Pepper Group rolling out data warehouse-in-a-box

Replaces six data warehouses with one appliance claimed to require no IT support

James Henshaw, CIO, Pepper Australia

James Henshaw, CIO, Pepper Australia

Financial services organisation Pepper Group is deploying what is claimed to be Australia’s first fully-integrated data warehouse-in-a-box, an appliance that doesn’t require IT support.

Pepper Group has grown substantially over the past 12 months, acquiring seven portfolios globally including a $5 billion residential mortgage portfolio originated by GE Capital Australia and New Zealand.

During the global financial crisis, it also picked up contracts from competitors such as Allco Finance Group, which was liquidated in mid-2009.

As a result of this growth – which will see Pepper’s global staff numbers increase from 375 to 1000 by the end of 2013 – the company had created around six data warehouses. Workers relied heavily on a few IT staff to produce the reports that staff across its various divisions required.

“Every time our treasury, finance or marketing department wanted something done, IT [staff] had to do all the work,” said James Henshaw, CIO at Pepper Australia and member of the CIO Executive Council.

“For us, unlocking the IT resources and enabling the business to be self-sufficient in terms of their reporting was key,” he said.

“We built reports for them and they could go in a run them but if they needed any modifications for those reports or needed a new report – we were doing lots of acquisitions and handling large data files – IT always had to be involved.”

Pepper’s Australian office has engaged system integrator InfoReady to roll out the “self-service appliance” which combines data warehousing, business intelligence and data integration functions. It is based on the IBM Smart Analytics System 5710 Data Warehouse with a Cognos Business Intelligence front end.

The new data warehouse will contain information about 250,000 clients and up to 60,000 loans, said Henshaw.

Key data warehouse environments will be rolled out by mid-February and business intelligence tools will be available for use by staff in the company’s treasury and principle investment groups by the end of March, said Henshaw.

The business intelligence tools will enable these teams to analyse millions of rows of transaction and product data, which is used to determine prices paid for assets, he said.

European expansion

As Pepper acquires more portfolios around the world, data will be incorporated into its data warehouse environment in Australia and business intelligence tools will be rolled out to various business units overseas, said Henshaw.

“We have about three or four acquisitions on the go over in Europe at the moment,” he said.

In mid-2012, Pepper purchased a €600 million residential mortgage portfolio managed by GE Capital in Ireland.

“We are heavily customising a system for the Irish market because it’s very heavily regulated over there,” said Henshaw.

“Once we have that rolled out, we will be bringing their data warehouse into ours. That will be a bit of a project itself, but at least early on, they will be able to use the BI tools.”

According to Henshaw, the automation provided by the appliance and integrated business intelligence tools free up three of his 20 IT staff to focus on business process improvements.

He added that while there will be “massive” cost savings it’s “more [about] the business being able to use the data, be more self-sufficient, get it [data] more timely and make strategic decisions earlier.”

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