Julian Colombo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at our company, N5, sympathizes with comedian Bob Hope’s view that a bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove you don’t need it. Unlike most industries that offer products and services to whoever wants them, the banking industry is by necessity cautious in crafting offers, and it’s even more so in selecting customers. Anyone who has shopped for a loan is well aware of how different this process is compared to, say, shopping for a television. This is just one of the many differences that are unique to banks and the financial industry which led to the creation of N5.
Banking software liabilities
Julian, a young veteran of the financial services industry, gained firsthand experience in global banking, during which time he became increasingly frustrated with the lack of available ground-up, domain-specific software and services to support his business. He saw an essentially conservative industry that was leery of change protected and comforted as much as served by bland technology from large, established providers with long histories of widespread and diverse deployments.
And there’s the problem: That very technology isn’t designed specifically for banking—it also serves a host of other industries. A software nip here, an integration tuck there, and it might also be adapted to online shopping, car sales, call centers, or restaurant chains. So, when it comes to the most obvious requirements of financial services and features that can serve its unique character, the same old software is rolled out—not so much designed as it is adapted, fixed, patched, enhanced, and compromised.
And yet, people still buy it. Or rather, they’re stuck with it. This is a variation on the old principle of nobody getting fired for buying IBM applied to the financial industry. “The world fell into the B2B trap of undifferentiated software products from established players for everyone,” says Julian. “Wrong. Big banks, insurance companies, and investment houses can’t thrive with off-the-shelf or cookie-cutter solutions, even when they’re reactively adapted to create a more or less successful solution.”
New N5 options
Our N5 team members spent the last few years designing software solutions from the ground up, using their own experiences with the essential requirements of an industry that they’re all steeped in. They know the pain points, and they know the hidden opportunities and unmet challenges.
We offer a digital, multichannel financial services ecosystem that embraces and enhances a bank’s current environment. It’s a series of integrated modules fed by existing data that offer tailored functionality with core business impact. We help organizations evolve and adopt new transformational technologies without necessarily replacing or eliminating their previous systems. Our platform provides a 360-degree view of a business and its customers, enabling sales process optimization, enhanced customer focus, and advanced performance analysis that can help spot new business opportunities for improvement or innovation.
And perhaps most important, our customers recognize that we empathize with their situations. We can offer a safe path to environments that will far better serve their businesses, operations, and compliance requirements. “Banks are so risk-averse that they won’t jump straight into a new idea, but our presentations generate excitement,” says Julian. “Customers recognize that we’re all on the same page, seeing the same problems and seeking the same goals. All of our engagements result in deployment of one of our solutions, and we also have zero churn—we have never lost a customer.”
Choosing N5 is a good call. We aren’t sprinkling financial services dust onto a generic portfolio of repurposed solutions. We’re a relatively small, targeted solutions provider that’s unencumbered by convention and able to work quickly and with agility. And we don’t spread ourselves too thin—we only take a few new clients each year to help guarantee quality and attention. Our customers, however large and sophisticated, recognize the value of partnering with a small provider that genuinely has their interests at heart. “They recognize that we aren’t ambitious in that sense; we don’t have our sights set on investors,” says Julian. “In fact, growth is coming through referrals by industry insiders who say, ‘These guys feel your pain—you should check out their solution.’”
The Microsoft for Startups asset
Microsoft offers us many advantages. Working with the Microsoft for Startups program helped us access not only the technology, but also the world-class IT development and deployment experience our customers appreciate. “Access to Azure was very valuable to us because we began with great ideas but just a few hundred dollars,” says Julian. “Equally valuable was the guidance we received in selecting the best technologies to accelerate development of the right solutions. For example, we needed to implement solutions for bank environments featuring global multitenancy, and we were grateful for Microsoft input that helped us understand and optimize for those environments.”
We use Azure alongside hybrid on-premises options for deployment, and we use Azure tools and services in the process of building our solutions, including our proprietary, AI-driven algorithms and financial rules processing engines. We find that most customers are already at least considering cloud migrations, and once again, we can bring in Microsoft expertise to help us demonstrate the advantages of broader cloud-based digital transformations.
We have another simple idea at N5 that differentiates us from our competitors. We partner with our customers to bring their solutions to fruition, including funding the overall projects. We offer talent as a service, providing our C-level financial industry professionals to help identify opportunities and design solutions. We provide consulting and systems integration for our solutions based on analytics, big data, and AI. And we can customize our platform with hands-on engineering and integration support to solve specific business needs. This has helped us grow from a few hundred dollars to a $95 million startup in just a couple of years.
In combination with the efficiencies, technical input, and authority brought by our relationship with Microsoft, we’re well positioned for the future. “Our relationship with Microsoft adds reassurance that we’re bringing in world-class resources who are experienced in leading-edge technology from a company that also happens to provide the software and services that drive our customers’ businesses,” says Julian.
You can learn more about how our plans can help transform your financial services business at N5.
This was first published at https://customers.microsoft.com/en-us/story/860557-n5-partner-professional-services-azure-microsoft-startups