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A pioneering investment in a cloud-based asset finance platform has accelerated service delivery for Hampshire Trust Bank and minimised customer disruption during the pandemic.

Hampshire Trust Bank's (HTB) specialist banking division was the first customer for Alfa Start, the preconfigured solution from global software giant Alfa that enables finance companies to rapidly implement its award-winning software.

The system was chosen in late 2019 to be implemented for new business and the design of the solution meant it was up and running by early 2020, just in time to play a critical role in responding to the crisis engulfing UK businesses and consumers.

Alfa Start comes predesigned and ready to use, which largely removes the in-depth consultation process that the software company carries out with customers who are supplied with its full Alfa Systems solution. Customers still receive the same level of service from the support and integration team behind Alfa Systems.

When the platform went live in March 2020, lockdowns were being declared and, because HTB's legacy system was not capable of processing payment holidays for current customers effectively, the specialist bank expanded its use of the Alfa online platform; around 2,500 customers were migrated to Alfa Systems where the functionality was available.

HTB was also able to implement support for the government-backed CBILS loan scheme on the Alfa platform.

Robin Jeffery, head of transformation at HTB, said: “Alfa’s comprehensive documentation was highly valuable, especially around workflow and collections - which was thrust into the spotlight by COVID-19.”

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexible systems in the asset finance market to cope with emerging challenges in a rapidly changing environment.

This is an underlying aim of the Alfa Start service, which offers rapid deployment through a pre-configured solution that still provides the full benefits of the Alfa Systems platform.

Cloud-based delivery provides fully managed infrastructure and regular upgrades without disrupting service, while there is a suite of integrations that can be plugged into the system to expand its capabilities.

For implementation, the Alfa project team joined HTB on-site, with HTB submitting their configuration specifics and collated information required for the project, such as sample contracts.

After this one-week period, a scoping phase lasting two weeks covered the implementation approach and provided guidance on various planned activities, so both sides were ready for launch.

Within 19 weeks, the system was live.

Jeffery added: “We were able to utilise the system’s existing set-up and best-practice behaviour to give us a head start, rather than spending time and effort taking a blue-sky approach to definition.”

A business-wide strategy involved key teams in the launch, such as audit, business, finance, testing and IT.

Russ Fitzgerald, chief information officer at HTB, said: “To go from signing contracts in late November to go-live for new business by early March was achieved through the joint efforts and determination of a spectacular team.”

Alfa Start delivers standard integrations including Experian and QuickAddress, as well as payments through BACS, CHAPS and Faster Payments.

Each integration is accompanied by a description document, which details its capabilities and requirements, as well as example extract files.

HTB had already invested in Snaplogic for API integration with Alfa.

The extensive training has also freed HTB to carry out its own developments, such as linking Alfa Start to its data warehouse to deliver enhanced business insights.

Paul Bartley (pictured), managing director, specialist business finance at HTB, said: “Alfa Systems gives us key API capabilities not available in our legacy core banking platform that enables 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.”

With a focus on collaboration and information sharing during the initial launch phase, it has now opened a new era of product development.

Jeffery added: “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.”

Introducing Alfa Start for equipment finance from Alfa on Vimeo.

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