Whether you’re depositing a paycheck or investing your savings you are performing banking operations — even if it’s been a while since you visited a local branch. Today, storefronts are only the visible part of a vast infrastructure built by the financial services industry. Customers have quickly evolved into users, interacting in a click or a tap with devices that don’t close on Sundays. Transactions multiply, happening 24/7, and customers expect real-time responses from their banks. As needs evolve, they set an increasingly high bar for the technologies and services that power the industry.
After all, financial services companies are no longer compared to one another—but to an endless ecosystem of innovative consumer applications and websites that are developing across industries. The challenge for these companies isn’t just embracing cutting edge technologies to build better services more efficiently but doing so while meeting the security standards required to handle sensitive data. In recent years, French multinational banking and financial services company Societe Generale is taking the challenge of digital transformation head on.
Based in Paris, France, Societe Generale employs more than 133,000 people across over 60 countries.
A few years ago, the company embarked on a major overhaul of its information systems, aimed primarily at speeding up the software development lifecycle and facilitating team interactions, with GitHub at the center.
“As a central team, you can imagine that we can easily be on the critical path of any other dependent team,” Amir Jaballah, Head of Digital Transformation and Digital Lab ASIA for Societe Generale explained, “and that’s exactly what we don’t want: we can’t afford to block any team waiting for us to deliver a fix that they need to move their own project forward.” To move faster, they realized they needed to embrace two things: Innersource and self-service. That’s where GitHub came in.
In just a few years, Societe Generale has automated workflows, tripled their releases, cut development time by more than half, and improved employee retention. Thousands of employees have adopted GitHub across their global organization. Societe Generale started its GitHub journey with its Global Banking & Investor Solutions (GBIS), one of the bank’s three core businesses, bringing together Corporate and Investment Banking, Asset Management, and Securities Services before expanding access to GitHub throughout the organization. “We’ve proven that it meets our organizational needs,” says Global Head of Product for Societe Generale’s DevSecOps platform Pierre-Emmanuel Fraisse. “Now we’re working to bring GitHub to more people within Societe Generale.”
Prior to adopting GitHub, Societe Generale’s software teams ran into barriers in communication that built up legacy code and technical debt. “GitHub Enterprise has become a cornerstone of our development for a few reasons,” Amir Jaballah elaborated. “It’s a self-service shared asset that is open to anyone in the company which makes it possible to reduce administrative oversight while encouraging collaboration.”
As Societe Generale has learned, a more open IT infrastructure brings more solutions and innovation to the table—and ultimately to customers’ devices. Developers can create their own repositories, host code on a central platform, and work in teams, significantly reducing project delivery time. They can also review, propose changes to, and reuse code that already exists across the organization instead of reinventing field-tested solutions developed for other projects.
Amir Jaballah also appreciates the connectivity and context GitHub brings to a globally distributed mix of roles: from product owners to field team leaders to front-end and full stack developers. “We want them to focus on doing the work that matters most, not struggling with their tools,” he said. “Having a reliable platform is key, and GitHub’s a part of it.”
Now the company is working to standardize software stacks that can be used by teams across the entire organization. “We’re creating a single pipeline with common APIs for all of our developers,” says Pierre-Emmanuel Fraisse. Previously, Societe Generale had only mutualized infrastructure in this way. “Standardization doesn’t inhibit innovation, it fosters it by freeing developers to focus less on routine production and deployment tasks and more on building innovative features,” Pierre-Emmanuel Fraisse says. “We need to innovate because we have so much competition, not just from traditional banks but from FinTech companies as well. GitHub helps us stay competitive.”
An end-goal for IT at Societe Generale is open collaboration not only across teams but also with external technologies. A world of code and tools exists both internally and within the open source community. Strategically adopting these allows the team to use the best tools for the job without having to start from scratch. For the organization, success is the flexibility to stay competitive and adapt to customer needs as they change. Of course, this long-term goal must be supported by meticulous security practices.
As a financial services company, security is an important prerequisite. It’s on premise installation of GitHub Enterprise uses the enterprise directory to manage user authentication and logs all user and system activity.
Another reason for making GitHub a cornerstone of Societe Generale, Amir Jaballah continues, “is that we’re automating as much of our development process as possible, and GitHub is where everything starts.” Societe Generale already packs a lot of tools in its kit—Jira, Jenkins, SonarQube, and Docker to name a few—but when it came time to select a platform that can help to unleash collaborative culture, Amir Jaballah says, “GitHub came as a no-brainer.”
With GitHub as a foundation for an integrated toolchain, Societe Generale has built on their infrastructure with a focus on efficiency and quality. The number of microservices connected to their financing platform increased by 25 percent in a year without a notable change in the size of the team.
By integrating existing tools like Jenkins and SonarQube, and finding more opportunities for automation—leveraging the Github API for instance—the team has seen a 215 percent increase in the number of releases in production without any major incidents. Now, committing code triggers a chain of pre-configured events that build, test, and deploy automatically. A lot of these tasks used to be manual, or semi-automated at best. All the time saved is now spent crafting new features, benefiting the platform users. “We’re using GitHub to unify these tools into a complete software delivery lifecycle that aligns with our use of agile practices, software craftsmanship, and DevSecOps,” Pierre-Emmanuel Fraisse says. Society Generale is now working to add GitHub Actions to this automation stack. “Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me for this feature,” he says.
While code delivery is on the move at Societe Generale, developers are staying put, noted Amir Jaballah. He believes GitHub also contributes to employee retention. Prior to its adoption, tooling was a huge problem that was generating secondary difficulties: “We were spending a lot of time on training and working with vendors on fixes for the previous solutions that we had.” One administrator, Amir Jaballah points out, “confessed that he loves it. He loves GitHub. He says it’s one of the most reliable solutions he’s operated in his 15 years of experience.”
GitHub Enterprise has since been adopted by more than 9,000 employees worldwide. “Optimizing our source code heritage is a key objective for Societe Generale as our IT environments mature,” says Pierre-Emmanuel Fraisse. “Open source and Green IT are a group focus that requires all IT organizations to collaborate. GitHub Enterprise will definitely remain a cornerstone.”
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