A digital revolution is underway in the payments industry. Banks and financial institutions are investing in digital capabilities to meet the demand for faster, leaner and more efficient transaction options. And the pace of innovation in the financial services technology industry is making it an exciting industry for software engineers to work in.
Mark Edwards, director of digital payments at Discover Financial Services, a leading digital bank in the United States, describes how payment innovation is driven by the cloud, application programming interface (API) platforms and other digital solutions. The company, which has an office in Farnborough where much of its payment technology development takes place, recently made the transition from virtual machine-based payment applications to the cloud via the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform (OCP).
“The move from virtual machines on physical infrastructure to OCP has transformed our operations and provided us with greater flexibility: the platform allows us to consistently develop, deploy and manage applications across hybrid and cloud environments, as well as in our data. physical centers, ”says Mark. “It has increased our competitiveness and our ability to innovate and has created a work environment that helps us attract and retain the talent we need.”
Mark has spent his entire career in payments, including 17 years at Barclaycard. In 2019 he joined Discover, developing systems to digitize cards, make payments via Apple or Google phones and guarantee the additional security required by an increasingly digital payment space.
One of the biggest benefits of moving to OCP has been a faster time to market, through more efficient release and distribution, the distribution of the latest or final version of a software application. “We have always been very good from a process automation point of view. Before OCP, we had a single release environment that our design teams had to share, which slowed things down. With OCP, our product team of six engineers can release independently, ”says Mark.
The company’s ability to collaborate with digital players in space, such as Apple, Google and Amazon, has also been greatly improved. “They have vision, they are agile and they move quickly,” says Mark. “And you can’t partner with them as effectively if you have a six-month release schedule. OCP offers us a level of agility that matches theirs and allows us to work in step with them. “
The move to the cloud has also spurred innovation for the company. “One of the benefits of faster speed to market is that you can show someone a new product in a couple of weeks instead of six months, which increases their risk appetite,” he says. “This allows us to be braver and therefore more innovative”.
The increased flexibility and agility and the shift to a product-centric organizational structure have had a positive impact on the workforce, strengthening design teams and giving them a sense of belonging to the products they are working on. Competition for software engineering talent is fierce, and Discover’s new technology stack is helping him not only attract, but also retain the talent he needs.
“You can’t risk losing people by bringing new people who can do all the exciting things; we must accompany everyone on this journey, ”says Mark. “We have some fantastic engineers who have been with us 10 years or more and had never touched the OCP, so it was imperative to provide everyone with the right training and support and the headspace to tackle it.”
Each team member had eight weeks of immersive training, not only on the OCP, but also on applying the new system to their work and its roots in the corporate culture.
However, says Mark, there are lessons to be learned when moving from legacy systems to cloud systems, not the least of which is the importance of paying close attention to operational readiness. “Coding something in the cloud requires a different way of thinking than working with physical infrastructure.
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“With physical infrastructure, the possibility of the machine your application running on explode is incredibly unlikely. However, the cloud can literally disappear, so you need a different mindset and more solid ways to tackle it all, ”she says.
Mark admits that he has spent most of his career imagining a digital payment world of fully responsible teams, modern technology stacks that drive engineering excellence, and rapid product release at the touch of a button. In the slower world of finance, that vision seemed like a fantasy. But not anymore.
“Where we are now with digital payments in Discover is very, very close to making that vision a reality,” he says. “That’s why I’m so passionate about this business and the future of this industry.”
Learn more about the career and career opportunities offered by Discover Financial Services