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A ‘Top 4’ Bank Super App Soars

The super app managed with super technology

Imagine the ultimate convenience for consumers and suppliers: A super app that lets you make appointments and order goods to your doorstep without leaving your house with one basket. An app that allows suppliers easy access to consumers. Now imagine this app had been in the making before COVID-19 and was introduced in the epicentre of lockdown when not leaving the house was essential. Imagine this app was created by a bank that understood consumer needs.


When the Bank began its journey merging banking with retail, it understood consumers longed to “do life differently”. It was about giving them the how. The Bank wanted to revolutionise how South Africans shop and sell. Consumers would value being able to shop on one platform instead of having to log onto several to order scripts, groceries, and a plumber for that leaky tap. However, for this to be realised, the app needed to be strategically managed and secured using the best technology. The Bank contacted Synthesis, an innovative software development and consulting company, known for its banking and retail expertise. The app would only be as good as its up-time and up-keep. Strategic management and innovation were required.


The ‘Super App’ runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS Cloud), the most comprehensive and adopted cloud platform. Synthesis was key to architecting, building and thereafter responsible for managing this environment, implementing DevOps best practices and managing relevant data analytics, ensuring the Bank provides its customers with an exceptional experience. Synthesis knew that managing a super app requires key ingredients, namely – innovation, bank-grade security, DevOps, constant availability, cost optimisation, scaling and data best practises.

Innovation, updates and speed

It is not enough to release a super app, constant innovation and updates are required. Synthesis’ Head of MSP, Grant Morgan explains, “The Bank wants to constantly add further features to the app that will benefit users. We manage the platform using DevOps processes, cloud and microservices to ensure it can do this with ease. The faster you can release new functionality, the faster you can keep up with and exceed customer expectations. Every deployment is a bit of new functionality.” New technologies like Kafka, Kubernetes and AWS cloud were strategically implemented so the Bank could release updates to market quickly. The Bank releases approximately 100 staging deployments a day, meaning the app is always developing.

Kafka, for example, allows for speed of data. Morgan explains, “The way we have used Kafka allows the app to get a 1 000x faster data movement to its backend. We have to connect to their legacy systems. We need to push to android and whatever other apps that they have and it’s that data bus that allows for this data transfer as opposed to using normal SQL databases which inherently are not scalable and inherently are not as fast performing as Kafka.”


Security is essential for a super app. Synthesis has an in-depth understanding of security and security threats due to its banking background. “The app uses personal information, and we ensure compliance with POPIA and strict bank standards,” explains Morgan, “Security is critical when dealing with personal information such as bank accounts, how much a person is buying and so on. There is a lot of data flowing through the system and we ensure it does so safely and we make sure that the app constantly closes any vulnerabilities and immediately reacts to any issues that are occurring. We are lifting the level of compliance and security by continually upping the checks and balances in the environment to keep it more secure.”


The Bank constantly improves its DevOps practices. “We are working together to further optimise the DevOps environment and identify and remove the bottlenecks (be it in people, process, or tooling). This creates a greater velocity of new code and functionality so that the Bank can leapfrog their competitors,” says Morgan.

“More than this, the DevOps approach reduced operational cost. If the Bank had run the system any other way, it would have needed five times the amount of operational resources,” says Rodney Ellis.


“Whether you are buying, selling or using points, you need absolute system availability. If the platform fails, that’s the quickest way for a customer to lose faith. To date, we have had no complete system outages that would stop the application functionality even during Black Friday. The infrastructure is designed to self-heal, and that allows us to ensure 100% production availability.”

Cost optimisation

The Bank has experienced a 30% cost reduction because of the management of the app. “On its last refresh, we were able to reduce the cost of its operational managed services by making innovative changes and that has not only brought down its AWS consumption but also the operational costs of our MSP fees,” says Morgan.

Ellis explains how this was achieved, “We migrated Kafka from a confluence EC2 cluster to SAAS MSK on AWS”. We have right-sized and reduced some RDS instances including the EC2s. Right sizing and removing unwanted infrastructure or legacy infrastructure allowed us to cut costs.”

Ellis continues, “We have moved from infrastructure as a service to more platform space service with automation. This brings down our operational costs and it has created consumption savings. It has not been about scaling to meet demand, for example, in theory anybody can meet peak demand, but it is the ability to shut down unnecessary resources when they are not required and that is the true cost-saving piece.”

Data Best Practises

The Synthesis Data team and the Bank also increased cost savings, development timing, and team workflow through their partnership. Processing time has decreased significantly, from hours to minutes for most data processing jobs. This is significant because it allows the team to get feedback sooner and iterate faster. Nabeel Vandayar explains, “This means greater future savings because, as the app is projected to grow from thousands of customers to millions, the future costs of data processing will increase as well. By changing the way data is processed, we have changed the processing time from an exponential profile (double the data results in four times the computation time) to a linear profile (double the data results in double the computation time). Since AWS Glue is billed by computation time, our solution will save exponential amounts of money as the app users increase.”

Previously it took a couple of days or a week to deploy new pipelines because of the complexity of the system. The Bank and Synthesis designed an automated pipeline deployment system and decoupled the pipelines, which makes it easier and faster to get a new pipeline up and running so management can get insights as soon as possible. Vandayar explains, “For example, imagine there are allegations of fraud on the app platform and a new pipeline is required to evaluate data and make it available to data scientists. That process will be possible in under a few minutes so not only can the claims of fraud be evaluated but corrective action could possibly be taken within a feasible time frame to ensure client satisfaction.”


The Bank has increased app users, ensured constant stability, security and app improvements. AWS Cloud and best-purpose technology have allowed the Bank to meet changing customer needs and create a seamless user experience. With the ability and support to constantly innovate and create what they imagine, this is the super app to watch.

“The platform we built is a beautiful example of the partnership between Synthesis, the Bank and AWS – where the strengths of each party are multiplied through a common goal of providing the absolute best and most personalised customer experience through cloud and big data technology. What started out as a few drawings on a whiteboard, realised as a multi-sided, real-time and personalised retail experience – and continues to evolve and impact the lives of potentially millions of customers in 2021 – is a real testament to the game-changing and disruptive nature of technology, cloud and power of data. We look forward to continuing to evolve the model and we’re excited to be taking a small part in pushing this innovative platform forward” – Tom Wells, Chief Disruption Officer, Synthesis.