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“Hackathon” is a portmanteau of the words "hack" and "marathon", where "hack" is used in the sense of exploratory computer programming. It’s a sprint-like event, in which often programmers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively - typically over a relatively short period - to solve business or technical problems by developing real solutions via minimum viable product(s).

The hackers' challenge:
Attendees at McKinsey’s global digital banking conference included c-suite banking execs from around the world, as well as highly influential partners, associate partners and staff. Each team was presented with two problem statements, from which they chose one to take on. It was then up to the teams to come up with a suitable use case within the guidelines of the problem statement that would be worthy of hacking. Once agreed with McKinsey’s directing staff, the teams then built solutions over two days and presented them to a panel of experts to vote on.

Challenge one:
Design a product or service that will help retail banking customers address the challenges of the rising cost of living.
Challenge two:
Help banking customers to make decisions about future wealth in a high inflation environment.

The hackers, comprised of the engineers below, split into three mixed teams with representatives from McKinsey, Mambu & Starling Bank. My team chose to design a product or service that will help retail banking customers address the challenges of the rising cost of living.

The teams

We brought the challenge into our space, making it personal. I asked the team to take two minutes to share how the challenges of the constant rise of living costs have affected them and what they would like to see from their own personal banks to tackle this situation. I wanted to make the solution relatable, we needed the voice of the customer to shine throughout ideation and which better customer voices then our own.  The creative juices were flowing.

Our idea was simple, we used the end-customers transaction history to create an opportunity to prosper. Our solution involved collecting data about how a user spends their earnings. Each transaction belonged to a spending category: fixed or variable. If the transaction is a fixed translation then it has a direct debit assigned to the customer account such as mortgage, insurance or vehicle payments. The customer’s variable expenses are those such as entertainment, clothing and transportation - the opportunity zone.

Using this information we calculated the percentage of money available for the end customer to invest into a savings pot or term deposit account at the end of each month. Taking the solution one step further, we also made a buy-now-pay-later option available to fulfil a retail credit option. This creates an opportunity for the client to diversify their spending and manage and plan the payback schedule, putting them in the driver's seat based on their needs, their lifestyle and spending appetite.

The objective was clear - “configuration over customisation” with a speedboat approach. We needed modern technology and we had Mambu, which was the key to our success. It is fully configurable, it's easy to use and provides the ability to add custom fields with readily available API endpoints. And its powerful API’s are readily available in the public domain for the team to leverage. That left us with a front end requirement, and we had to make a call: either building a quick and dirty solution or buying a fit for purpose solution. We opted to buy a front end, best purchase of the day. We were set!

Execution strategy
We had regular check-ins,  structured conversation around use cases, API stitching and testing. These were conducted every second hour and what was really important from a leadership perspective was that I ensured that the team took breaks - these were part of the delivery plan.

Judgement day:

Sales messaging,  pitch and system demo
In the handful of hackathons I have participated in, I have been fortunate enough to know that the presentation part is crucial, we had seven minutes to pitch and two minutes for Q&A. How you sell the solution to the panel of judges is imperative. This was my section to own and I wanted to lead with messaging that will give the end customer hope, give them light at the end of the tunnel, give them an  aspiration to prosper. I crafted the sales pitch around the name of the bank, a deliberate choice: Bank Futuro, simple but full of impact. “The bank of the future that will drive conscious spending driven by insights to realise new opportunities to prosper financially.”

I created the context for the presentation wrapping three key objectives for our challenge:
1. Build deep spending awareness through spending insights, winning the hearts of the customers
2. Provide valuable insights to supercharge conscious spending habits and
3. Realise new economies with modern technology solutions that are fully configurable

Stitching the objectives with value creation was my next strategy in messaging. I wanted to extract the value of configuration over customisation for the judges, effectively landing the advantages such as “quick time-to-market” which automatically lends itself to “quick time-to-revenue”, and therefore extends the bank's market share and evolves our product offering to the customer.

Opportunity to prosper - hackathon story

At this point I handed the presentation over to my rockstar colleague Joud Zaumot to take us through the system demo, the powerhouse of demos. Step by step she built the story and the aspiration. She logged into the digital front-end and systematically walked through each use case, one after the other. During that time I observed the judges and their response to her demo. I knew we had closed the deal. The messaging and demo were on point as we stitched everything together and created an energy of curiosity of the judges. We extracted exactly what they wanted from the hackathon; we solved the puzzle and we did it in style!

The value - a hackathon story

The judges deliberated and after much discussion, awarded first prize to us - Bank Futuro. The prize was to present the solution on stage in the main plenary to all the attendees and those dialled in on Zoom.

A hackathon story

Within 22 hours, we bought a digital front end for $61, stitched 24 API endpoints with three product configurations in Mambu. This is a great example of the value that a modern core banking technology brought to the solution. The ability to configure products and add custom fields to fulfil data enrichment requirements was our competitive advantage. It gave the team time to focus on building the front end flows and stitching the API endpoints, leaving enough time to test the solution and demo messaging end to end.

A hackathon story

Planning and running a solid hackathon team is far from easy, but it is also a lot of fun! First of all, hackathons are events with a specific purpose, ending with the presentation of concrete findings or solutions to a specific problem. Moreover, the success of our team winning was due to rigid criteria provided by the McKinsey team, such as offering the participants a pleasant working environment, running a proper welcoming session to explain everything beforehand, appointing someone to be responsible for the hackathon space, and developing a solid conclusion.

I am happy to have led this winning team, grateful for the opportunity and hopeful that you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed sharing the experience with you.

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Jacky Uys, Solution Engineering Manager for Partnerships
With a proven record in setting up and leading large-scale fintech solution transformations in the Nordics, Dach and African markets, Jacky leads many strategic joint-value propositions with Mambu's partners. She has a 17-year background in strategy roles within the banking industry.
Jacky Uys, Solution Engineering Manager for Partnerships