Bridging the gap between traditional and digital banking

With traditional banks’ popularity holding firm despite record physical branch closures, neobanks have a lot to prove. We caught up with Data Engineer Zlatko Jankovic, and Head of Communications Oliver Hofmann, to understand how Swedish FinTech Northmill uses data-driven insights to blend the best of traditional, personal banking with a truly digital experience.   

Offering the personalized touch of traditional banking combined with the digital experience of a 100% cloud-based, 21st-century neobank, Swedish FinTech Northmill has gone from strength to strength in recent years, taking advantage of the country’s leading digital infrastructure to offer people a true alternative to brick and mortar banks.

And since the bank was granted its license to conduct banking operations by The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, Northmill has made significant strides to connect its business and personal banking customers. By launching its own payment method and POS system, it aims to enhance personalized customer experiences through a seamless chain of transactional data. 

But offering this kind of service to hundreds of thousands of customers means collecting, processing, and analyzing huge volumes of data in a secure, ethical yet agile way. And without the right high-performance platform that can scale on demand,  that’s a significant challenge. “Northmill sits on a lot of data,” said Zlatko Jankovic, Data Engineer at Northmill. “But our old solution simply wasn’t scalable. It needed a lot of maintenance, and queries took far too long to process.” 

After testing several cloud-based data warehousing platforms, Northmill landed on Snowflake’s Data Cloud as the right solution to develop the products and services its customers need and extract value from data in ways that weren’t possible before. Oliver Hofmann, Head of Communications at Northmill, explained: “A few months is a very long time in our business, so we’re always looking for leading solutions that are scalable. Snowflake’s platform gives us the flexibility to stop and start scaling when we want—and we only pay for what we use.” 

Using the data lake workload in Snowflake’s platform, Northmill now ingests all its customer and operational data—both structured and unstructured—into Snowflake in its original form. And with the integration capabilities in Snowflake’s platform helping provide a seamless flow of data between Northmill’s data lake and data warehouse instances—including Fivetran for ingestion and ThoughtSpot for BI—the bank always has access to clean data on demand. 

Uncompromising data security, ethics, and compliance

While Northmill’s biggest priority is data security, it doesn’t want protection to come at the expense of straightforward access for the people who need it. Using Snowflake’s Data Cloud, combined with single sign-on and account provisioning, the bank can automatically filter dataset access to individual job roles.

Hofmann explained: “We work in a heavily regulated environment, but we’re always looking to democratize access to data. Snowflake is well set up and makes our lives much easier. For example, when employees leave the company, their access to Northmill’s data is automatically revoked. Snowflake helps us strike the right balance between compliance and agility.” 

Development that’s all about the customer 

Northmill also benefits from faster development and testing, which help the bank stay at least one step ahead of its more traditional competitors. 

“We need to move fast—planning two years in advance doesn’t work; it’s constant development month to month,” said Jankovic. “From analytics to test and learn programs, everything we do with data starts and ends in Snowflake’s Data Cloud. Unlike traditional banks, we have feedback loops with our customers to actively develop MVPs, helping maintain high customer trust and satisfaction—it’s our most important KPI. 

Supporting a data-driven culture and attracting the best talent 

The ability to nurture data-driven people who ask the right questions about data and use test and learn programs to prove the viability of concepts is a key strategy for Northmill, and something that makes the technology work so effectively. 

And it’s not just its current workforce where the bank has seen benefits. Northmill’s recruitment team has also noticed an increasing number of skilled prospects seeking jobs based on the bank’s modern tech stack. “We’re in the midst of a significant war on talent,” said Jankovic. “Working with Snowflake shows you’re committed as a company to using the latest tools. We’ve found that by advertising our stack—particularly Snowflake—helps us garner the best talent and onboard them fast from day one.” 

Erasing physical and digital customer experience barriers for good 

Looking to the future and never keen to rest on its laurels, Northmill is planning to take seamless banking and commerce to the next level by offering an end-to-end payment and checkout experience for both shoppers and retailers. The bank hopes this will help remove the remaining payment and transaction barriers that exist between virtual and physical retail environments, improving efficiency and customer satisfaction. 

While it’s a work in progress, Northmill is confident Snowflake will provide the scalable data processing it needs to connect the dots between in-store shopping, ecommerce, and back office administration in real time. “We’ve already rolled out our new POS solution to 2,500 outlets across Sweden,” said Hofmann. “It means we can join up more data in Snowflake so we can be more proactive with our data. From inventory optimization for retailers to personalized discounts for consumers, the possibilities to connect the entire chain and boost the end user experience are endless.”

Webinar: Cloud-Native Solutions for Superior Customer Experience in Banking