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2018 BAI Global Innovation Award Winner

BAI Global Innovation Awards 2018 finalist Live Oak Bank

Internal Process Innovation

Live Oak Bank - Wilmington, NC, USA
100% Re-Invention to Cloud Service Operations for Boundaryless Anytime-Anywhere Employee Enablement

"These advances further Live Oak’s ability to have a laser focus on innovation in finance and technology to bring efficiency and excellence to the lending process."

Over the course of 18 months, Live Oak Bank completely transitioned its internal IT infrastructure and all applications to a pure Microsoft Azure environment, empowering all employees to serve customers anytime, anywhere, with highly secure yet intuitively accessible applications. Employees can sign up new customers and service existing ones anywhere, anytime using only laptops, smart phones and the power of the cloud to originate and process loans, process deposits and provide other banking products and services.

Cybersecurity risk controls have been increased by adoption of advanced authentication and authorization processes for accessing cloud services, including the deployment of advanced real-time big data event log storage, artificial intelligence and security analysis. Moving 100 percent to cloud operations essentially makes the hardware employees use – their laptops and smartphones – commodities without data value. Limited data is stored locally, and if an employee loses a laptop or one is stolen, it can be immediately detonated remotely.

The IT expense line has shifted completely away from capital expense to operating expense. No server hardware and no on-premise software remains, and operations are paperless and electronic. Every internal and customer-touching process was re-examined and optimized for cloud operations, and all applications were transitioned to the cloud. Current 2018 cost benefit analyses indicate a 40 to 50 percent reduction in corporate IT spend. The only owned hardware required to run Live Oak Bank are the laptops and smartphones its employees carry.

The Problem

Live Oak’s 100 percent IT service reinvention project was created due to three major factors affecting the bank’s operations: 

1) The first and greatest risk factor is that Live Oak is headquartered just 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in Wilmington, NC, in an area highly susceptible to hurricanes. Disaster recovery requires costly investments in data centers and recovery back-up centers. Disaster situations can cause major disruption to our business.

2) Live Oak has a distinct culture to “treat every customer, like they’re the only customer” and our verticalized business model requires employees to service customers “anytime, anywhere, and always secure” using virtual office concepts. This is a unique requirement for a bank to be able to operate boundlessly, 24/7, with only Internet connectivity and a laptop. Employees must be able to deliver frictionless service, technology and immediate answers to customers whether they are in the office, at the customer’s business, in a car, on a plane or at home. Often, Live Oak staff travel to customers in the field to provide expertise and guidance on business decisions that foster financial success, growth and operational excellence to each small business partner. Staff need to be able to self-service themselves, for technology issues, while providing financial solutions to our customers. The inability to service our customers “anytime, anywhere” can cause major disruption to our business.

3) Live Oak leverages highly technical software and services to provide unprecedented banking experiences to small business in more than 20 specialized industries. With high dependence on technology and the Internet, our business processes must be accessible and secure. The inability to service our customers in a highly secure mobile environment can cause major disruption to our business.

The Solution

To implement 100% Cloud Service Operations for Boundaryless Anytime-Anywhere Employee Enablement, Live Oak Bank:


1) eliminated hardware and applications “on the ground”, reducing the impact and vulnerability to hurricanes, migrating all services to virtual processing;


2) created boundaryless operations 24x7x365, enabling employees to fulfill Live Oak’s mission of providing an unprecedented banking experience to small business owners nationwide through service and technology from anywhere at anytime;


3) created cloud-based supporting infrastructure that can scale in real-time to support business activities, without a sunk cost in hardware, or delays in deployment and configuration of services, which supports fast, fluid and cost-effective expansion into new business vertical markets;


4) facilitated employee self-service and self-healing capabilities that allow staff to work 24x7x365, including a reduction in helpdesk staff;


5) created complete visibility into the cost to support each employee, using a Software as a Service (SaaS) Operating Expense model, which enables faster financial analysis of new business opportunities; and


6) increased security by adoption of newer bank domain structures, single-sign-on and federated authentication, multi-factor authentication and biometrics access, mobile device management, and other innovative cloud-enabled technologies ready-built into the cloud model.

The Outcome

Adoption of the cloud strategy reduce our potential down time in a natural disaster and increased our staff’s ability to operate “anytime, anywhere, and always secure”.

Over the course of 18 months, Live Oak Bank completely transitioned its internal IT infrastructure and all applications to a pure Microsoft Azure cloud environment, empowering all employees to serve customers anytime, anywhere, with highly secure yet intuitively accessible cloud applications. Employees can sign up new customers and service existing ones anywhere, anytime using only laptops, smart phones and the power of the cloud to originate and process loans, process deposits and provide other banking products and services.

Cybersecurity risk controls have been increased by adoption of advanced authentication and authorization processes for accessing cloud services, including the deployment of advanced real-time big data event log storage, artificial intelligence and security analysis. Moving 100 percent to cloud operations essentially makes the hardware employees use – their laptops and smartphones – commodities without data value. Limited data is stored locally, and if an employee loses a laptop or one is stolen, it can be immediately detonated remotely.

The IT expense line has shifted completely away from capital expense to operating expense. No server hardware and no on-premise software remains, and operations are paperless and electronic. Every internal and customer-touching process was re-examined and optimized for cloud operations, and all applications were transitioned to the cloud. Current 2018 cost benefit analyses indicate a 40 to 50 percent reduction in corporate IT spend. The only owned hardware required to run Live Oak Bank are the laptops and smartphones its employees carry.

Key Collaborators

Thomas Hill: Key technology executive that created the cloud strategy and ensure alignment with business, compliance, and security needs.

Jason Canup: Key technology manager leading the engineering team that built components of the strategy, tested and deployed.

Kelsey Bartiss: Key project lead that shepherded the project over many months and developed training/support material for enterprise adoption.

Brett Caines: Key executive sponsor that provided leadership support and funding for the project.

Development Timeline

March 2016: Several months of major IT and power disruptions due to natural disasters, causing outages and service disruption to bank operations. Executive leadership decision to move to cloud-first strategic IT model with directive.

July 2016: First phase complete with 80% of critical services in the cloud using a hybrid, cloud and on-premise model. All desktop systems converted to Windows 10, with supporting virtual desktop, role-based access, multi-factor authentication, big-data security analysis and advanced threat management security monitoring completed for cloud environment.


August 2016 - March 2017:
Migration completed for remaining services, ported to the cloud with only Active Directory and Domain controller environments remaining for all sites. Advanced network isolation completed for all sites to include role-based access and privilege management.

June – September 2017: Formal testing for Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory, viability study complete.

October – December 2017: Second phase complete for deploying of Azure Active Directory to subsidiary business unit with formal decommission of on-premise Active Directory system. Project complete with single-sign-on support.

January 2018-March 2018: Final phase complete for deployment of Azure Active Directory to primary organization with formal decommission of on-premise Active Directory systems at multiple locations. Bank domain structure deployed with supporting biometric and mobile device management. Project complete with single-sign-on support throughout organization.


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