project, Thoughts

Orbis Access - A new investment site is born

Orbis Access
Orbis Access

Today a new investment website has been born and its name is

I am not a spokesperson for the company, and I should not be looked to for any kind of investment advice. I was however part of the team that brought this new site out into the world. I'm not going to write much about the business because you can read the site for that, I am however going to write a bit about my experience in being a part of the project.

Just over 4 years ago I made a pretty big change to my life. I had been working for IBM for 10 years and I made the decision that it was time to move on and seek new challenges. Well I say 'I', my wife and I both wound up moving house and changing jobs. It was a big year.

The company I joined was Orbis investment advisory limited and I joined an exciting new project which was then in its early days. The project was ambitious, and represented a great opportunity for me professionally to get involved in a lot of new aspects of software development and indeed business development. During my time so far I have worked alongside some awesome, intelligent and dedicated people, and it has meant a great deal of hard work and sometimes long hours. The most apparent outward effect of this time period on my blog was that I went from reliably posting weekly to haphazardly trying to find time to get something up maybe monthly ;-)

It has been a fascinating journey and a rewarding challenge. I joined the team as senior tester at a time when the whole team was perhaps 15-20 people. We grew fast, and each of us had to learn what it means to bring a brand new financial services company to life in the world. This is not like launching a new social media site, or photo sharing community or news aggregation service etc. The financial services industry in the UK is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. There are high standards to meet, structures have to be in place to ensure the utmost protection for client money and data. As a tester by trade when I started, my world view had to expand from simply worrying about finding bugs in code, to dealing with the overarching quality of everything we do. It was pretty amazing, and daunting. Being empowered to make decisions is a lot harder than you might imagine. Its seemingly easy to have ideas and criticize things when you can't make changes, but when given the chance to make whatever changes you feel are important, with the only requirement that you be able to justify why you think it will work. That is a whole different challenge.

I've been involved in lots of different discussions and decisions as the team has worked through such things as:

  • exactly how our order process should look.
  • what is the best way for our operations team to manage thousands of payments easily.
  • what kinds of tests should we write and how should we best simulate what conditions will be like for the site with lots of clients all with long history data.
  • How do we handle it if an internal or external system has a failure.
  • What evidence do we need to produce to satisfy regulators and auditors that we are following or processes.
  • what font choice we should make. (I learned a lot I didn't know about fonts)

Usability testing helped inform many choices around the outward style and content of the site. Quantitative and qualatative research led by business analysts drove the specifics of the offering. Whilst team input and industry best practice has helped shape the way our development team writes, builds, tests and deploys the site.

So now, we are live! Right now. I find I experience an odd mix of excitement to be live and realisation that being out in the big wide world ups the stakes significantly. I'm confident in what we've built, but of course you can never be certain that you've covered all the angles. I guess this is why actors like the stage and live broadcast has a different feel to pre-recorded etc. At IBM I was insulated to a great extent from customer experience of products I had worked to test by virtue of the large organisation and service structures etc. It was much more like prerecording, going through a long careful editing process etc. Not so with Orbis Access, I will be made aware of any and every issue that is reported no matter how minor, anything that a client reports to us will certainly lead to questions of why we didn't find it before a client and how we can do better, this is live and the whole team is on stage.

Despite the nerves, it is fantastic to finally be able to share this project with the world at large.

And I've gone this whole post without really saying what this site offers! Well there are many people better qualified that me to discuss the nature of the offering and its comparison to the market, and some have been invited to review and comment upon the site and what OA has to offer. When those people begin to write about us, I will probably add some links below. Hopefully if you go looking for information, either on our site or through google, then you will find out all you need to decide for yourself. Suffice for me to say, if you've been thinking that you could or should be doing something a little more with your finances then maybe you should take a look at what OA has to offer.

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