Rabobank Decreases Throughput Time for Credit Risk Assessments

Banks must balance the need for stability with remaining flexible in response to shifting regulatory requirements and customer expectations. In 2017 Rabobank – one of the Netherlands’ largest banks serving over 9 million customers – embarked on a journey to transform their IT landscape and meet these often-conflicting requirements.

Rabobank initially adopted the Mendix low-code platform to reimagine the customer-facing touchpoints in their International Direct Banking (IDB) unit. After establishing a robust platform foundation and expert partnership, Rabobank turned to Mendix to improve the quality of service for their wholesale and rural clients, starting with their Credit and Engagement team.

Today, the Credit and Engagement team has delivered 6 Mendix applications that are breaking down data siloes, improving employee experience, and significantly reducing throughput time in the credit origination process.

Regaining Speed & Control in Development

Prior to 2017, Rabobank took the stance to buy rather than build, opting for commercial off-the-shelf solutions to meet their software needs.

This approach became unsustainable as these solutions were:

  • Subject to slow delivery due to the level of customization required.
  • Hard to maintain and control, as Rabobank was reliant on third parties to manage them.
  • Incredibly costly when paying for customization and maintenance on top of hefty license fees.

“We were at the beginning of a big IT transformation,” said Irene Ronner, Senior Tech Lead within Rabobank’s Credit and Engagement team.

“The vision was a bi-speed environment where we had separate core banking systems that would be robust, stable, and slow-paced. On the other end, we would have the front-end of that environment – the customer-facing parts – that we explicitly wanted to be high-speed, flexible, and in our control.”

Rabobank began a strategic journey to enable a more flexible and agile IT environment, which included:

  • Building a new infrastructure
  • Moving from an on-premise to cloud environment
  • Enlisting a means of rapid software development

“Predictable when it came to the cost, the timing, and the quality in which we could meet our end users’ requirements,” Landman added.

In 2017 Rabobank selected Mendix to satisfy their rapid software development needs for its strength of integration, multi-cloud capabilities, and robust security offering.

The Right Partner for Success

During Rabobank’s early days with low-code they made a conscious effort to enlist an experienced implementation partner to get off the ground. For Rabobank, this was the Dutch IT services and innovation partner, Finaps.

The benefits of working with a partner were twofold: Rabobank could leverage Finaps’ expertise to implement foundational best practices from the very start, and their internal Mendix developers could learn by co-developing alongside seasoned experts.

“We always aim for a long-term partnership with our clients,” said Rochus Meijer, Principal Business Engineer at Finaps. “We place an emphasis on getting to know the organization, looking forward into their roadmap, and becoming an active participant in it to see where we can provide value.”

Meijer has been developing with Mendix for over a decade since version 3.0.

Finaps conducts workshops to establish a full understanding of their clients architecture, security parameters, and IT landscape before diving into execution. Seven years in, and the partnership between Rabobank and Finaps is stronger than ever. You can find team members from Finaps working in Rabobank’s offices regularly, fully embedded in the organizational culture and way of working.

“Finaps has had a great impact on our success. We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Ronner. “I think what we have in common is a focus on delivery and results. Finaps was always committed to delivering and figuring things out with us, which has been key to our successful cooperation.”

Together, Finaps and Rabobank have delivered several applications over the years, including their most recent transformation project for the Credit and Engagement team: ARROW.

Transforming Credit Risk Assessment

Rabobank’s wholesale and rural customers are large corporations and farms with international footprints and an annual turnover of more than €250 million. “They typically have really large loans and leverage the more complex products that we provide for international trade,” said Landman.

In 2022, there was a pressing need to address the business-critical process of credit risk assessment for these customers which was tied to a legacy system in Rabobank that was nearing end-of-life.

“The credit risk assessment is a core process to determine whether we can do business with a certain client and accept the associated risk. Historically this was quite inefficient,” said Miranda Blankers, the Lead Product Owner of the ARROW application.

Blankers has been with Rabobank for over a decade and had previously been a business user in the credit risk process. “We had a lot of different systems with little to no integration. It was all copying, pasting, and re-keying a lot of data and then manually processing it,” she continued.

The objectives were to deliver a new application that would:

  • Fully digitize the credit risk process for business users.
  • Automatically capture data from the involved systems to reduce manual data entry.
  • Improve the business user experience by providing a standard and seamless workflow.

“We looked at all of our options like products from the market or building with Mendix or other platforms,” said Blankers.

To date, this was one of the most collaborative and complex Mendix projects within Rabobank. The cross-functional team was comprised of developers, business representatives from the credit risk team, upper management, legal, compliance, and the technical owners of the integrated systems.

Since its launch, Rabobank’s front office teams—credit analysts, relationship managers, product experts, and managers—have used ARROW daily.

Some standout features include:

  • A CKEditor widget, which provides an enhanced version of the credit application process that was historically conducted in Word Documents. Users can leave comments and track changes, mimicking the Word experience, but within the traceable confines of the application.
  • Integrations with 10 other Rabobank systems to pull in data such as client information, risk ratings, and user access information.
  • Two layers of security – the built-in Mendix security with Rabobank’s user role setup, along with user context, such as location or business line.

“Integration on the extra security layer is basically the bread and butter of the application. It was one of the most difficult integrations we’ve had to do,” said Meijer.

“It required a very close collaboration with Rabobank’s business analysts in order to get all of the rules clear. The data structure and amount of data were so large that we ended up creating a Java extension to do the work for us. We also created a separate test environment with a test access manager role, and this allowed us to configure the roles in our application by ourselves and be completely self-sufficient in testing.”

For Blankers, the collaboration enabled by Mendix was the key to delivering ARROW in the 1-year allotted timeline. “I think that low-code together with the Agile way of working really ensured quick delivery. Speed was the greatest value for us,” she said. “It’s fairly easy to set up new features and demonstrate them to users so that you can easily collect feedback and keep moving.”

When asked about their favorite project to date, Landman, Ronner, and Blankers all resoundingly say ARROW. “We are really proud of what we accomplished with ARROW,” said Ronner.

Predictable Development at Scale

Predictability is a core KPI in Rabobank’s software development process. “When we started using Mendix the appealing idea was, and still is, that you’re able to build very quickly. What we learned over time is that setting the building fast is great, but you need to have a proper plan beforehand,” said Ronner.

“You can develop and change things in an iterative way, but we still need to have elements that are reliable and will remain unchanged,” she said.

Rabobank has several checks and balances in place from process and platform standpoints to meet their stringent standards for application quality. This includes:

  • A ‘decision tree’ of when to use Mendix, and for what.
  • Promoting knowledge sharing and reuse of standardized components from an internal marketplace.
  • Implementing code reviews, testing, and maintenance at a platform level.

“For certain use cases, we have standardized solutions and technology within Rabobank, so of course we will use it,” said Landman.

Rabobank has 8 teams supporting each of their environments – referred to as ‘squads’ – which are comprised of engineers, business analysts, testers, and a product owner. After spending their first year building trust in the platform, Ronner shared that they needed “better knowledge sharing and more efficient use of what had been built so far.”

Today, Rabobank has a Private Marketplace with several “building blocks” of functionality – design, components, and integrations – that can be reused across the various departments using Mendix within the bank. Other foundational elements, like security and testing, come “out-of-the-box” with Mendix, reducing the effort required to execute repeatable development processes.

“We have a lot of criteria to meet before we can promote our applications to production. When we can do that on a platform level rather than for each separate application, that really saves us a lot of time and internal administration and get our code into production very quickly,” she said.

Banking Transformation with Mendix

After seven years and 40+ applications, the Rabobank team shares their advice for other organizations getting started with Mendix:

  • Have a vision and start with the end in mind. Don’t get caught up just with app number one, but consider the implications of your architecture, design, and security setup well beyond your first project.
  • Rely on partner expertise if you can. “This will help you get off the runway faster if you bring in the expertise instead of starting by building it up yourself,” said Landman.
  • Adjust your IT processes accordingly. Developing with low-code is a new way of working, so things like incident management or vulnerability scanning need to be reassessed in a world where code is abstracted away.

“In the old days of application development your attention was on writing good code,” Landman stated.