This year, Harbour IT – part of the Canon Business Services group – celebrates a decade of partnership with award winning financial lender Pepper Money.
A lot can happen in 10 years, especially in the digital world. Together, we’ve seen large scale cloud and data transformations, huge growth, and the forging of strong relationships between staff from the coalface to the C-Suite.
Having essentially “grown up together”, we decided to celebrate by taking a look back at some of the major milestones we’ve experienced, and what we’ve learned about each other and ourselves along the way…
A bit of history
Pepper Money was founded in 2000 when it only offered home loans to customers not being catered to by the major banks. The company has grown quickly and now offers a full suite of home, personal, commercial and equipment loans designed to help individuals achieve their life goals.
Jeremy Francis, CIO of Pepper Money, says Pepper Money offers loans just like a bank does – but they also offer lending solutions some banks choose not to.
“We take the time to truly understand our customers’ unique circumstances. By getting to know our customers on a deeper level, we’re able to provide products and services to a broader range of people in the community.
“Our mission is to help people succeed. This is the view we have taken for the past 20 years and will continue to take with us into the future.”
Preparing for growth
In the past 10 years, the financial services sector has experienced strong growth. Pepper Money’s leadership team knew that a robust technology strategy would be crucial to success. While other financial services companies may have begun to recognise the need for a digital strategy a decade ago, Pepper Money had already made it their mission to become early adopters.
Having previously relied on smaller external vendors to manage its technology, Pepper Money chose instead to build a strong internal team and find a partner with the capability to support them on their journey.
“As we started to see real growth in our business, smaller companies simply couldn’t deliver what we needed,” says Jeremy. “We were more complex, and wanted a partner that could help us grow. That’s when we connected with Harbour IT.”
The year was 2011, and Harbour IT was also a lot smaller than today. However, this was something that attracted Pepper Money’s decision makers.
“It was a really nice match because we wanted an organisation that wasn’t so big that they would see us as unimportant – but big enough to deliver everything we needed.”
Growing together with a thirst for innovation
In the years that followed, both Pepper Money and Harbour IT (empowered by its new relationship with Canon Business Services) enjoyed exponential growth. This alignment of growth was pivotal to the continuing relationship, as Pepper Money’s thirst for innovation required a partner who was operating at the leading edge of digital transformation.
“In the early days, our relationship with Pepper Money was limited to basic professional services and adhoc work,” says Allan Kha, Senior Account Manager for Harbour IT. “But as we both grew, this evolved to a total infrastructure refresh, managed services, and much more.”
Over time, the partnership has advanced to include full lifecycle support with:
- a cloud transformation strategy
- an infrastructure management team
- a dedicated 24/7 service desk
“Our relationship is definitely one of camaraderie,” says Jeremy. “The most impactful change was when we brought in a team from Harbour IT to work onsite at our office. We stopped seeing them as an external provider – we were working so closely it didn’t matter.
“That’s when we really moved into a new stage of the relationship because we didn’t have to take the conversation down to operational challenges. Everyone just knew what they needed to do.”
Jeremy says Harbour IT’s partnership with Canon Business Services, and Luke Clark’s appointment as CEO, came at a pivotal time for Pepper.
“Every year we ask more and more of them, so their growth definitely came at a fortuitous time for us. Our goal in the past 3 years has been to put our Pepper stamp on technology so we can deliver an outstanding customer experience, and we’ve relied on Harbour IT to help with this every step of the way.”
Luke Clark, CEO of Harbour IT, says “As a partner, our goal is to make it easy for our clients to focus on their core business. It has been awesome partnering with Pepper, supporting and transforming parts of their environment to allow them to focus on what sets them apart. They have had such great success.
“Pepper Money has always viewed technology for the strategic advantage it provides, and are exceptionally forward-thinking and eager to innovate. They are a great team to work with.”
Forward thinking pays off during COVID
By 2019, remote working had made its way to the top of Pepper Money’s technology priorities. The company rolled out Microsoft 365 and Teams, which ultimately delivered huge pay-offs when COVID-19 lockdowns came less than a year later. While other financial services companies were struggling to play catch up, Pepper Money’s progressive approach allowed teams to transition to remote work quickly and seamlessly.
“Our people in Australia and overseas were able to switch immediately, and we had Harbour IT support right there to help us scale rapidly,” recalls Jeremy. “This was critical, as we immediately experienced a 60% increase in the number of customer calls due to concerns about the impact of COVID.
“Not only were we able to operate, but the systems we had in place meant we could continue to grow. For example, during COVID we realised a strategic opportunity to enable everyone within the Pepper business to work remotely. This included auto-scaling virtual desktop infrastructure and configuring Always-on VPN to all corporate laptops.
Fortunately, we were able to stand this up within just a few weeks – in large part because of our relationship with Harbour IT and Canon Business Services.”
Microsoft Teams usage increased exponentially after work from home regulations were enforced.
With VPN in place staff no longer needed to use VDI
The ticket to the game
Another key aspect of the duo’s close relationship over the past decade is information security. In a heavily regulated sector, ripe with financial and non-financial risks, securing the privacy of Pepper’s customer information and keeping on top of threats and opportunities is an essential part of daily operations.
“Harbour IT has played a crucial role in ensuring we can continue to stand in front of customers, brokers and investors and demonstrate that we take security, risk and compliance very seriously.
“In our industry, security is more than an expectation – it’s the ticket to the game.”
Moving forward with confidence
Now in 2021, Harbour IT is proud of the journey we have taken with Pepper Money these past 10 years.
With only 14% of financial services companies actually starting to implement their digital strategies now, Pepper Money is well ahead of the game.
Supported by Canon Business Services, we continue to work together on keeping Pepper Money at the cutting edge of technology, so they can deliver the superior customer experience they have become renowned for. This is particularly vital in recent times when Fintech companies are causing disruption in the lending sector.
“Pepper Money have invested in the right tech at the right time the whole way,” says Allan. “Their goal is to be agile and bring products and services to market swiftly to provide that next level of customer experience. And we’ve been honoured to walk with them on that journey.”
Moving forward, Jeremy says investments in cloud technology will continue to be a key element in their ongoing relationship with Harbour IT.
“We’re already at a high percentage of cloud utilisation, but we want to get this even higher. Automation is another priority journey for Pepper; we’ve built a lot of efficiencies into our environment and want to continue that momentum with the unprecedented new capabilities in AI and machine learning. They not only make the business more efficient, but help drive a better customer experience.
“Our customers rely on us to buy their dream car or dream home…and we want to do all we can to offer them the best possible experience. That’s really what the Harbour IT and Pepper Money relationship has been about this past decade – reducing customer effort by being exactly where they need us to be.”
This is a sentiment we certainly share at Harbour IT. In building long-term relationships with clients such as Pepper Money, we are able to support them every step of the way as they seek to implement the latest technologies to remain competitive and drive continual improvement in performance, efficiency, productivity, and customer experience.