PensionBee Modernizes the Pension Industry with a Digital-First Business on Heroku

Fintech company builds a digital-first pension service with consumer-friendly apps and back office bots running on Heroku.

Fintech innovators have transformed a wide range of traditional financial services, from banking to lending to insurance. As a result, consumers today enjoy a landscape of modern financial apps that make it easy to access and manage their money anytime, anywhere. The pension industry, however, has lagged behind the rest. Pension providers are still mired in paper documentation and slow, manual processes that have frustrated customers and employees for decades.

Enter PensionBee. The U.K.-based company is on a mission to make pensions simple and engaging by building a digital-first pension service on Heroku. PensionBee’s consumer-friendly web and mobile apps deliver sophisticated digital experiences that give people better visibility and control over their retirement savings.

Example of the PensionBee mobile and desktop dashboards

PensionBee’s business model solves one of the biggest pain points for today’s pension holders—multiple, disconnected accounts. In Britain, workers change jobs 11 times on average throughout their career. As a result, people typically acquire an array of pensions from multiple providers. This complexity, especially in a legacy industry environment, makes it difficult for people to keep track of their money and plan for the future. PensionBee removes the hassle of managing disparate pensions by bringing them all together in one account on one platform.

A visual showing different pension schemes brought together by PensionBee

To help customers onboard quickly, the company built automated tools running on Heroku that make it easier to transfer existing pensions to the platform, reducing friction for customers and helping the business move fast and stay efficient.

Building a fintech business on Heroku

Customers come to PensionBee with complex pension portfolios. To address this, the company needed an ERP-style backend system that could be flexible enough to handle complicated, multi-party cases. After researching solutions, PensionBee chose Salesforce because it could support their unique data modelling and workflow needs, creating a streamlined experience for their customer support team.

For the customer-facing frontend, PensionBee needed to build a web app using modern technologies that could deliver a sophisticated, mobile-friendly experience. The engineering team wanted to deploy code quickly and frequently using continuous delivery. When evaluating options, it was important to the team that they build on an environment that could support their approach right out of the box. PensionBee’s CTO had had experience with Heroku at previous jobs, so he knew that the platform would be a good fit.

Heroku has allowed our team to focus just on the incremental business value that we were adding in terms of customer experience, and that's made a real difference for us. Jonathan Lister Parsons, CTO, PensionBee

Heroku Connect keeps pension data in sync

PensionBee’s service relies on a smooth flow of data between the customer-facing app on Heroku and Salesforce on the backend. Both customers and employees need to view and access the most current account data in real time. It can be challenging to ensure that all systems stay in sync to provide the best user experience for all involved.

An example of PensionBee's mobile dashboard

Heroku Connect offered PensionBee a simple solution that allowed the engineering team to avoid spending time and effort on building their own system. Using bi-directional synchronization, Heroku Connect unifies the data in the app’s Heroku Postgres database with the contacts, accounts, and other custom objects in the company’s Salesforce database. Heroku Connect is installed as a Heroku Add-on with a simple point and click UI. The team could get it up and running in minutes and go back to focusing on their app.

Heroku Connect removed the challenge of synchronizing data between our customer-facing platform and Salesforce. It helped us avoid a huge amount of DevOps and engineering work, so we could stay focused and productive. Jonathan Lister Parsons, CTO, PensionBee

Legacy processes get automated on Heroku

Traditionally, pensions are handled using highly manual, paper-based processes. PensionBee wanted to make it fast and easy for customers to transfer multiple pensions to the platform, and for employees to manage the policy documentation. The engineering team built automation apps running on Heroku that help streamline the more laborious tasks in the process.

By running bots on Heroku, we’ve been able to easily automate many tasks that pull pension data into Salesforce and streamline our workflows. Jonathan Lister Parsons, CTO, PensionBee

One such app is a signature bot. Often, the company sends letters on a customer’s behalf to pension providers as part of the transfer process. The signature tool in the web app captures an imprint of a customer’s signature and saves it directly to Salesforce with their permission to append it to subsequent correspondence. A further integration between Salesforce and an API proxy running on Heroku delivers the signature to a robot that draws the signature using a real pen. Now, customers can skip the hassle of multiple paper-based signature requests, and the process goes up to two weeks faster in many cases.

A photograph of the signature writer

Another app automates data entry. Every day, the company receives many requests to transfer pensions digitally through a shared pension industry system. The same API proxy running on Heroku connects Salesforce to this system, allowing automated submission and management of pension transfer cases. Previously, team members were manually submitting data and working in this system to manage data updates and exceptions. The process is now much more efficient and employees are free to focus on more important tasks.

With Heroku, we don’t need a dedicated DevOps team. We can keep the wheels of innovation turning and allow our engineers to focus on building the best user experience for our customers. Jonathan Lister Parsons, CTO, PensionBee

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Inside PensionBee on Heroku

PensionBee built a monolithic web app in Node.js and their front-end Javascript uses a framework called Ractive.js. The web app also powers the backend for their cross-platform mobile app built in React Native. Their utility proxy app acts as an interface between several third party APIs and standardizes data for easier integration into Salesforce. Another Java app provides a calculation engine that projects the growth of customers’ pension accounts over time. This helps customers better manage their savings and also helps the company maintain compliance with regulatory requirements.

The engineering team is interested in breaking out some aspects of their monolithic app into separate services to handle specific processes, such as messaging. Currently, they have a rudimentary messaging system built into their main web app to handle some asynchronous processes. The team is considering exploring Apache Kafka on Heroku in future because the managed service can give them higher messaging resiliency as the platform scales.