Over the last 15 years, providers of financial services products e.g. Pensions and ISAs, have moved away from traditional product focussed, legacy systems for administering their customers policies to holistic multi-product investment Platform technologies. This move has taken place across multiple sectors including insurance companies, banks and asset managers (the ‘Providers’ of the Platforms).
The decision to move to has 2 main drivers: cost reduction and an enhanced digital experience for the end customer (which also provides a competitive advantage through propositional enhancement). In most cases Providers have opted to outsource the technology solution to third party firms, who provide the underlying software that powers these Platforms. Platforms typically provide a very user-friendly experience that is straightforward and clean, allowing customers a streamlined journey: from joining the Platform, to buying products and executing underlying transactions to retiring – belying the complexity that sits behind the user experience.
The technologies that drive these Platforms are by their very nature complex, with multiple dependencies, third party links and bespoke configurations to ancillary systems – all overlain with technical jargon used to describe the processes and tasks that lead to the customer experience. This is where the problem lies. The business users within the Providers are typically not from a technical background, rather they are accountants, project managers, Compliance professionals, operational specialists and marketeers. This brings about a disconnect, where the customer at the beginning and often at the end of a multiple year project may not actually understand how the Platform works. This situation is particularly difficult in highly regulated markets, such as the UK, where there is a regulatory requirement for responsible Senior Managers to understand their businesses in detail and be able to provide evidence that the business is operating correctly, whether the technology has been outsourced or not.
To address this disconnect, the Provider typically hires a specialist consulting firm to run implementation programmes, ‘translating’ the technical aspects into business language. The consulting firm will bring in a large team of analysts to understand the Providers’ requirements and will act as a proxy in discussions with the software supplier. In turn the consulting firm will often appoint a test outsourcer, which involves recruiting a very large number of (often offshore) resources to prove the platform is working as expected. The issue is, neither the consulting firm or the test firm truly understand the technology or processes they are testing. This results in the adoption of a methodology where they simply test vast quantities of data without actually being able to articulate to the software provider the underlying issues that need to be resolved. This leads to lengthy delays and misunderstandings that can often strain the relationships between the software firm and the Provider.
Sticklr have seen these symptoms manifest themselves first hand. Through the use of technology we will deliver, in business language, a set of visually oriented documents that articulate the entire capability of the Platform, linking the relationships that exist, providing evidence of the completeness of testing against these capabilities and producing documentary evidence to satisfy the regulatory requirements of the FCAs Senior Managers Regime and Operational Resilience.
We will also rapidly identify the consequences of subsequent propositional and regulatory change, identifying all the processes and tasks that are affected. This will allow for cost effect management of change.
To provide this service we are bringing together several business functions, in particular Enterprise Architecture, Business Analysis, Regulatory Compliance, and automated testing. These functions generally work in isolation at different stages of the business development lifecycle and use separate tools.
From a regulatory perspective this will allow businesses to have the ability to:
- produce and update business process diagrams in real time based on test execution data
- trace dependencies through the process diagrams to produce real time business dashboards for Senior Managers and Compliance staff
- create and execute tests which, the Compliance teams, business users and the technical teams can find, view and understand
- electronically monitor regulations to identify and analyse changes
Formed in early 2020, Sticklr was born out of a passion to solve a major problem in the Platform world, namely the absence of a coherent view across all of the capabilities that exist on a Platform.
Platforms are complex organisms; they link operational processes, automated tasks, talk to multiple systems inside and outside of the firm’s ecosystem, deal with third party providers and systems, all overlain by regulation and tax requirements. Combine that with technical language and industry jargon and it is little wonder there are very few people who can genuinely hold themselves out as Platform experts.
Mike Stevens, the founder of Sticklr, has worked in the Platform business for over 18 years. During that time, he has gained a unique understanding of Platforms having worked for one of the world’s leading independent Platform providers, as Head of Enterprise, Developer, Account Director and Product lead, in both New Zealand (the home of platforms) and the UK. He has dealt first hand with some of the largest Platform providers in the UK as well as across Europe.
Mike had a vision to utilize that expertise, simplifying the complexities that exist and presenting them in a way that any business user of a Platform could understand. To make this concept a reality, Mike built a small core team of like-minded people, with disciplines in business analysis, programme management, software development, customer focus and regulation. After a successful proof of concept exercise carried out over the summer of 2020, Sticklr successfully secured a contract to build this initial Platform roadmap.
The team is technology led, utilizing dedicated enterprise architecture software to successfully document and link all existing Platform capabilities, driving automated outputs and reporting, and building bespoke websites tailored to our customers’ needs.
The team has now grown to 10, with plans to continue to expand as more customers are won. Our home is Edinburgh, and we strongly believe the local market can provide us with a depth of talent, experience and passion that rivals any other location in the UK.
Michael Stevens – CEO
Christian Dougal – COO
David Jackson – Investment Operations Director
Adam Pollock – Chief Technology Officer