Flinks: Speeding the flow of financial information

About Flinks

Flinks is a data company that empowers businesses to provide better financial services to consumers. Trusted by hundreds of world-class companies, Flinks enables businesses to connect users' bank accounts, gain financial insights into their customers, and provide better risk products.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Canada

Flinks increased application performance and built an AI-powered risk scoring engine by moving to Google Cloud Platform, improving customer satisfaction and scoring accuracy.

Google Cloud Results

  • Improves customer satisfaction and conversion by returning financial information faster
  • Increases accuracy of risk scoring engine by 50% with big data analytics and machine learning
  • Helps demonstrate compliance with SOC 2 and other standards to open up business opportunities
  • Improves security with role-based access and fast upgrades to the latest versions of Kubernetes
  • Simplifies operations and accelerates time to market with fully managed cloud services

3x performance increase versus other cloud providers

When banks and financial technology (FinTech) companies want to connect their apps to customers' financial data to grow those relationships with new digital services, where do they turn? How do they make the process easy, compliant, and highly secure?

Many financial services companies, including National Bank of Canada and TransferWise, are turning to Flinks, a Montreal-based FinTech startup with an API that can access and verify bank account information, including real-time balances, and provide up to 12 months of a user's transaction history. The company's unique financial data aggregator and risk scoring engine are compelling offerings for financial services professionals, empowering them to provide new services such as risk modeling through better accessibility and understanding of financial data.

To gain new customers and stay competitive, Flinks must provide financial institutions with the fastest possible networking and processing. The longer it takes for the Flinks API to verify account information, the less likely a customer is to use the service. To achieve low latency on a startup budget, Flinks has always used cloud services, employing a multi-cloud strategy for its Microsoft .NET infrastructure and databases. However, as the company shifted to a container-based architecture to simplify management and security, it found other cloud providers' Kubernetes services difficult to use.

"We tried to run Kubernetes on two major cloud providers, and we had issues because they didn't understand how to optimize Kubernetes as a service offering," says Simon-Pierre LeBel, Vice President IT Operations at Flinks. "They used old software versions. It wasn't Kubernetes as Google and the original developers intended it, and we still had to manage the clusters ourselves."

"Google Kubernetes Engine is Kubernetes as it should be. It's easy to use, up to date, highly secure, and expertly managed. We fell in love."

Simon-Pierre LeBel, VP IT Operations and Security, Flinks

Kubernetes as it should be

Luckily, Flinks received cloud credits for Google Cloud Platform (GCP) through Google Cloud for Startups, an opportunity it discovered through MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto-based innovation hub. It immediately saw that Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) would be a better way to host its containers, offering fast performance and automated operations, with no need to install, manage, or operate Kubernetes clusters. Release updates are made quickly, and auto upgrades keep clusters up to date with the latest versions of Kubernetes.

"Google Kubernetes Engine is Kubernetes as it should be," says Simon-Pierre. "It's easy to use, up to date, highly secure, and expertly managed. We totally fell in love."

Flinks also benefits from the Google high-performance global fiber network, which makes it possible to deliver financial account information with very high throughput. To test whether GCP could provide optimal performance for its demanding financial services customers, Flinks moved an API instance that was running on another cloud provider's web app service to GKE. The results clinched the company's decision to move to GCP.

"Simply moving our API from another cloud provider to Google Cloud Platform and using similar CPU and memory resources reduced our API call time by two-thirds," says Simon-Pierre. "That's super important to our customers, because faster transfer of account information means more people will want to use their digital services."

"Google Cloud has changed how we approach AI innovation because it's so easy to turn ideas into reality. Being able to query millions of rows in seconds and focus on building better ML models allowed us to bring our scoring engine to market in six months instead of two years."

Simon-Pierre LeBel, VP IT Operations and Security, Flinks

4x faster time to market for AI innovation

Shortly after moving to GCP, Flinks began expanding beyond its flagship API, developing a risk scoring engine that uses artificial intelligence to transform users' real-life financial behavior into reliable predictive features. The resulting score allows Flinks' customers to present the best credit offers to their users, with near-instant approvals.

To power its scoring engine with reliable data, Flinks uses BigQuery to aggregate data from external sources into a fully managed analytics data warehouse. Non-analytics data is stored in PostgreSQL databases running on Cloud SQL. Flinks trains its machine learning (ML) models on Cloud Machine Learning Engine, enabling its engineers to improve scoring accuracy by 50 percent with better models instead of spending their time provisioning infrastructure.

"Google Cloud has changed how we approach AI innovation because it's so easy to turn ideas into reality," says Simon-Pierre. "Being able to query millions of rows in seconds and focus on building better ML models allowed us to bring our scoring engine to market in six months instead of two years."

Enhancing security and compliance

Operating in a highly regulated industry, Flinks' customers are understandably concerned about security and compliance. Being on GCP helps with both, providing enterprise-grade access control with Cloud Identity & Access Management and helping Flinks demonstrate compliance with SOC 2, an important auditing procedure that ensures service providers meet criteria for managing customer data and storing personally identifiable information (PII).

"Google Cloud helped us grow our customer base by returning financial information three times faster. It's also helping us change the way credit is offered by enhancing our risk scoring with AI, removing the human bias that comes along with manual determinations of creditworthiness."

Simon Wahl, Head of Marketing, Flinks

"The fact that Google Cloud services are audited and a SOC 2 Type 2 report is available helps us prove to our customers that our cloud infrastructure is highly secure and compliant," says Simon-Pierre. "We encrypt data in transit and also at rest. Once we tell customers we're on GCP, they know it's safe."

The best cloud for financial services

To keep its services running smoothly, Flinks uses Stackdriver to extract data from Redis instances, powering dashboards to monitor application metrics such as numbers of requests per second, error counts, and traffic trends. In the Canadian market alone, Flinks is now providing data access to more than 98 percent of Canada's banks and credit unions.

"Google Cloud helped us grow our customer base by returning financial information three times faster," says Simon Wahl, Head of Marketing at Flinks. "It's also helping us change the way credit is offered by enhancing our risk scoring with AI, removing the human bias that comes along with manual determinations of creditworthiness."

About Flinks

Flinks is a data company that empowers businesses to provide better financial services to consumers. Trusted by hundreds of world-class companies, Flinks enables businesses to connect users' bank accounts, gain financial insights into their customers, and provide better risk products.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Canada
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Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

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