In an industry full of established players and regulatory roadblocks, it can be difficult for innovators to break in and truly make a difference. Fintech pioneers like Solarisbank are rising to the challenge to make banking simpler for companies and their customers.
As a tech company with a German banking license, Solarisbank offers a completely digital banking-as-a-service platform, which their customers (who they call “partners”) can leverage to spin up custom financial solutions for their own users, without the usual red tape. For example, if a retailer wants to give their customers the option to finance a big purchase or buy a gift card, they would normally need to work with a bank to do so. Most traditional banking institutions move slowly and have predefined offerings that are hard to customize. The process often takes many months or even years and results in a shoehorned solution. Alternatively, the retailer could connect to Solarisbank’s flexible, modern platform and build their own customized, compliant banking products in a fraction of the time.
With such an innovative concept and entrepreneurial culture, which encourages everyone to take responsibility for helping the bank grow and evolve, it’s no wonder the company has attracted investors like VISA and BBVA, signed dozens of new partners around the world, and grown to over 300 employees in just four years. Scaling so quickly puts stress on even the most experienced teams, and when they’re working with some of the world’s biggest brands, there’s no room for error.
In the beginning, Solarisbank employees were using multiple tools for communication, documentation, and development. However, without standardized, integrated systems or organized processes, the team was struggling to work as quickly and effectively as they wanted. They were spending valuable time switching between systems and finding the right information, reporting was difficult if not impossible, and it was becoming harder to meet service-level agreements.
To solve their immediate challenges and lay the foundation for scaling even faster in the future, Solarisbank centralized onto the Atlassian platform and hasn’t looked back. Since onboarding the entire company to Atlassian solutions, the bank has increased efficiency, streamlined communication, and put professional structures in place to raise the bar for their customers and the entire banking industry.
Connectivity is key
Running a firm like Solarisbank isn’t like running most businesses. While many companies have the freedom to make their own rules, the bank operates in a highly regulated industry (financial services) and area (Europe). Auditors and investors need documentation, partners need compliance and constant support, and it’s nearly impossible to meet those needs with unclear processes and siloed systems.
“You can use four or five tools, but they’re hard to use together,” says Senior Productivity Manager Fabio Morena. “It’s also hard to release code for a banking platform. We have to be 100% sure the code has been reviewed properly, that all the right people took a look at it, and that all the right people signed off on the code that’s rolling out to production.”
Solarisbank also lacked formal systems for customer support and project management. Nabil Nassar, IT Business Consultant at Solutions Partner Valiantys, says teams were assigning and tracking work and service requests by email, which increased the risk of messages falling through the cracks or being shared with the wrong person.
To address these challenges, the team began looking into several technology solutions. While each one had advantages, Atlassian rose to the top of the list because of the team’s familiarity with the platform and its integration. “We already worked with Confluence, so it was a no-brainer that we use more Atlassian tools,” Fabio explains. “The key reason to use Atlassian products is the connectivity. You have your documentation, your boards, your customer support, and everything is interconnected.”
A secure and customized body of knowledge
Once they chose their solution, Solarisbank turned to Valiantys for help with implementation, as well as ongoing training, coaching, and management. Together, they configured Jira Software, Confluence, Jira Service Desk, and Statuspage to fit each team’s unique needs and workflows. For the sake of security and compliance, they set up separate instances for internal collaboration with employees and external collaboration with partners.
Many employees were already using Confluence in one way or another, so Solarisbank and Valiantys began there and deemed it the team’s single point of truth from then on. When new hires start, when information about a partner changes, and even crisis strikes, everyone turns to Confluence. “It’s our number one tool for everything content-related, everything documentation-related. We spend hours in [Confluence] per day,” Fabio says. “If you want to learn anything about this company, you go to Confluence. Everyone always knows where to find what.”
That includes key players outside the bank, like auditors, whom the team must provide with updated records of every change made to their core product. Thanks to this living body of documentation, employees, partners, and regulators can always quickly and easily find exactly what they need.
An integrated ecosystem for speedy service and delivery
In addition to centralized documentation, Solarisbank needed a better way to collaborate on product development and customer service. These processes were slower and more complex before, but by implementing Atlassian with Valiantys’s help, both technical and non-technical teams are empowered to work together for better, faster service and delivery.
Solarisbank’s Technology team uses Jira Software to collaborate with their partners on product development, issue management, and code releases, which are executed with a click of the mouse. “As soon as a release is rolled initially, a Jira ticket is created, and when it’s dragged into the release column, this release is kicked off by someone authorized to do so,” says Fabio. The new release is then logged in Confluence for audit purposes.
When Technology is working on incident management and maintenance, Statuspage is invaluable. It’s integrated with Solarisbank’s alerting tool, so any time an incident is reported or maintenance is scheduled, an update is automatically posted to Statuspage. That way, Solarisbank’s partners are aware of any potential disruptions, and engineers can work quickly to address the issue. The Statuspage updates have been particularly helpful for saving time, building trust, and keeping partners happy. Before, the bank’s team had to call or email partners every time there was an incident. Now, the process is automatic, and partners know exactly what’s going on and how close the issue is to being resolved.
Solutions tailored to each team
As non-technical teams saw how Technology was using Jira Software, they started thinking about how they could leverage it too. Groups across the organization, including Finance, Accounting, HR, and Marketing, now rely on the platform for task tracking and project management, in addition to other department-specific needs. For example, Finance turns to Jira Software for reporting, while HR uses it for onboarding and payment and compensation requests.
Jira Software plays a key role in managing internal service requests too. Each team has its own board, so whenever an employee needs support from the Technology team, such as asking Information Security for new permissions or leaders for a report review, that person opens a ticket in Jira Software. “Then we’re able to turn a support ticket into feature tickets for the Tech teams. Jira is really sewn into our daily processes,” Fabio says.
While Solarisbank uses Jira Software for basic service requests internally, their external partners’ requests were a bit more complex. To meet their needs and ensure security, the bank uses Jira Service Desk for partner support. If requests require bug fixes, feature requests, or other documentation, employees can link tickets to Jira Software and Confluence, which helps them quickly switch between applications and collaborate to resolve the issue.
Jira Service Desk and Jira Software have also provided Solarisbank with new visibility into data so they can track and improve performance. Credit Analyst Constantin Mirow, who uses Jira Service Desk for partner support, explains: “We can track the number of tickets that come in and are resolved, working time, and the eventual outcome of each ticket. That way, we can understand how to optimize our workflow and if there are better ways of handling customer requests.” Fabio adds, “For our developer teams and agile coaches, it’s important to have reports on how fast things get done. For example, with Jira, we can track how fast we move through a board and how fast we deploy new releases.”
With greater visibility and reporting, Solarisbank is more equipped than ever to make fast, smart decisions and continue to grow.
Scaling fast with purpose and professionalism
With Valiantys’s support refining Solarisbank’s processes, standardizing their systems, and customizing Atlassian for each team’s needs, groups across the company have seen significant improvements in speed and visibility – both key ingredients that have helped them grow quickly and lay the foundation for future scaling.
“We are working in the fast fintech business, so we need to be fast in structuring our daily work. With the permanent integration of Jira, we are way faster and more aligned than before,” Fabio says. Financial Analyst Jordi Vilalta adds, “In Finance, [Atlassian] has helped us get really structured to centralize communication channels, avoid losing track of information, and be more efficient.”
The bank’s team is also expanding to new locations and facing new challenges, such as doing more remote work, so they rely on Atlassian to maintain efficiency and transparency when collaborating from afar. “Many of us are working remotely now, so we’re highly dependent on having transparency into what everyone is working on,” Fabio explains. “We have daily meetings via Zoom where we look at our dashboards and say, ‘Today I’m going to work on this topic, and my colleague is working on that topic.’ That helps a lot.”
Constantin agrees. “Transparency is one of the biggest advantages [of implementing Atlassian],” he says. “Everyone is aware of the topics coming every day, so we can split the daily business up equally and stay aligned on what needs to be done. We can also measure at the end of the day if we actually achieved what we wanted to do.”
There’s no doubt Solarisbank is achieving everything they wanted to — and more. In less than three years, the team has almost quadrupled in size and far exceeded their goals for partnership growth. And this is only the beginning. Now that they have more formal processes, centralized communication, and a core set of collaboration tools, Solarisbank feels confident they can continue scaling rapidly with purpose and professionalism.
“Our company is getting bigger, and our partners are getting bigger…We were 80 people at the end of 2016. In early 2020, we were 300 and still growing,” Fabio says. “When a company grows fast like that, you have to establish standardized processes and professional systems to serve big financial players. You need to keep everything in one place and help everyone stay up to date. You need transparency so you can be efficient and make decisions faster. You need to grow fast and professionally. That’s what Atlassian is doing for us.”
Solarisbank AG, founded in 2016, Berlin-based, is the first Banking-as-a-Service platform with a full banking license that enables companies to offer their own financial products. Through APIs, partners gain access to Solarisbank’s modular services including digital bank accounts and payment cards, identification and lending services, as well as services provided by integrated third party providers. Through this, Solarisbank creates a highly developed technological banking ecosystem for fintechs and established digital companies, as well as banks and corporates.