PKO Bank Polski: Leading Poland into the cloud with the banking services of the future

About PKO Bank Polski

To meet the needs of its customers, PKO Bank Polski is transforming into the bank of the future. It celebrated its centenary in 2019, and is one of the largest banking groups in Central and Eastern Europe.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Poland

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About Operator Chmury Krajowej

With a team of over 100 cloud experts, Google Cloud partner Operator Chmury Krajowej provides cloud computing solutions to the Polish market.

PKO Bank Polski uses Google Cloud to speed up the delivery of modern banking services to its customers, encouraging more businesses to embrace cloud technology and help grow Poland's economy.

Google Cloud results

  • Helps new application services reach customers faster by speeding up the time to market
  • Drives the development of innovative features in response to customer behavior using sophisticated data analysis
  • Connects advisors with customers to offer face-to-face appointments remotely using Google Meet on Google Workspace
  • Provides a benchmark for other businesses in Poland, encouraging them to adopt cloud and hybrid cloud solutions

Keeps 5M app users banking by scaling to 3x login peaks

As the largest bank in Poland and one of the largest in Central and Eastern Europe, PKO Bank Polski is focused on providing the kinds of modern banking services that its customers need in Poland's dynamic digital landscape. But beyond this, it also believes these solutions can support more long-term transformation in the country's economy. According to PKO Bank Polski's CIO Adam Marciniak, technology is the key to driving forward these changes. "Old ways of banking based around branches and paper statements have been dead for at least a decade," he says.

Over the past five years, PKO Bank Polski has therefore focused on developing new omnichannel tools. These include a mobile banking app and a mobile payment system called Blik that enables users to make mobile payments at card machines, ATMs, and online. The bank provides more than just financial services, however. Its digital offer includes secure e-identities for users to access e-government and municipal services, and it wants to expand this offering to other services such as housing in the future. It's also working to support structural changes so more Polish businesses can embrace innovation, and as one out of three Polish businesses banks with PKO Bank Polski, it is well placed to lead the way.

"PKO Polski Bank has a responsibility to help Poland's economy grow. We want to build the bank of the future, and to do that, we need the most innovative technology. By choosing Google Cloud, we believe we will have access to the tools we need, now and in the years to come."

Adam Marciniak, CTO, PKO Bank Polski

With a new Google Cloud region scheduled to open in Warsaw in 2021, offering low latencies and high availability to users in the region, PKO Bank Polski has launched a new internal team, the Cloud Center for Excellence. Working with Google Cloud partner Operator Chmury Krajowej as well as other cloud providers, its infrastructure modernization plan, Road to Cloud, aims to implement a hybrid, multicloud environment with the goal of running half of its services in the cloud by 2023.

The goal? Speeding up the development and delivery of new services and making them more cost-efficient. But a key objective is also to open the door to using new innovative technologies and raise awareness of the possibilities offered by cloud solutions.

"PKO Polski Bank has a responsibility to help Poland's economy grow," says Marciniak. "We want to build the bank of the future, and to do that, we need the most innovative technology. By choosing Google Cloud, we believe we will have access to the tools we need, now and in the years to come."

"We chose Anthos because it's fully managed, so we don't have to spend any time managing our orchestration clusters, and because of its additional features, such as Anthos Service Mesh. Using Anthos, we'll be able to speed up our development and deliver new services faster."

Marcin Dzienniak, Chief Product Owner of Cloud Center of Excellence and Program Director of Road to Cloud, PKO Bank Polski

Building an app infrastructure that stays ahead of customer demand

Online banking is now a central service for any bank. At 47%, online banking penetration in Poland is still growing, but offering customers a feature-rich and reliable mobile app is an important part of PKO Polski Bank's vision. Launched six years ago, the IKO bank application enables its five million active users to carry out everyday banking tasks and make mobile payments using Blik. It also features other handy services such as digital public transport tickets and automatic toll-road payments.

Previously, the IKO app infrastructure was hosted on-premises, which made it difficult to respond flexibly to rapid changes in demand. On busy days, three times the average number of users might log on to IKO, leading to challenges with infrastructure scalability. It was also difficult for PKO's developers to work on the application's monolithic infrastructure. By migrating its app infrastructure to Kubernetes containers, managed using Anthos on Google Cloud, PKO Bank Polski will be able to scale its services up dynamically when unpredictable peaks occur.

"We chose Anthos because it's fully managed, so we don't have to spend any time managing our orchestration clusters, explains Marcin Dzienniak, Chief Product Owner of the Cloud Center of Excellence and Program Director of Road to Cloud at PKO Bank Polski. "It also offers additional features, such as Anthos Service Mesh. Using Anthos, we'll be able to speed up our development and deliver new services faster."

Keeping banking services up to speed with faster updates

For PKO Bank Polski, the benchmark for digital banking services is technology companies such as social media platforms, which are encouraging new forms of online interactions. "Banking as an industry can be slow to react," says Marciniak. "We're looking towards other sectors to try and stay ahead of the curve." As things move fast online, it's important to be able to release new services quickly.

As it now has a microservices-based stack leveraging tools such as Anthos and Google Kubernetes Engine, PKO Bank Polski has been able to speed up how quickly it delivers new updates and services. "Using Google Cloud, we're able to automate infrastructure management," says Marciniak. "That's changing the way we work. It's easier and faster to provide services to our customers and tailor them better to customer demand." The next step will be to create a CI/CD pipeline to release updates continuously, which will help developers release features faster and should provide users with a more seamless experience.

PKO Bank Polski is also planning to use Google Cloud analytics to roll out machine learning analysis across its departments. Using AI Platform, it will be able to score its machine learning models more frequently, applying models to new datasets to choose the most accurate model. Rather than once a month, it plans to score models daily, or even in real-time interactions, something that wouldn't be financially viable on-premises.

"We also want to shorten our algorithm development and deployment time from around six months to one month," explains Dzienniak. "We're currently working on this project with data scientists from the CRM and Credit Risk departments, but we see big opportunities to apply this approach to areas such as customer experience, operations, fraud management, and many others."

"Our key gain since beginning our app infrastructure migration to Google Cloud has been a reduced time to market for new services. When the cloud migration is complete in 2023, we'll also be able to close one of our two data centers, which will help optimize costs and make our infrastructure more flexible."

Adam Marciniak, CTO, PKO Bank Polski

Personalizing customer support with face-to-face banking online

As banking has moved away from in-branch appointments, digital advisory services have become all the more important. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it was even more critical for customers to feel supported when making decisions about products and services, and to access help and advice during the restrictions on work and travel.

To make sure customers had the one-to-one contact they needed, PKO Bank Polski developed an online advisory service together with Operator Chmury Krajowej in just three weeks. The service enabled customers to fill in an online form to book an appointment online with an advisor, which took place over Google Meet on Google Workspace. The online booking application itself runs on a serverless environment using App Engine.

"It was important for us to be able to provide customers with a secure, encrypted way to speak to advisors face-to-face about their banking products and any support they needed during the pandemic," says Marciniak. "Initially, this was just a service for corporate clients, but now we're looking at rolling it out for all our customers."

Sharing knowledge to boost Poland's digital economy

With its easily scalable microservices infrastructure and enhanced machine learning data analytics on Google Cloud, PKO Bank Polski will be better able to understand and respond to the needs of its application users. "Our key gain since beginning our app infrastructure migration to Google Cloud has been a reduced time to market for new services," says Marciniak. "When the cloud migration is complete in 2023, we'll also be able to close one of our two data centers, which will help optimize costs and make our infrastructure more flexible." It will continue to operate a multicloud hybrid model, using its own data center alongside cloud services provided by Google Cloud and other cloud providers.

Having developed its Road to Cloud strategy and set up its Google Cloud infrastructure, PKO Bank Polski is now moving into the next phase of its roadmap. "We have around 20 strategic platforms to migrate, and each application uses around 10 to 15 Google Cloud services," says Dzienniak. "We're planning to use half of all the available services on Google Cloud, and we keep discovering new serverless services that will be useful in our move towards managed and automated tools." The goal is also to continue training and upskilling its employees through the PKO Cloud University, which is one of the Cloud Center for Excellence's initiatives.

As for the bigger picture, PKO Polski is hoping its success will set an example for other businesses. "When it comes to the cloud, one of the challenges in Poland is demonstrating the long-term benefits in migrating," says Marciniak. "With access to Google Cloud services through partners like Operator Chmury Krajowej and the new Google Cloud region in Warsaw, we want to show that the digitization of Poland's economy is the way forward, and that every business can access the opportunities it offers."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About PKO Bank Polski

To meet the needs of its customers, PKO Bank Polski is transforming into the bank of the future. It celebrated its centenary in 2019, and is one of the largest banking groups in Central and Eastern Europe.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance
Location: Poland

About Operator Chmury Krajowej

With a team of over 100 cloud experts, Google Cloud partner Operator Chmury Krajowej provides cloud computing solutions to the Polish market.