Latitude Financial’s technology team is returning to projects that were paused or put to one side when Covid-19 forced the company to focus on enabling remote work.
CTO Peter Haviland said most projects have now restarted and that new plans are more ambitious than before the pandemic, backed by new investment approvals.
Latitude, which was spun out from GE Money five years ago, consists of a 20-year sales finance business running on four generations of technology, as well as a buy now, pay later (BNPL) competitor which was launched in October 2019.
Speaking during Zoom’s user conference last week, Haviland said that in March the business was “fairly well along a set of strategic technology programs” to improve the newly launched BNPL product.
But as Covid hit the technology team had to pause all market-facing initiatives and redirect resources to remote enablement.
The main challenge was providing access to the 200 application assets that support its sales finance products, such as Harvey Norman’s interest free finance offer.
“We had to rapidly empower about 2500 people to work remotely and in many cases because of some of that legacy technology, particularly the mainframe client server technologies that are still supporting some of those older products, they're very difficult to access remotely or anywhere outside the traditional network perimeter that we had in place,” Haviland said.
Engineering efforts were focused on either introducing new services or building custom solutions to enable remote access to those apps, including a widespread rollout of Microsoft Windows virtual desktop.
Haviland said his department successfully sourced an additional injection to the technology budget for any work that was directly attributable to dealing with the remote working situation.
Since then, he has secured additional investment for “transformative projects.”
The need to rapidly introduce new services led the business to challenge its old ways of working, Haviland said.
“We basically had to do something very, very quickly, which meant most of the processes that were in place to introduce something of that magnitude had to be questioned and we had to come up with innovative ways around that.
“The conversation at Latitude has interestingly moved to the idea now that digital transformation isn't really a thing that you might do, but it is actually a capability that you have in your operating model.”
Thanks to a change in mindset at the highest levels of the organisation there is a greater appreciation for cloud technology and the need to retire aging systems.
“That incremental approach, although attractive from a low upfront investment or perhaps a perception of a more continual lower risk, is also highly complicated and has a longer time to market or a longer time to value," he said.
"I think there's a greater acknowledgement of that in the senior levels of business management and that's flowing through now to some of the investment approvals that have been made."