 

The company works with homebuyers, investors, landlords, and small businesses, and partners with a network of intermediaries, including brokers, accountants and solicitors, to secure the finance people need to buy a new home or start a new venture.

 

Antiquated processes

Historically, Together relied on manual processes, which were cumbersome and time-intensive. For a business that is focused on common-sense lending, the human touch in making intelligent business decisions is essential. However, it soon became apparent that the use of technology was an integral part in supporting people in making and implementing those decisions in the most efficient and effective way.

 

As the company began to experience rapid growth, this became even more essential, and so Together turned to Mastek to embark on a digital transformation journey.

 

Simon Carter, IT Director at Together, says, “The business had ambitious growth plans, but we recognised they couldn’t be achieved if we continued to work in the same way. We were very limited in our digital engagement with our intermediaries and our customers. To transform the business, we had to transform the technology.”

 

A journey of transformation

Because Together lends mostly through brokers, its transformation journey initially focused on them. Mastek helped the company replace obscure, complex product interfaces with a unified broker portal that is easier to use, much more systematic and clear about what brokers and customers can expect from Together, and about how the lender’s products work.

 

“We’ve removed paper-dependent steps out of processes, and automated manual ones. Our own research has shown 95% broker satisfaction with the new portal, and the business has reduced the underwriting turnaround by 30%. Meanwhile the business can instantly respond to regulatory changes. Ultimately, we have been able to grow the business in line with expectations, without changing the heart of the business,” says Simon Carter.

 

Improvements to the broker portal have also continued. For example, a recent addition of decision-in-principle functionality uses sophisticated underwriting logic to give potential customers immediate pre-approval for a specific loan amount. This gives them more information and confidence when choosing a lender to apply to.

 

Realising business growth

Together’s programme of smart change has played a big part in its ability to grow the value of its loan book by 150% in just three years, two years ahead of target.

 

Speed and ease of service have made Together increasingly attractive to brokers and their customers. New channels, such as mortgage clubs, have opened up to the lender. And Together’s many new internal efficiencies have allowed the company to take this growth in stride.

 

“Importantly, the partnership has provided us with the ability to scale up or down as business requirements change. We almost doubled our head count in the last four years, and trebled the size of the loan book, so this flexibility has been essential in supporting our rapid growth. Market conditions can also change, so it’s important to have the security of knowing the technology can support the business in that scenario too,” comments Simon Carter.

 

He adds, “the reality is that unless we had transformed, we may not be in business today. We recognised we needed to keep pace with the changing market, but the growth we’ve witnessed since our digital transformation shows we’re more than competing.”

 

Agile development

In the four years since starting to work with Together on the broker portal, the original 14-strong Mastek team has grown to more than 100, working on more than 125 Agile development projects and IT-enabled business enhancements.

 

Steve Thomason, Head of Business Systems at Together, explains, “We don’t buy our core IT products off the shelf; we’ve always pursued bespoke development of our systems of differentiation. It’s a strategy that works for us, giving us the control and flexibility to respond to broker and customer needs without ever waiting on a software provider.”

 

Before bringing Mastek on board, developments were managed in-house with ad-hoc use of contractors; but as the company’s ambitions grew and the pace of change accelerated, there was an unwelcome increase in delivery delays. These are now a thing of the past, with readily scalable Mastek resource and effective Agile development processes in place.

 

Planning for transformation

Every Together development project starts with an idea — a response to a broker need, for example — that is examined until all of the expected benefits and costs are clearly understood. Ideas that pass muster become projects (large or small) and the priority and delivery of projects is continually assessed and re-assessed. Even as the current crop of projects progresses, Together is planning ahead, usually by six to twelve months.

 

Collaborating for success

Besides looking outwards to its products and services, Together looks inwards for continual improvement in delivery. To this end, Mastek and Together are in daily contact. Not just to track and measure progress, but to assess ways of working, the mix of onshore and offshore resource, the performance of individuals, the support that they need, who to hire and when: everything that impacts on the success of the collaborative approach embraced by both companies.

 

Formalising innovation

‘Innovation’ can’t really be ordered on demand, but Together wants to be actively open to new ideas, and is looking to Mastek to bring them to the table.

 

“When we toured the Mastek Centre of Excellence in India and saw some of the things they were doing for other customers, it was an eye-opener,” says Thomason. “Today we have a joint innovation forum and meet regularly to discuss ideas.”

 

One of the novel approaches being tried is a hackathon, in which a number of small Mastek teams compete to come up with innovative solutions to a given Together challenge. Since most of the teams aren’t working on the Together account, it’s a productive — and fun — way for the Together/Mastek partnership to come up with fruitful new ideas to explore.

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Real-time payments are here to stay and with good reason 

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Real-time Payment (RtP) models are here to stay for the foreseeable future alongside traditional payment schemes. But as businesses increasingly recognize their potential, further cases for real-time payments are coming to the fore. That’s according to Buckzy Payments Inc., (https://buckzy.net/) the Toronto-based global fintech on a mission to make international payments quicker, more reliable, and more affordable.

Umesh Maini, Chief Product Officer at Buckzy, stated, “Customer-oriented businesses such as retailers and hospitality providers value the increased speed with which they receive funds through real-time payments. In addition, during the Covid-19 pandemic, cross-border online purchasing increased, which put more pressure on liquidity for merchants due to the settlement times involved. But with the pandemic far from over, businesses from a wide variety of industries are also now looking at RtP with increased interest as a remedy to this issue, since with RtP it is the payer that is responsible for and controls the flow of funds rather than the payee and their bank or payment provider.

“RtP not only speeds up client payments – it can also improve cash flows, budgeting, financial projections and cash management,” explained Maini. “And if that’s not enough to get every Chief Financial Officer sitting up and paying attention, RtP also offers an opportunity to support and accelerate other digital innovations and trends, such as expedited bill payments, faster payroll disbursements to workers, and the ability for current account holders to manage their cash better. In other words, it acts as a major catalyst for businesses to digitally transform their business models by being able to accept payments that are settled in real-time.”

“Across the world, tech-savvy consumers and companies alike now want their bill payments, online shopping and cross-border transactions completed instantly, cheaply and at scale. That’s the power of RtP,” added Maini.

Maini summarizes the main benefits for financial services providers to adopt and support real-time payments as follows:

  • RtP helps with customer acquisition a real-time payment provides an additional set of services that will help to attract new customers
  • RtP removes the need to use costly, outdated fund transfer methods like SWIFT
  • RtP provides extra clarity for users to manage cash through up-to-the minute transaction histories and real-time account balances
  • Increased revenue through improved economies of scale and customer retention
  • Manual processes can be reduced, which in turn saves costs
  • RtP enables better customer insights compared with cash, which can then be used by the payment provider to improve their other financial services
  • RtP data can also improve anti-money laundering (AML) and fraud monitoring

“As with any major shift in technology, payment providers will face both costs and benefits to upgrade their systems to a new faster payments infrastructure. Investment by providers and adoption by users will both depend on the specific benefits each gains from real-time payments. Consumers today expect to get what they want quickly and at any time, at the push of a button. This also goes for their payments and it’s why RtP will quickly become the new normal,” concluded Maini.

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Union Bank of India goes live with RuPay Credit Card on UPI with Kiya.ai as a technology partner

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Nitesh Ranjan, ED Union Bank of India with Rajesh Mirjankar, Managing Director & CEO, Kiya.ai at the launch

 

Kiya.ai, one of the most innovative digital solutions providers in India, announced that Union Bank of India was among the first banks to launch NPCI’s UPI linked to Rupay Credit Card and UPI Lite on the unified payments interface (UPI) platform with Kiya.ai as their technology partner in this achievement.

The announcement comes after the RBI Governor Shri Shaktikanta Das and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) launched RuPay credit card on UPI, UPI Lite and Cross Border payments for BBPS at Global Fintech Fest 2022.

Until now, UPI allowed the linking of bank accounts by mapping an account linked with a mobile number and an savings / current account. Earlier in June 2022, the RBI allowed the linking of credit cards with UPI, stating that RuPay credit cards would be initially linked with UPI “to provide additional convenience to users and enhance the scope of digital payments”.

Rajesh Mirjankar, Managing Director & CEO, Kiya.ai, “We are extremely delighted to partner with Union Bank of India in this pilot project of linking RuPay Credit card on UPI. Kiya.ai has partnered with Union Bank of India for various digital payment initiatives including UPI, UPI Lite, UPI linkage to credit card, and sandbox for API banking.  The linking of credit card to UPI will significantly enhance high-volume transactions while also increasing average amount per transaction given the ease of using credit facility on UPI. This is a game-changing initiative as it will ensure safe and contactless transactions, reducing the risk of credit card frauds too.”

Mr. Nitesh Ranjan, ED Union Bank of India said, “We are pleased to embrace the decision taken by the Reserve Bank of India and NPCI to enable Rupay credit cards through UPI. Union Bank of India is proud to be a part of this launch. This is a game changer as one would be able to use a credit card for doing payments using UPI. We are excited to partner with Kiya.ai on this journey, and together, we can provide a smooth user experience to customers and make India even more digitally advanced.”

As part of the pilot project, NPCI will integrate the UPI AutoPay feature with credit card transactions to reduce the risk of defaults on credit card payments.

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