Managing super funds in the cloud

Managing super funds in the cloud

Self managed super fund BGL turned to Amazon Web Services to handle billions of transactions

BGL managing director Ron Lesh

BGL managing director Ron Lesh

Melbourne-based self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) software provider, BGL, began using cloud services in July 2013 to improve capacity and develop Web applications.

BGL has more than 6500 accounting, law firm and enterprise customers in 12 countries including Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Hong Kong. It employs 55 staff locally to handle software development, support, marketing, client services and administration.

BGL's managing director, Ron Lesh, told CIO Australia the company was hosting its portal software offering in Macquarie Telecom’s Sydney data centre but decided to move to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a number of reasons.

“We wanted improved performance, which we weren’t getting from Macquarie, and it was difficult to get additional resources,” he said. “The move also brought down the price of what we were paying on a monthly basis.”

BGL is also using the AWS cloud to host its SMSF admin software and a Web application, Simple Fund 360, which went to commercial release in March after being tested by 450 Australian clients.

“The main benefit AWS gave us was a lot of flexibility and scalability that we couldn’t get elsewhere because we’re looking at potentially billions of transactions and thousands of self-managed super funds,” Lesh said.

“BGL has been able to increase agility across the entire development process through a better build process with an Agile test environment. That was of prime importance to us and was one of the major contributors to going to AWS.”

Another consideration was that BGL provides SMSF data to clients who expect updated information on a daily basis. Developing a cloud product gives it the ability to automate data feeds much more easily than it could do using desktop-based software, Lesh said.

“What we’ve built into our software is the ability to auto scale. This means we can propagate servers and resources automatically,” he said.

BGL has developed alerts that tell IT staff when CPU usage rises on servers. “Because the system self-propagates, we didn’t want to find that we were necessarily paying a high cost for CPU time or server instances. We pay a lower amount for CPU usage at the time when we use those particular instances because we pay for some of it upfront [to AWS].”

BGL has designed the system so that every client can move their SMSFs to cloud-based software in the future.

“That meant we needed to provide a system that would support 350,000 self-managed super funds and 5.5 billion transactions,” Lesh explained. “We expect that will happen over the next five years due to the conservative nature of our clients.”

He added that BGL needs the capacity of a cloud system because it is not only storing transaction data but also superannuation supporting documents.

“We have been able to experiment with NoSQL database environments much faster and for less cost, which is a credit to the AWS documentation available on DynamoDB,” he said.

“We can use both NoSQL and traditional SQL environments to give us the increased flexibility and agility we need to run Web applications.”

BGL plans to develop other Web applications such as corporate compliance software this year. According to Lesh, 2500 clients use its corporate compliance software worldwide. In addition, super fund data from other countries including New Zealand is hosted by AWS in Australia.

“As soon as we moved the portal over to AWS, clients came back and said it was significantly faster,” he added.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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