Banking on No-Code: Why More Financial Firms Are Building Their Own Software

Financial organizations are increasingly building their own software solutions, rather than buying off-the-shelf or outsourcing to development shops. And for good reason: The cost, time, complexity and risk barriers to producing custom business software have fallen dramatically. The advent of no-code platforms means financial services organizations are able to develop working applications in spite of the growing developer shortage, by drawing from their own internal resources. Besides being able to build exactly what you need — rather than buy-in functionality you won’t use — no-code platforms are proving to be very time- and cost-efficient in practice.

ChrisObdamBankingonNocode

Better software with more developers

There is a growing need amongst businesses across all industries to attract more software developers to assist with their digital transformation efforts. It’s not so much because they are simply eager to digitize, but rather that they have to, or they risk falling behind the competition. But although the demand from firms for software has risen exponentially over the last decade, a shortage of skilled software development personnel has presented a bottleneck to many firms’ digital transformation plans.

This skills shortage has compelled businesses to search for people from outside of the traditional developer space and to seek alternative approaches to software development, including methods that require little or no coding skills from developers. 

One of those alternative methods is called ‘no-code’ application development. Various vendors offer no-code (and ‘low-code’) application development platforms, including Betty Blocks. Such platforms can help firms circumnavigate the developer skills shortage while shortening time to market and optimizing return on investment.

No-code approaches enable organizations to build software precisely tailored to their needs without developers having to know traditional programming languages. Instead of writing code, developers use a visual modelling approach.

They select, drag and drop desired components into a workflow. Both simple as well as complex business applications can be built this way. For the end-user, the result is the same. However, the trajectory to build these applications is far easier to grasp, paving the way for business users to build applications to meet their own software needs without requiring formal programming knowledge. This new type of business developer is known as the citizen developer.

According to leading research and advisory firm Gartner, “by 2024, low-code application platforms will be responsible for 65% of all application development activity.” Moreover, Gartner estimates that, “by 2020, at least 70% of the large enterprises will have established successful citizen development policies.” 

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By considerably reducing the threshold of what it takes to become a software developer, and by enabling existing programmers to also significantly speed up application development without the necessity of hand-coding, no-code is picking up steam.

Organizations are choosing to have business teams develop software themselves rather than rely on third party providers and full-stack developers. They get to decide which features will be part of their application infrastructure, avoid paying for functionality they don’t want and can take their software far beyond the limits of closed third party systems. Furthermore, the architecture of the no-code platform allows for a high scalability and reusability of business-driven solutions across enterprise infrastructures.

Finance firms using no-code

No-code approaches are proving especially effective within account management, data administration, and payment and subscription services. It is therefore no surprise that their implementation is becoming more widespread within the financial sector. 

Over the last few years, no-code development platforms have been applied to solve wide-ranging issues within finance and fintech markets. At an entry level, no-code offers the ability to easily turn analogue spreadsheets into fully responsive dataflows. On a higher level, they allow for the optimization of documentation and quality assurance processes. 

For example, one major banking firm recently upgraded their static database to one in which they could view data in real-time. Doing so enabled the bank to automate a process for loans which had previously required the manual processing of some 20 documents per loan application. Their no-code application saved the bank a lot of manual work in crunching numbers before making a loan decision (what took them 30 hours to do was brought down to 30 minutes). Having better visibility on reporting and analytics also allowed the firm to filter and sort data more effectively. 

In another example, a Dutch factoring firm implemented a no-code platform to automate and streamline its back-end operations. The time saved was re-directed towards their innovation efforts. 

But automating and optimizing analogue processes is merely the tip of the iceberg. Financial organizations often have to deal with a lot of regulatory compliance. Assignments have to be overseen and approved by different departments through procedures that, if you work solely from spreadsheets, can be tedious and error prone. A no-code platform excels in setting up a proper quality assurance and control centre throughout the entire organisation. 

An international accounting firm used no-code to do just that. They set up a quality assurance system in which all pending tasks were designated automatically. The application assisted employees make the right choice when handling pending issues. Organized dashboards helped them with sorting out the high and low priorities and in this way, they diminished the risk of neglecting important tasks. After a successful testing phase, the company is now working on implementing these workflow tools within each department worldwide, connecting them all to a central database.

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For organizations that have to deal with complex paperwork on a daily basis, these applications not only save time (and actual paper), but can potentially prevent greater disasters from occurring. 

Other organisations take the no-code approach even further and establish entire innovation centres around the method. A Dutch insurance firm utilised no-code to reduce the need for separate licenses for customer relationship management systems and for payment management systems. The firm also created a department able to quickly develop, test and launch new services for its customers. One outcome was a completely new line of risk prevention services for customers that immediately proved its value in practice by helping customers to reduce the likelihood of incidents occurring. This helped reduce claims.

Democratizing application development

Perhaps the most important aspect of this new approach to software development is that tech-savvy employees can be given closer control of the programs they work with. They can add functionality to support corporate change, or even build in completely new components to support new requirements they might have of the application. As a safeguard, these citizen developers prototype and test their solutions from what are called sandbox environments. 

Applications must then be sanctioned by central IT, before being considered for production. 

Besides no-code enabling firms to overcome the developer shortage and keep up with the growing demand for software, no-code also holds the power to democratize application development altogether. Although the majority of organizations still very much rely on third party software providers to assist with their daily workflows, more and more businesses are reviewing such choices and considering replacing them with applications built in house by their own citizen developers. 

There are many reasons to get to grips with the no-code revolution. Certainly financial firms cannot allow their digital transformation efforts to be held up by skills shortages. Perhaps handing certain types of business development over to the business itself makes a great deal more sense than either burdening the busy IT department with it, or buying off the shelf software that never quite fulfills your requirements.

Download Gartner's 2019 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms