The Tech, The Team, The Culture | My Experiences So Far at AJ Bell
A big, slow financial services company?
AJ Bell is a titan of financial services. With over £70 billion worth of assets under administration - enough to buy Manchester United twenty times over - I couldn't help but wonder what the state of the technology was.
In my first few weeks, I stumbled across a dashboard showing the number of releases within the business. Not only are we releasing to production multiple times a day, the growth rate has exploded. Between August 2020 and September 2021, releases increased by more than 600%. While this was happening, the bug count was falling dramatically, resulting in a massive drop in production incidents. AJ Bell technology has hit top gear and isn’t backing down.
A Ford or a Ferrari?
When I first joined the company, I wasn't sure how the tech would look. Would it be a Ford, or would it be a Ferrari?
Like any big car park, there certainly are a few old Fords knocking around! But to get to them, you have to walk through an ocean of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and McLarens. From modern microservices to pacesetting pipelines, we are using some of the best and most transformative tech available.
However, I think the thing that sets us apart is not the technology we use, but the way we use the technology: to accelerate the pace of change within the business. With this pace of change, even the Fords are becoming Ferraris.
Shaping the Platform
It's all very well having fantastic technology, but you need to have a great team of engineers, QAs, businesspeople, and UX designers to put everything together. Luckily for me, we are not lacking in this department either. With an efficient product-aligned team, I've not only had the chance to play with great technology; I've also had the opportunity to influence some of the designs and product decisions that ultimately lead to an award-winning platform like our Investcentre.
Expanding our Horizons
Every two weeks, the Investcentre team has an event called Code Time, where we share our ideas around technology. With sessions on everything from synthetic monitoring in the cloud, to the latest version of Angular, we learn heavily from each other's experience and ways of thinking. It's also a great way to bring the team together and provides an opportunity for everyone to show off their achievements and learnings.
The Space to Grow
On Friday afternoon, we have what we call Freedom Friday, where we can focus exclusively on our own goals and priorities. I've personally used the time to focus on some of my own initiatives around automated testing and improving our services, but you really can use the time however you like. Some people use it to learn about software, whereas others use it to improve their relationships with colleagues. Whatever people choose to do, there is no doubt it has benefitted both the team and the people within it.
The Dynamic Department
Once a month, the entire department gets together for our monthly briefing sessions. Mo, the CTO, kicks things off with an overview of what's happening within the department, including recognising anyone who has achieved something out-of-the-ordinary. We then get to listen to presentations on some of the exciting developments within the department. We've heard about everything from Golang to the strategy that drives some of our most critical products and services.
Collaboration, But Not Consensus
From delivering market-leading new features, to transforming our services, innovation is at the heart of what we do. We collaborate to create and debate to decide. This approach leads to a healthy working culture where ideas and innovation can thrive.
Invest In Your Tomorrow
With increasing investment in technology (up 29% in the year), and the accelerating pace of change, the future looks bright within the company. Whether you're looking to take your next step in technology or your very first step into the industry, I really would encourage you to get in touch and Invest In Your Tomorrow.
By Jonathan, Full Stack Developer