OP Home Loan Service – Developing an unparalleled service with cutting-edge technologies and practices

“From a systems developer’s point of view, the interesting thing about OP Home Loan Service has been developing an entirely new banking service by taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies and service-oriented architectures,” says Developer Antti Friman. The development of OP Home Loan Service for quick application for home loans was started at OP Development & Technologies in 2017. This service is the first ever digital service for applying for home loans not only in Finland, but in the Nordic countries.

How does OP Home Loan Service work – the customer perspective

“In a nutshell, the customer logs into op.fi and fills in a home loan application. The service will then immediately issue a loan decision that binds the bank,” explains Product Owner Lauri Aarnio. The loan offer requires that all the information submitted by the customer is correct and that the customer’s collateral is in order. In practice, the loan decision is generated to the customer by the Credit Engine, developed by OP, which calculates the maximum loan amount and margin offer. In decision-making, the Credit Engine leverages OP’s own data and data obtained from external partners’ systems.

OP Home Loan Service is available to current OP customers, but later this year also new customers can apply for home loans with it. The development of this service was prompted purely by the desire to improve customer experience and enable hassle-fee applying for loans. Customers no longer need to drop into a bank branch in person but can quickly get a loan offer wherever they are. With a positive loan decision in the pocket, you can set about buying a home without further ado.

How does the developer view OP Home Loan Service development?

“Roughly speaking, OP Home Loan Service includes user interface and backend service layers and a database. In developing the backend service, we’ve used service-oriented architectures that are fairly common in the banking world. By means of the data compiled from the service-oriented architectures, the Credit Engine can communicate with, among others, Suomen Asiakastieto to check for possible bad credit record. So, it’s a concoction of many systems, the joint operation of which generates the loan decisions that bind the bank,” describes Friman.

The team aspired to use the most novel technologies for stack development. In general, OP seeks to use the most recent technologies, even though some older systems are still in use. Both OP Home Loan Service and the Credit Engine, which exploits AI capability in issuing loan decisions, are run on the cloud. The OP Home Loan Service user interface has been designed using React, whereas the Credit Engine is a Kotlin-built stateless functional microservice. Developing the OP Home Loan Service has been a far cry from the forced maintaining of the old Cobol world that systems developers avoid with a sense of dread. Instead, this entirely new service has been built by using cutting-edge technologies.

When Friman joined OP, the development of OP Home Loan Service had already begun. “The technologies we use, such as React, Redux, TypeScript and Docker, were new to me. I started by focusing on various parts of the backend system. After four months of familiarising myself with the project, I realised I was able to work on it as a whole,” Friman recounts. “As a team, we are largely free to do things in the ways we choose to and to use the tools that we like to use.”

When dealing with a bank’s service, information security plays a key role. “Information security audits carried out by external parties are part of our daily life,” Friman notes.

OP Agile streamlines work

The entire OP Home Loan Service has been developed within the team in line with the OP Agile method. The business side has been heavily involved in designing the service with the developers. In fact, colleagues from the business side sit only a couple of metres away from the developers. This makes decision-making faster and minimises bureaucracy. The development teams have been put together in a way that ensures autonomy and ability to operate on the team’s own decisions. This not only contributes to the ease and meaningfulness of the developers’ work, but also produces added value to customers rapidly.

“Work is carried out agilely in small batches, which reduces errors. As experts, the developers have both responsibility and power: in true DevOps spirit, the team bears end-to-end accountability for their share of the service’s development work. As new colleagues we naturally hope to welcome developers, both novices and more seasoned doers, who first and foremost enjoy working as experts and like to take responsibility and make decisions at work,” says Tech Lead Antti Turunen. “We don’t really even provide hands-on guidance, but everyone is, of course, supported in their work. In any case, good employee experience also leads to us having the most satisfied customers.”

“Although I’ve already worked in software business for twenty-something years, I think that OP Agile is among the best agile methods that I’ve encountered during my career,” Aarnio agrees. At the beginning of 2019, OP started an organisation-wide transformation of its operating culture towards agility. “On the entire organisation’s level, the agile practices are still taking shape, but in our team they are already a part of our daily life. It does feel like being genuinely able to influence things and I think that has a great effect on how one does one’s work,” concludes Friman.