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Rabobank: Transforming Banking Through Innovation and Low-Code Development

Rabobank - low code
Mendix / Success Story

Rabobank: Transforming Banking Through Innovation and Low-Code Development

Rabobank is a leading international cooperative bank based in the Netherlands. It is the second-largest Dutch bank by assets, with a global portfolio focused on sustainability, food, and agriculture.

You might be surprised to learn that AgriBank has a highly rated mobile savings app for both iOS and Android stores (with a rating of 4.7 on both platforms). The success of the web and native mobile applications of Rabobank’s International Direct Banking (IDB) unit, which serve Germany and Belgium, suggests the bank’s ability to be an innovative leader in this field.

Rabobank faced challenges in compliance, increased customer expectations, and growing competition. They digitized, streamlined, and revitalized the client registration process, offering both a web and native mobile version of their savings portal to the satisfaction of 500,000 customers, all on a single platform.

Let’s look at how Rabobank, with the help of the low-code application development platform Mendix and key partner Finaps, managed to deliver high-quality, customer-focused digital products more quickly and efficiently, and how they popularized the use of low-code development in the financial sector.

New Challenges in Banking

Banking used to be associated with personal meetings or, in the most advanced technological form, ATM transactions. Modern bank clients, however, conduct their transactions online. “The apps they get from Apple, from Android, are the types of apps they expect from banks as well,” said Paul Kammerer, head of business development and strategy.

Now, banks must compete with companies that have already emerged as fully digital. Keeping up with changing customer expectations is just one of many challenges for Rabobank and the entire banking sector. Let’s look at the demands placed on banks and their business development strategies by regulations, competition, and modernization.

Compliance Costs

New banking opportunities, an increased number of users, and the digitization of the financial industry have led to increased regulations. Unfortunately, increased compliance requirements often lead to less product differentiation. “The pressure on banks in terms of threats is increasing,” Kammerer said. “Regulations are enormously increasing. Depending on the market, the possibilities to define your product are limited. How can you differentiate from another bank today only with better interest rates?”

Position Among Startups and Big Tech Companies

With big tech companies like Apple and Google on one side and agile startups that can leverage their low overhead on traditional brick-and-mortar operations for higher interest rates and top-notch applications for their customers, it is clear that there is competitive pressure. “Now we are competing with companies that have never offered any financial products,”

Tackling Legacy System Issues

Updating legacy systems is a tough sell for traditional banking businesses, especially when it seems that after an expensive and arduous system modernization, there is no added value. Many banks settle for quick wins that come from building on existing systems. The result is ad hoc digitalization efforts that add technical debt instead of mitigating it. “In some banks, the core banking systems are 30 years old. That means you can’t easily adapt to the new way of coding or developing software in the company,” Kammerer said. “That is also something we did as Rabobank and IDB; we updated our core banking system, which was very costly.”

Adopting Low-Code Application Development and Finaps

After successfully integrating the API-first banking platform Sopra, Rabobank’s International Direct Banking (IDB) unit began exploring ways to leverage new tools to develop their online savings business in Belgium and Germany. IDB focused on building mobile and web applications that could take advantage of the flexibility and customer-centric benefits of the Sopra platform. As a smaller business unit, they did not have the developers or budget to achieve their goals independently.

They turned to Finaps, a Mendix partner that had previously worked with Rabobank. “They were interested not only in purely project cooperation but also in maintenance and operational parts, which we also needed,” said Irene Ronner, head of IT at Rabobank IDB. Shortly after the project began, Rabobank and Finaps agreed that the Mendix low-code application development platform would be an excellent choice for IDB due to its:

  • Seamless integration capabilities
  • Interoperability with the new Sopra core system and broader technology stack
  • Priorities of rapid and cost-effective development

Improving Onboarding

In Germany, compliance protocols require answers to two dozen questions for customer onboarding. The sheer number of questions discouraged many potential clients. Others would get to question 13, realize they made a mistake, and have to start the entire process over. Additionally, Rabobank’s previous setup made it difficult to track the number of users who abandoned the onboarding process halfway. From an opportunity cost perspective, this was, according to Kammerer, “a nightmare.”

“We have to ask you these questions, they are mandatory,” Kammerer said. “In the past, we did it by asking you each individual question one by one, but with Mendix and Finaps, we changed that.” Regulations required answers to all questions to open an account through Rabobank IDB, but did not specify when the questions had to be answered. By splitting the questions into multiple sessions, Rabobank could reduce the initial step before conversion to a minimum and ask the remaining mandatory questions after the user’s first login.

“With this new capability, Rabobank saw increased conversion rates and better insight into the onboarding process.”

Virtual Verification

Another protocol requires customer verification: Rabobank must ensure that the person creating the account is genuinely who they claim to be. Previously, this was a personal process requiring human intervention and could take several days. “This verification usually takes place through Deutsche Post,” Kammerer said. “Now, it can be done online via video chat, reducing verification from several days to a few minutes.”

Rapid Success of the Web Portal

Rabobank’s web application is the entry point for the entire onboarding process, seamlessly connecting to their core banking system. The public onboarding web connects customers to their personal accounts on a secure platform, with all data passing through an API middle layer.

Building the Mobile App

After the success of the web application, the team quickly proceeded to develop a mobile app. The small team faced technical challenges but eventually moved to native mobile development with the Mendix platform. “With Mendix and Finaps, we built the web application, which was really important,” Ronner said. “Then we moved to the mobile application. We initially tried to create a hybrid solution but encountered problems. So, we ultimately chose a native app, which was in line with our offline-first approach.”

High App Ratings

The IDB Rabobank mobile app received very positive reviews and ratings. “With more than 500,000 customers and an average rating of 4.7 on iOS and Android,” Kammerer said, “it’s a clear sign that we are doing something right.” With Mendix and Finaps, Rabobank has become a technology-focused leader in banking, leveraging rapid feedback and continuously optimizing their products.

Rabobank’s journey from traditional banking to digital demonstrates how low-code development and strategic partnerships can transform the financial sector, meet the needs of modern banking, and set new standards for other banks.

Photo by Bart Ros (unsplash.com)