How HTB and Alfa delivered the Alfa Start solution in 19 weeks
About HTB and the systems selection process
Hampshire Trust Bank (HTB), one of the UK’s most ambitious specialist banks, announced in November 2019 that its specialist business finance division had selected Alfa Systems, the leading asset finance software provided by Alfa.
The investment in Alfa's cloud-based platform would be integral to HTB's digital strategy to deploy 'best in breed' software and services, and demonstrate the significant commitment of the board and executive team to the growth of its reformed specialist business finance division.
HTB chose Alfa Systems because it uses leading digital technologies to deliver functionality that is scalable and performant, streamlining operations through automation and enabling both high-volume transactions and complex leases. This would help drive a clear and complete journey for HTB’s customers.
HTB anticipated that Alfa Systems would provide considerably more functionality and significantly improve its settlement and payout turnaround times, thereby helping HTB better serve its customers and suppliers.
Taking a partnership approach was an important component for HTB, with both teams bringing their different talents to ensure the project’s success, but fused together with a shared passion and commitment to achieve the desired outcome. This ability to work extremely well as a team would prove fundamental to the success of the project.
About Alfa Start
HTB became Alfa’s first customer of Alfa Start, the preconfigured edition of Alfa Systems.
A highly effective business accelerator, Alfa Start is faster to implement, but still delivers the full power of Alfa Systems’ technology. To reflect the fact that some businesses don’t require the complexity of the full system implementation, the application is preloaded with business-ready configuration, enabling its delivery to be simple and straightforward.
"Alfa Start represents the best of both worlds for our customers. You get all the futureproof power and benefits of Alfa Systems, without incurring the costs of a bespoke implementation."
Alfa Start can be used by asset finance companies of any size, ranging from start-ups to established, large-scale organizations. Its ability to expand in complexity and geographically, as a company’s needs grow, represents a compelling package for ambitious and growing brands such as HTB.
Alfa Start customers benefit from an always-on, cloud-hosted solution with fully managed infrastructure, as well as regular upgrades. The offering also includes a suite of out-of-the-box integrations to enable trouble-free assimilation of Alfa Systems into the systems landscape, quickly and efficiently.
In addition, clients are supported by the same consultants who work on all implementations; those with a wealth of experience and industry knowledge from multiple client implementations of Alfa Systems.
The Alfa project team joined HTB on-site in November 2019. Alfa Start incorporated one week of preparation, during which HTB submitted their configuration specifics and collated information required for the project, such as sample contracts.
This was followed by a two-week scoping phase which, rather than focusing on requirements, instead ran through the Alfa Start implementation approach and provided introductions to the various implementation activities. The scoping phase is designed to ensure that both sides were aligned on the scope and plan for the project.
The project reached live production in mid-March, just 19 weeks later.
By choosing Alfa Start, we were able to utilize the system’s existing set-up and best-practice behavior to give us a head start, rather than spending time and effort taking a blue-sky approach to definition.
Alfa brought its extensive experience in asset finance software implementation to enable HTB’s objective of getting people up and running with the system in a short timeframe, using a practical approach. HTB needed to work in a flexible and agile way, and this was closely suited to the approach taken by Alfa. They also needed to be able to demonstrate control to their audit teams, a particular strength of the Alfa Systems platform.
The need for a collaborative relationship wasn’t restricted to the HTB-Alfa project team; an ongoing understanding among other internal HTB teams was also required. Business, Finance, Testing, and IT teams were all integral to the project team, enabling the right decisions to be made in a timely fashion.
This added to the feeling of operational efficiency which has been improved with the implementation.
"To go from signing contracts in late November to live for new business by early March was achieved through the joint efforts and determination of a spectacular team."
Alfa Start’s standard integrations include Experian and QuickAddress, as well as payments through BACS, CHAPS and Faster Payments. Each integration is accompanied by a description document that details its capabilities and requirements, as well as example extract files to aid quicker middleware integration.
HTB had already invested in Snaplogic for API integration with Alfa, and the integration with Alfa’s open API was simple and straightforward.
Even after the initial project ended, HTB has continued to integrate Alfa Systems with other new applications, such as its data warehouse, with little or no assistance from the Alfa team.
The speed with which integration was achieved was noticeable and there was a welcome lack of issues.
"We are thrilled to be live with Alfa Systems, following the Alfa Start methodology and exceptional Alfa support enabling us to deliver in the shortest time possible. Alfa Systems gives us key API capabilities that weren’t available in our legacy core banking platform, enabling us to launch a wider range of new products to the market, improve speed and efficiency, and offer a significantly improved service to our brokers and their customers."
Going live in a pandemic
The project was announced in mid-March 2020 as having gone live successfully for new business. The go-live took place very shortly before Covid-19 was given pandemic status, lockdowns were declared and business drastically reduced.
Soon afterward, HTB identified a need to help its customers through this challenging period by applying emergency payment holidays at scale. Because the go-live was only for new business, and HTB’s former system wasn’t capable of processing payment holidays effectively, it was decided to migrate 2,500 customers and their agreements into Alfa Systems in order to meet this need. The payment holidays were then applied using Alfa Systems’ out-of-the-box functionality, improving the customer experience quickly and directly.
Furthermore, HTB was able to implement CBILS (the fund designed to support UK businesses that were losing revenue and seeing their cash flow disrupted as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak) on Alfa Systems within four weeks.
Alfa’s comprehensive documentation was highly valuable, especially around workflow and collections - which was thrust into the spotlight by Covid.
HTB has added various new configurations since its go-live, which has helped to streamline business throughput.
The twin factors of speed of delivery and a partnership approach were essential to the success of this project. While this was a rapid implementation of a nontrivial addition to the HTB systems landscape, it could not have been achieved without highly collaborative combined operations from both HTB and Alfa. HTB is now using this as its preferred approach for other transformations within the business.
The “out-of-the-box” system functionality which met all our immediate needs, combined with the exceptional quality of implementation support provided by the Alfa team, enabled us to launch the new platform within a very short timeframe. This in turn enabled us to deliver on our key business objectives.
Alfa Systems is so easy to configure that we don’t need to be technical experts in it; we have the partnership with Alfa, and this enables us to be experts in our own products and our own market.