Interview: ClearBank, DevOps Excellence Awards finalist

'We remove barriers to banking for businesses'

clock • 5 min read
Steve Hawkins, Principal Engineer, ClearBank

Steve Hawkins, Principal Engineer, ClearBank

Computing talks to Steve Hawkins of ClearBank, a finalist for Best Implementation of DevSecOps at this year's DevOps Excellence Awards.

 DevOps is a methodology for optimising work throughout the entire software development lifecycle. It advocates for the prompt, improved and secure delivery of business value to an organisation's end customers.

Computing's DevOps Excellence Awards showcase outstanding achievements from organisations, personalities and solutions that have successfully applied DevOps methodologies.

This year's winners will be announced at a live awards ceremony on Tuesday 14th March in London.

One of the finalists is ClearBank, on the shortlist for Best Implementation of DevSecOps.

Throughout his career, Steve Hawkins - principal engineer at ClearBank - has demonstrated a passion for innovation and a deep understanding of emerging technologies.

He has played a critical role in driving the development and launch of many successful financial services products. His expertise in cloud computing, platform engineering and developer experience has been instrumental in helping organisations harness the power of these technologies to drive growth and success.

In addition to his work in the technology industry, Steve is an active contributor to the community. He frequently participates in speaking engagements and workshops on topics related to technology and innovation, and he is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience with others.

We talked to Steve to find out more about what prompted ClearBank to enter the DevOps Excellence Awards, and what propelled the firm to the shortlist.

Computing: Please provide some background on ClearBank for our readers - what are you all about?

Steve Hawkins: In 2016, we started building ClearBank: the first new, full-service clearing bank for over 250 years, plugged directly into the UK's payment infrastructure. We're fully regulated with a banking license and make it easy for businesses to connect with us through our single API.

Our accounts, clearing and embedded banking products have facilitated the growth of organisations from banks to fintechs, and wealthtechs to credit unions.

We started with six people in a basement office in the East end of London. We now have more than 600 employees across the UK, with over 200 clients including Tide, Chip, Raisin, PayPoint and eToro, to name a few. We're excited to be taking ClearBank international later this year, with our launch in the EU.

What makes you different from other tech firms?

SH: For decades, the clearing of payments remained unchanged, and no one challenged it. That's why our founders asked themselves, what if there was a better way? Could we move away from legacy systems and make banking infrastructure faster, safer, cheaper, lower impact on the environment and easily accessible to everyone?

That's how ClearBank was born - it truly is a bank born in the cloud, which moved away from legacy and decided to innovate in the space.

We remove barriers to banking for businesses, enabling them to integrate innovative banking services without the cost and complexity of becoming a bank.

We use a single API to integrate with our platform, offering real-time integration. We built the API directly to the payment schemes including BACS, CHAPS and faster payments in the UK, which gives our customers direct access to the schemes without the hassle of building the connection themselves, meaning customer transactions can clear rapidly over our trusted and secure cloud-based platform.

How have you used DevOps for success over the last year?

SH: As we talk about in our submission for the DevOps Excellence Awards, ClearBank has achieved sustainable fast-paced growth because of our change pipelines. We are dedicated to bringing governance and compliance into these pipelines as enablers rather than gates.

In this way we can not only deliver product value changes at pace, but also further enhancements to security, reliability, and operational excellence.

The most important change over the past year was the introduction of our developer portal, and specifically the capture and presentation of DORA and cycle time metrics to everyone.

The DORA and cycle time metrics, used in conjunction with a pipeline improvement process, enable us to assess the impact of additional security, reliability and operational excellence changes on the pace of change. These insights help us target areas of impact that need attention, to bring balance to additional compliance and governance with pace of change.

What has been your proudest single company achievement in the last 12 months?

SH: We've had an uplifting year at ClearBank, with a couple of major milestones that we hit as a business. We've been laying the foundations necessary for longevity and sustainable business growth, and we're extremely excited to publicly announce profitability in November last year. This comes after raising £175 million, led by Apax Digital, last year to help accelerate our growth globally.

2022 was an exciting time in the growth of our business, but also for our people, where yet again our developer portal was key in knowledge reuse, discovery and reducing the onboarding process.

What are we working on this year?

SH: International expansion. We have big plans to expand further into Europe and the US, beginning with the launch of ClearBank EU in the Netherlands later this year. With this will come new partnerships, building new products and services and enhancing our platform.

We're also really doubling down on our ESG, and specifically our impact on the environment. In general, it feels our industry has been behind the times on climate, but this is extremely important to ClearBank and we're investing even more to scale our business globally in an efficient and responsible way.

If we start new jurisdictions by hiring the same amount of people and building the same amount of infrastructure as we have in the UK, then we would have failed. With each new jurisdiction we want to reduce our footprint and ultimately our time to market.

Computing's DevOps Excellence Awards will take place on 14th March in London. Click here to view the shortlist and here to book your table.

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