Case Study

How Do You Cut Costs and Improve Staff Productivity, and Business Visibility? Ascend Money Has an Answer

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When fintech, Ascend, needed to pare costs and increase internal efficiency, it turned to G Suite and Google Cloud. The move saved the business about US$90,000 in licensing costs and saves about 20 hours per week for each worker across the company. In addition, automation tools reduced the time to complete infrastructure activities by 50 percent.

Hundreds of millions of residents of South East Asia have only limited access to banking and finance services. However, help is at hand. One of South East Asia’s largest fintech businesses, Ascend Money is using digital technologies to realize its mission of enabling as many people as possible to access innovative financial services and live better lives.

According to Ascend Money, 60 percent of the region’s 620 million residents do not have access to a full suite of financial services. Even a relatively small proportion of this market represents a big opportunity for the business.

Ascend Money’s offerings include the TrueMoney regional payment platform for underserved and digital consumers. The TrueMoney platform supports more than 40 million consumers across six countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“We found, based on value, ease of use, effectiveness, and the skills and adaptability of our own team members, BigQuery and other Google Cloud Platform services were the best fit for our business.”

– Abraham Jarrett, Head of Engineering, Ascend Money

TrueMoney also provides an e-wallet app that provides easy ways to top up mobile phones, undertake online shopping, and pay for products and services; a network of 65,000 branded shops; and international remittances, initially between Thailand and Myanmar. In addition, Ascend Money offers financial products to small to medium businesses.

Ascend Money is part of the South East Asian online business Ascend Group, which also operates e-commerce, e-procurement, data centers, cloud services, fulfilment, and digital marketing services.

Cost is a key criteria

Ascend Money initially started operations using physical infrastructure and on-premises workforce productivity applications. However, as the business grew its customer base and expanded into new markets, its technology leaders began to explore options to improve value for money; reduce the maintenance load on in-house team members; improve its data management and analysis; and collaborate more effectively.

“Operating our own on-premises infrastructure entails a higher cost of ownership and maintenance, as well as requiring us to scale up our hardware as needed,” says Abraham Jarrett, Head of Engineering, Ascend Money. “We conducted an evaluation and found that moving to the cloud would deliver a range of benefits.”

G Suite and Google Cloud Platform the best fit

The business evaluated solutions available in the market and opted to move to G Suite and Google Cloud Platform.

“Moving to Google Cloud Platform was an optimization exercise, with lowering our costs our primary goal, and achieving better performance an added benefit,” says Jarrett. Google Cloud Platform monitoring, diagnostic, and analytics tools have enabled Ascend Money to reduce its infrastructure spending, becoming more efficient and cost-effective in the process.

“Managing software is a big cost for us. Through G Suite, we are significantly reducing our software deployment, licensing, and repair costs.”

– Abraham Jarrett, Head of Engineering, Ascend Money

The Ascend Money team saw Google Kubernetes Engine as enabling a seamless way of transitioning from an on-premises data center to a cloud service. “We considered industry trends such as what people were adopting and who we could hire when making our decision,” says Jarrett. “Engineering teams are focusing on using Kubernetes open source container management at scale and as a way of doing business, which was attractive to us.

“Google Kubernetes Engine presented the easiest way to manage and orchestrate our containers, and drive us away from our existing infrastructure.”

BigQuery best for cost and ease of use

Ascend Money also reviewed data infrastructure solutions, with its business intelligence and data platform teams considering a range of options. The teams quickly ruled out an on-premises solution due to the capital investment required and opted for a cloud service. Following a rigorous evaluation of Google Cloud Platform against the services offered by another cloud provider, Ascend Money opted to run on Google Cloud.

“We found, based on value, ease of use, effectiveness, and the skills and adaptability of our own team members, BigQuery and other Google Cloud Platform services were the best fit for our business,” says Jarrett. The business is now running an architecture comprising a BigQuery analytics data warehouse; Cloud Storage to store raw and archive data; Cloud Dataflow to process stream and batch data, and Cloud Pub/Sub for event ingestion and delivery.

“We’re expanding our utilization of BigQuery and other services on a daily basis,” says Jarrett.

Ascend Money is also using a range of Google Cloud Platform services for the infrastructure outside its data platform, including Stackdriver logging and monitoring; Cloud KMS to manage cryptographic keys for its cloud services, Cloud Build to undertake continuous integration, delivery, and deployment; Cloud DNS to provide domain name system services; and Cloud Functions to enable its developers to run and scale code in the cloud.

With Google Cloud Platform, Ascend Money is now processing about 12GB of batch data per day and streaming data from about 200 data marts per day in Thailand alone.

Cost effective scalability and faster to market

Google Kubernetes Engine has enabled the business to scale and deliver to market faster. “We can build on the platform, take the application and container and deploy them to scale out,” says Jarrett. “The Google Kubernetes Engine orchestration mechanism that provides containerized, elastic scalability is extremely important in allowing us to manage costs and expend our effort efficiently. Through Kubernetes, we can write once and deploy everywhere.”

With Google Cloud Platform, the business has saved 3,000,000 THB (about US$90,000) in licensing costs and, through automation tools, reduced the time to complete infrastructure activities by 50 percent.

“We don’t have as many meetings since we deployed G Suite and we can work effectively in a distributed fashion.”

– Abraham Jarrett, Head of Engineering, Ascend Money

Ascend Money’s entire workforce is now using G Suite to collaborate and operate productively. The business is achieving a range of benefits including being able to get new team members up and running more quickly and reduced cost. “Managing software is a big cost for us,” says Jarrett. “Through G Suite, we are significantly reducing our software deployment, licensing, and repair costs.” Meanwhile, the shorter time to onboard team members to G Suite is paying off with improved productivity and an accelerated ability to collaborate.

Ascend Money team members primarily use SheetsSlides, and Docs to create internal materials, including product requirement documents in Docs and workforce and project planning spreadsheets in Sheets.

The organization also uses Hangouts Meet to collaborate when working from different locations. “We don’t have as many meetings since we deployed G Suite and we can work effectively in a distributed fashion,” says Jarrett. “People can work from home and we have five regions plus Thailand where they can collaborate live on a document, such as a slide deck for board meetings or meetings with our chief executive officer, head of engineering, or other senior managers.”

20 hours per week saved

Jarrett describes the time savings of using web browser-based productivity software and G Suite as saving them an average of 20 hours per week. This has improved productivity and the quality of life for Ascend Money’s hard-working team, increasing overall staff satisfaction.

“The ability to work remotely is a big win for us,” Jarrett says. “Our team members can keep one computer at work and one at home and access the same information, they can work in a plane while it sits on the tarmac, or update a Google Doc or a Google Sheet in real time on their phone. They can work anytime, from any location, as long as they have an internet connection. They have less dead time, meaning more uptime.”

With Google Cloud Platform and G Suite, Ascend Money is ideally positioned to support growing demand for its fintech services in South East Asia, particularly among people with limited access to banking. “We have the agility and dynamism to support rising demand and look forward to continuing to work with Google to realize our business ambitions,” says Jarrett.

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