British Business Bank

Longstanding partnership helping a government-owned business development bank support British businesses

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Develop a scalable, secure, and compliant product that could quickly be adapted to support pandemic demands

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Ruby on Rails, API, and frontend architecture and development

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Supporting British businesses, Banking Tech Award nomination, and a strong partnership

About British Business Bank

British Business Bank is a government-owned business development bank, established by the UK in 2014.

British Business Bank operates as a support and loan guarantor allowing financial institutions to easily and confidently work with small to medium businesses in various development stages. British Business Bank’s lending schemes help businesses secure financing through additional options and enable banks to lend even if the business cannot deliver the typical security requirements.

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Improving scalability and flexibility to meet demand

Our partnership with British Business Bank began when the bank was established and they wanted to build the Enterprise Finance Guarantee application.

Without an in-house team, British Business Bank needed to build a relationship with the right partner to support them with rebuilding the application, allowing them to create a bigger, more powerful platform that could digitise British Business Bank departments, and provide better scalability and flexibility.

thoughtbot reverse-engineered an updated application referencing the existing codebase, and implemented a stronger architecture that would serve for years as a robust foundation. Post-launch, as British Business Bank and their client’s needs changed, thoughtbot efficiently balanced new features, bug fixes, and general optimisations.

Then, the most substantial challenge for the bank came with the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK government introduced three new loan schemes that needed to be rolled out urgently to keep businesses afloat during this critical period of economic uncertainty. The scale and speed at which British Business Bank was required to approve loans and distribute funds was unlike any previous situation, and having the technology and capabilities to serve customers in a timely manner was paramount. As British Business Bank’s technology partner, thoughtbot set out to complete the necessary development to reach these goals.


Supporting architecture, frontend and backend implementation, and cloud migration

thoughtbot primarily supported the architecture and implementation of the application (front and backend) as well as the creation of the corresponding APIs powering the new loan schemes. Given the amount of activity expected from the many businesses applying for loans, ensuring our product could scale to meet demand from the lending banks was essential. 

In April 2021, thoughtbot moved on to supporting the rollout of the Recovery Loan Scheme, the successor to the three COVID-19 schemes. In all, the COVID-19 and RLS schemes have resulted in British Business Bank offering financial support to nearly 80% of the UK's SME market.

In parallel to our loan scheme and application development efforts, thoughtbot also supported a cloud migration from UK cloud to Azure. thoughtbot worked closely with BBB's operations partners to reconfigure the application and seamlessly migrate to the new Azure platform with minimal downtime and disruption.

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A Banking Tech Award nomination and long-term partnership

In our first conversations with British Business Bank, they clarified what they were looking for in a long-term partnership. thoughtbot is proud of what we have been able to accomplish together, and that our experience and approach align with British Business Bank’s requested attributes: 

  • Ruby on Rails expertise (including open-source) 
  • Test Driven Development to ensure the highest code quality 
  • Agile delivery that prompts the team to regularly share learnings and improve 
  • Experience in delivering new functionality quickly while ensuring adherence to fundamental requirements such as government information security processes, GDPR Compliance, and GDS coding standards

The Guarantees Portal API, developed by thoughtbot to support the various loan schemes, was shortlisted for best “COVID-19 Response by Financial Institutions” at the 2021 Banking Tech Awards and enabled British Business Bank to loan more than £78 billion to businesses.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with such a notable finance leader, and together, supporting the UK economy with the resources and financial options businesses need to survive and grow. 

thoughtbot has been approved as a G-cloud 13 supplier on the UK Digital Marketplace and is ideally positioned to help other UK public sector entities with cloud delivery and support services. 

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