Populus Financial Group Transforms to a Modern, Customer-centric Business
Improved customer experience, time & cost savings, risk protection
In business for more than 50 years, Populus Financial Group (formerly ACE Cash Express) is a next-generation financial services firm offering consumer banking products for customers who don't necessarily use traditional banks. With 3,100 employees, and more than 972 branches across the US, the company is committed to providing innovative financial products and services using a platform that supports future growth.
The Omnichannel Challenge
Populus wanted to improve its customer experience because, as it was, if a single customer used its website, mobile app, and a branch, its systems recorded those interactions as coming from three people. "We wanted to shift from a transaction focus to a customer focus, and allow in-depth analysis of our customers," says Jacques Guichard, director of enterprise architecture, enterprise data, business intelligence, integration, and innovation.
However, the firm’s legacy infrastructure, point-to-point integrations, disjointed business rules, and lack of integration framework and centralized API management stood in the way.
The company needed to unify all applications and map business processes end-to-end so customer interactions and data could be captured across all touchpoints for a consistent omnichannel experience. To solve the problem, Mr. Guichard began looking for an integration and analytics platform that could bring together all data and all systems.
The Unified Platform Approach and Partnership
Guichard compared IBM, Mulesoft, and TIBCO on pricing, ease of implementation, capabilities, and supportability. "And there's many, many other things, lots of criteria and comparison metrics. TIBCO came out on top because it is really the only one that is a full, unified platform for everything—from API management, integration, messaging, in-memory data grid, predictive analytics, business events—the capabilities we could use to benefit multiple areas of our business. A company our size really can't afford to have multiple relationships with multiple vendors because ultimately we'll end up in the same spot with completely dispersed, broken up environments with different contracts to maintain."
Populus worked with TIBCO partner iSteer. "If you have a unified platform with one vendor, it's beyond just a vendor-customer relationship," says Guichard. "It becomes a partnership, and that's what TIBCO and iSteer did. They partnered with me to make this thing successful. iSteer listened to what I needed and gave me the right solutions. They turned things around very quickly—installed it, identified issues we faced, and worked with TIBCO’s engineering team to resolve them."
With its modern TIBCO platform, Guichard says his company can be future proof. "It gives you the agility you need to accelerate, not just from a development standpoint, but from a business transformation and enterprise architecture standpoint."
Improved Customer Experience
Today the company analyzes data from its loan, check cashing, debit cards, and money transfer products and from various marketing and social media channels to create a more personalized and powerful customer experience for every interaction, including for marketing, upselling, and cross selling.
"We can build event-driven rules to help improve customer experience. We can apply rules that drive the tracking of customer engagement in stores, push new scoring mechanisms based on demographics and location, and deter fraud by applying new risk models based on fresh data."
All channels can take advantage of machine learning and AI to decipher what the customer wants by enabling Populus to act in real time and make better decisions. Identification of customer demographics is supporting wise spending on marketing, new product development, and placement of new stores.
Time and Cost Savings
Populus estimates that its cost savings is in the millions. "Things we’ve done so far have saved millions of dollars because we were able to produce working applications quicker and more efficiently with a small team. We took on a strategic development project that would have normally taken 54 to 72 months to complete and got it developed, tested, and deployed to production within a week."
Hosting APIs and microservices on the TIBCO platform, accelerated the company’s data and integration strategy, giving it the ability to quickly expose data and business processes while governing who (or what) subscribes to which API when, where, and how often. “The intelligence and agility around APIs is really where I think the value is,” says Guichard. "You’ve got to be able to monitor, regulate, orchestrate, and secure them, and that's what the TIBCO platform provides."
Guichard acknowledges digital transformation challenges. "For example, when new technology is introduced to the company, the hardest part is changing the culture and gaining buy-in from the legacy development community. When a company has never been exposed to a new age integration platform/orchestration engine with a simple drag and drop interface, traditionalists get nervous, defensive, and often do not embrace the digital transformation. Executive steering and having a good implementation partner are critical to success."
He says a big problem that companies face today is becoming future proof. To stay competitive, to keep up with rapidly changing business demands and vendor/partner integrations, companies must gain the agility to quickly integrate with APIs and produce products and applications with minimal effort by the technical staff they already have. Time-to-market needs to be dramatically decreased and development dramatically accelerated. “TIBCO is the integration platform that enables companies to become future proof by providing an easy-to-use drag-and-drop user interface. TIBCO easily bridges that gap between your legacy applications and your modern applications,” says Guichard.
"Traditionally, when the business wanted to put out a new product, we would need to gather all the requirements, put together our iterations, and hire 20 plus developers to crank out code. Then a separate team of four to five people would perform the QA and just get something out. Using TIBCO's platform we did full stack development of four underwriting models with two people and got it to production in under a week. The traditional way would have taken 12 to 18 months for the underwriting model, requiring approximately 30 .NET developers. The new way is a quantum leap in productivity. From an innovation standpoint, we were able to produce what the business wanted in a fraction of the time, with fewer people and less overall cost and get the product to market while it was still relevant for the target customers."
Risk Prediction and Greater Data Value
Populus made "a quantum leap" in agility using TIBCO Data Science analytics to enrich and accelerate its underwriting models for determining the probability of a customer defaulting on a loan. Model development time was reduced by 120x, a significant benefit in terms of human hours, but also in terms of the value of data.
"Most lenders want to predict their risk, but if the data being used is no longer relevant because predictive model development takes too long, you can’t capitalize on your customer assessments. If you analyzed data 18 months ago, and you're just now getting the model out, the customer population you selected is no longer relevant, your window of opportunity has passed," says Guichard.
Populus can now observe how a model performs against data and make small changes on-the-fly as necessary without the need to redevelop anything.
Better Data and Data Access
Now, with an open API-driven and microservices-based framework, Populus has a uniform way of finding, creating, accessing, and updating customer data across all channels, and Mr. Guichard says it solves about 99% of customer data inconsistencies. “If you can control your data intake and aggregate all of that information, your data becomes more reliable. We will know our customers better, with a 360˚ view of who they are through each channel."