Nedbank, one of South Africa’s largest banks, aims to become the continent’s most admired bank. And, as the recent announcement of its move to a hybrid workforce shows, it is an established forward thinker.
Nedbank laid the foundations of its recent news ten years ago, using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.
“We chose Citrix VDI to allow us to deliver applications and data to the bank’s predominantly desktop users in a way that gives them secure access anywhere, at any time on any device,” explains Mervyn Savary, Nedbank’s Executive Head for End User & Communication Services.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck and South Africa’s president announced a nationwide lockdown, the bank was well placed to respond.
Within the first week, Nedbank had enabled 50% of its workforce to work effectively from home. Previously desk-based staff were issued with old laptops from the bank’s warehouse. Because processing power for the Citrix virtual desktop sits in the datacenter, staff can use older endpoint devices to access their desktops and continue to work effectively.
“When the storm hit, the bank was fully up and running in weeks, not months,” Savary says. “Citrix was a key enabler for that, along with IPT telephony and Office365.”
Nedbank’s virtual desktop model also supports its 2,000 India-based developers by providing secure and scalable access to Nedbank data.
“Our outsourced developers use a BYOD model to access Nedbank data in our datacenter,” Savary explains. “We can spin up 200 developer users in a day, or two. It's not a big issue for us. We give them access to the desktop image on Citrix. They use their own devices to connect to us, we set them up and they access our data. Then, when they spin down, the data is still sitting in our datacenter intact, and they don't have anything on their local devices.”
While Citrix provides secure access to Nedbank’s banking applications, the team also rolled out Microsoft Office 365 with Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.
“Office 365 played an important part in moving to a hybrid workforce because we could give people access to their emails and enable them to collaborate effectively with colleagues,” Savary says. “Before the pandemic, we were running about 50,000 collaboration interactions per month on Office365. A year and a half later, we are now at 200,000 interactions.”
All Nedbank staff who are not required to be in their offices (such as frontline staff) can now work from home. The model has proved so successful that, in July 2021, Nedbank announced a permanent shift to a hybrid workforce model.
The reduction in staff commuting and lower real estate needs, along with the ability to extend the life of endpoint devices, contribute to Nedbank’s strategy of “putting sustainability at its heart.”
Alongside its move to a hybrid workforce, Nedbank has been pursuing a cloud-first technology strategy, Executive Head of End User & Communication Experience Asokan Moodley explains.
“The landscape has changed, and we are now looking predominantly at cloud for applications. As a result, we have seen a drastic increase in bandwidth requirements. We have more latency-sensitive applications in the bank, and we need even more resilience on network availability, stability and quality than we had with our MPLS network.”
The Nedbank team saw an opportunity to use newer connectivity types, such as fiber and wireless, to provide greater performance and resilience at a lower cost than MPLS. As Moodley describes, Nedbank evaluated different SD-WAN solutions.
“We needed higher bandwidth capacity and a centralized management capability with zero touch to remove the human error factor. We needed network visibility and the ability to use different connection types.” Overall, though, “Security was key to our vendor decision. How do we deliver security at the perimeter of the network rather than the center as was the historic approach? How do we strengthen our security posture, especially with local internet breakout from the branches?”
The team evaluated the market-leading solutions to reach a decision.
“Citrix SD-WAN met all of our requirements,” Moodley says. “More importantly, Citrix was able to deliver and extend our network into IaaS and PaaS. That was key, because that's where we were going as a bank, from a cloud perspective. And, because we already had Citrix VDI in our environment, Citrix enabled us to have a single management pane of glass. That made it easier for us to manage both worlds – the network and the end-user perspective.”
Citrix SD-WAN’s ability to shape and prioritize traffic over the network delivered significant performance benefits for Nedbank.
“The ability to shape traffic over multiple connections like MPLS, fiber and wireless, and to seamlessly switch between connections in the event of failure meant we were providing a more technically efficient solution for the branches,” Moodley explains. “We could prioritize voice traffic and, importantly, our banking applications. When we implemented Citrix SD-WAN, our banking platform saw a significant improvement in data turnaround time from 250ms down to 30ms.”
“Citrix impressed us with its engagement and its ability to quickly develop new software features in response to customer needs,” he continues. “If we found issues during our pilot phase, Citrix would address those overnight or within a couple of days. Overall, the biggest benefits from deploying Citrix SD-WAN have been its management capabilities, its zero touch deployment features and the dramatically improved application response times. That directly affected our branches’ KPIs. With a faster response time, we can service customers more quickly.”
As Savary concludes, “The number one complaint from branches, for well over a decade, was slow network responses for all applications. That has stopped since we rolled out Citrix SD-WAN.”
When we implemented Citrix SD-WAN, our banking platform saw a significant improvement in data turnaround time from 250ms down to 30ms. That directly affected our branches’ KPIs. With a faster response time, we can service customers more quickly.