Why New Relic
Supports BCI’s hyper-growth objectives by providing a holistic view into application and mobile performance, ensuring that the digital customer experience and performance of MACH mobile applications can keep pace with enormous projected growth.
- Reduced average response times for mobile payment platform by 30 percent
- Lowered MACH’s error rate from 3.5 percent to 0 percent
- Eliminated downtime that could amount to 2,000 transactions/purchases per hour
- Facilitated registration of 100,000 users in just 2 days (25 times the usual traffic)
When Juan Yarur Lolas founded Banco de Crédito e Inversiones (BCI) in 1937, it was with the goal of serving the small and medium-size businesses at the heart of Chile’s economy. BCI has since become one of Chile’s largest banks (with branches throughout the country) and established an international presence with offices in the United States, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and Hong Kong. The bank provides services ranging from portfolio and mutual fund management to insurance, investment banking, and more.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the bank’s focus on making sure that everyone has access to the best financial services. In a country where only 30% of the eligible population own a credit card (and only 74% have bank accounts), this is no easy task—especially in a global economy where digital payment has become the norm.
That’s why in 2017 BCI decided to disrupt Chile’s financial system by doing something completely novel: It would offer—at no charge, and with no requirement for a bank account—prepaid cards (available through a mobile app) that customers could use to make purchases in international stores (such as Amazon and Spotify), pay friends, get cash from ATMs, and more. Today, that service is known as MACH.
Bringing financial prowess to an underserved market
To make its mobile payment service a reality, BCI created what was essentially a startup within the company to develop the MACH platform. Freed from the restraints imposed by legacy systems—and knowing that the market for a first-of-its-kind service in Chile would be enormous—the MACH team went cloud native from day one so that it could easily and economically scale to meet a rapidly growing customer base.
That decision turned out to be a good one: The MACH platform—composed of more than 30 microservices running in Docker containers hosted in the AWS cloud—gained a million users in the first year of its existence. And while the environment scaled admirably to meet demand, New Relic monitoring played a big part in its successful deployment.
“As we began contemplating the platform’s first public release, we realized we needed to get a firm understanding of how our services were working in production,” explains Ignacio Gajardo, BCI’s MACH chief technology officer. “We started looking for a monitoring solution and quickly settled on New Relic because we could see that it was going to deliver the data we needed while also being very easy to use and integrate with our current environment.”
Achieving hyper-growth with an industry-disrupting service
That first-year user gain after launching MACH was no fluke: BCI built the mobile payment platform on the idea that addressing a void in Chile’s banking and payment systems would enable it to disrupt the industry and rapidly gain an enormous number of customers.
“Because MACH does not require a risk assessment or a credit score for its use, the bank has been able to reach many customers who could not qualify for its services previously,” says Gajardo. “Today, MACH has 1.5 million users, and the MACH app accounts for 70% of the international transactions made by cards that are issued by the bank. We’re hoping to have 2 million users by the end of this year, and we’re hoping that in five years every Chilean will be using our app.”
That would be 17 million users.
Big ambitions, however, require a platform that can support them, and New Relic APM and New Relic Mobile have been essential in ensuring that both the digital customer experience provided by MACH and the performance of its mobile applications can keep pace with the service’s enormous projected growth.
“High availability is essential,” says Gajardo. “With 1.5 million MACH users, one hour of down time has big consequences for our reputation, and every second counts. New Relic has been invaluable in allowing us to see how all our environments—including development, staging, and production—are performing so that we never get into that situation. It enables us to identify and resolve bottlenecks very quickly and very early in the development process.”
Having embraced the DevOps model of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), the MACH team constantly turns to the New Relic platform for visibility into their systems. “It’s essential that members of our DevOps team have insights into how our infrastructure and services are working,” says Gajardo. “That’s why we use New Relic in a very open way.”
MACH Developer Daniela Constanza Muñoz concurs: “We want to empower our development teams to own their code—from development to production—making them accountable every step of the way,” she says. “Because we’ve integrated our deployments with New Relic, this kind of early ownership and accountability is not only possible but easy.”
Indeed, with fully automated and instrumented delivery pipelines and New Relic Insights dashboards displaying everything from availability and response times to KPIs, such as the number of payments processed or accounts created over a 24-hour period, the MACH team has a constant handle on the platform’s performance and the user experience it delivers.
Inspiring the confidence to innovate
For Gajardo and Muñoz, two examples of New Relic’s essential utility stand out.
For Muñoz, the aha moment came when users recently reported experiencing timeout errors that were preventing them from adding cash to their accounts. “After some digging, we realized that our response time for that endpoint had been increasing for a few days before it began responding with timeout errors,” she says. “Thanks to New Relic, we were quickly able to diagnose the issue. By checking the response time of one of our external services, we discovered that the problem was on their end (not ours), and we were able to set in motion a process to fix it—a good thing, since if this had gone undetected, it could have resulted in significant pain to the business.”
The day that New Relic really proved its worth to Gajardo was when MACH’s referral program went viral. “That was a happy day for our team but also a very stressful day,” he says. “Our traffic grew to 25 times what we were used to, and we managed to register 100,000 users in just two days. With New Relic instrumentation in place, we were able to get a really interesting glimpse into how our services and environments behaved when stressed in ways we’d never seen before or tested. That, in turn, was a real confidence builder for our team.”
Embracing the benefits of New Relic
Today, the MACH team’s confidence in their mobile payment platform continues to grow. They’re innovating, adding new features, and accommodating an ever-growing user base, safe in the knowledge that New Relic will prepare them for the impacts of their changes.
“New Relic allows us to make better decisions because it gives us the visibility we need to pinpoint issues and work proactively to resolve them,” Muñoz says. “We’re now able to fix problems we didn’t even know we had.”
“New Relic allows us to make better decisions because it gives us the visibility we need to pinpoint issues and work proactively to resolve them. We’re now able to fix problems we didn’t even know we had.”
It’s not surprising then that the MACH team has reduced average response times for the platform by 30% (from 300 milliseconds to 200 milliseconds) and lowered its error rate from 3.5% to 0.0% thanks to insights gleaned from New Relic.
Another area in which New Relic has provided enormous benefits is cost optimization. “Because it’s very easy to see where your traffic is going with New Relic, we’ve been able to do a lot of cost optimizations with third parties,” says Gajardo. “We can simply take the highest throughput in APM or the longest average response times and start optimizing from there. One quick fix resulted in a 30% cost reduction, or 1,400,000 pesos ($2000) per month.”
“It’s very easy to see where your traffic is going with New Relic, which has allowed us to do a lot of cost optimizations with third parties. We can simply take the highest throughput in APM or the longest average response times and start optimizing from there. One quick fix resulted in a 30% cost reduction, or 1,400,000 pesos ($2000) per month.”
In this case the MACH team was able to see that requests for balance checks—representing 30% of the calls made to the service—were costing MACH 10 to 13 pesos each. By performing some front-end optimization and only calling for checks if a user’s balance had changed (rather than every time a user logged in), the team was able to reduce those costs significantly.
As the MACH platform continues to grow, Gajardo looks forward to making even better use of New Relic monitoring—sending more events to the New Relic API so that his team can build better dashboards with more useful information. One thing that’s already helped with this is the connected, unified user interface provided by New Relic One.
“With the improved interface and better dashboard solutions provided by New Relic One (which we’ve been using for a month), we’re now able to display the data in a more useful way,” Gajardo says. “Whereas in the past we had to use four TV screens to display the services we were monitoring, we’re now able to consolidate all of that information into just one, making the data much more accessible to every member of our team.”
“With the improved interface and better dashboard solutions provided by New Relic One… we’re now able to display the data in a more useful way. Whereas in the past we had to use four TV screens to display the services we were monitoring, we’re now able to consolidate all of that information into just one, making the data much more accessible to every member of our team.”