Case study: Nationwide and Form3 on migrating payments

Blog· 10min September 27, 2022

Form3 were recently featured in a Bobsguide case study discussing how Nationwide worked with us to map out a multi-year migration set to improve the scale, resiliency and long-term viability of Nationwide's payments infrastructure.

Nationwide begin their payment transformation

In 2018, Nationwide, the largest building society in the UK, began the process of mapping out an ambitious transformation of its payments infrastructure. This transition would end up being a multi-year process, involving multiple providers, improving the resiliency of Nationwide’s infrastructure and ultimately leading up to the adoption of Pay.UK’s New Payments Architecture.

The society, whose group assets total over £230bn, began the transformation with an internal analysis of the project scope and requirements, launched in 2018. This endeavour would result in a migration of the infrastructure underpinning all payments to and from Nationwide accounts for the foreseeable future. The results of the procurement exercise gained wider public visibility in 2021, when Nationwide announced a partnership with infrastructure provider, Form3.

“The business case was made that there was a need for a new payment infrastructure, which needed to be more cost-efficient, and facilitate long-term growth”


A cloud platform offers scale

In 2018, three years prior to Benz joining the business, Nationwide launched a procurement exercise for a trusted provider of locally hosted payments infrastructure.

While the building society received proposals from industry leading participants, in 2019 it pivoted away from its original plan for a locally hosted installation and opted for a cloud architecture instead.

The pivot was well-timed in 2019. A survey by the Bank of England, conducted that same year among the 30 largest banks (including Nationwide) and 27 largest insurers in the UK, revealed that the bank focus group already used cloud for around 2,000 different applications and showed substantial maturity in this regard.

Of all the cloud applications reported by banks, 82% used a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, while 18% employed infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).

For Nationwide, the desision was a practical one, allowing the society to implement DevOps across its payment infrastructure, avoid service downtime around migrations and access a wider pool of tech talent.


Faster Payments processed by Nationwide per year

The past five years have seen exponential growth in cashless payments. They needed a solution that would be able to facilitate this.

This prediction is backed by statistics from the UK’s retail payments operator and standards body, Pay.UK. In 2021, According to the organisation, the Faster Payments System enjoyed a record-breaking 12 months, processing 3.4 billion transactions with a value of £2.6 trillion.

This represented a year-on-year volume increase of 568 million payments, or 20%, and a 24% jump in values (up from £2.1 trillion in 2020). The rise in uptake during the previous year was similarly rapid, likely due to the pandemic, with Faster payments transactions increasing by 383m during the 12 months.

“For us, the way forward for this project is to further improve resiliency and decrease downtime.”


What is Faster Payments?

Faster Payments is one of the ways consumers can send money electronically in the UK. It is a real-time payments system. The service was launched in 2008 as an initiative to enable mobile, internet, phone and standing order payments to move quickly and securely between UK bank accounts, 24 hours a day.

Before Faster Payments, funds would take approximately three days to move between bank accounts. The overarching system is operated by Pay.UK, the company that’s also responsible for facilitating Bacs payments and the Current Account Switch Service in the UK.

External vendors and concentration risk

Other vendors involved in the project included AWS as the cloud infrastructure provider, Accenture as the systems integrator, as well as external software testing providers, engaged by Form3.

Form3 is an Advanced Technology Partner of AWS and currently deploys its services on the Amazon cloud. However, concentration risk has not gone unacknowledged. A key hindrance to the resiliency of the UK’s financial infrastructure, concentration risk has also been singled out by the Bank of England.

In order to mitigate concentration risk and ensure an “unkillable” infrastructure, the firm is currently working on spinning out a Kubernetes cluster with each cloud vendor, with Google Cloud Platform (GCP) being first on the list.

“After the partnership was announced and the scope defined, the next step was to confirm a live date with the central infrastructure and work backwards to determine the integration requirements and testing schedules.”


Metrics of success

Outside of being cloud-native and extending the shelf life of Nationwide’s payment infrastructure, Benz cites the resiliency of the Form3 platform as a key criterion for selection. To this end, the key performance indicators that Benz and his team report at the board level, and which are regularly communicated to Nationwide members, include uptime and payments response time across the society’s three digital payments channels.

Benz notes that in July, the most recent full month at time of writing, the building society had no unplanned outages, with the only downtime being for planned maintenance.

Scale and further development

Over the course of the next year, the building society will migrate Faster Payments over to the new, Form3 platform. At the same time, the team will work to ensure the system is ready for the changes required to support Pay.UK’s New Payments Architecture.

Once these changes are made, Nationwide will re-assess their position and plan the next phases of work, which are likely to include BACS, CHAPS & international payments, according to Benz.

Nationwide's Timeline

  • Internal analysis of project requirement and scope in 2018/2019.

    September 2018

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