A story with a special twist
Getting into debt and not being able to get out of it yourself is one of the biggest problems you can get into. In the worst-case scenario, you end up in debt relief where your income is stripped down in such a way that you only receive a basic amount of money. Barely enough to survive from. In 2018, this happened to 650,000 households, 8.3 percent of the population. Furthermore, up to 40 percent of all Dutch people sometimes worry about money. Many municipalities in the Netherlands are struggling with an issue that plagues society. Namely, how do you prevent people from getting so into debt that they can’t get out of it? An alderman in Zoetermeer, Mr Kuiper, pondered this very issue and went to his son for help on an idea he had. The result of that idea is Buddy Payment, an app for internet banking that also helps you manage your finance. You could say it’s your own ‘’budget coach’’.
So, how does Buddy work?
The idea behind the app is simple in itself, but technically challenging, explains Camiel, Mr Kuiper’s son “The moment your salary or benefit is paid, Buddy immediately deducts the fixed costs from this. You’ll know exactly how much more you can spend that month based on your expenses. Then, you can immediately put away the calculated amount of savings.”
Automatically determine charges
The app also keeps track of exactly which payments and benefits you are entitled to. If you suddenly earn too much, this is automatically passed on to the tax authorities, helping you avoid any surprising tax assessment. On the other hand, of course, it also makes sure you don’t miss any benefit. Additionally, there is a chat function in the app that also allows you to ask questions. For instance, you may want to know, ‘’why do I suddenly get 30 euros less in healthcare allowance this month?’’ Well, that’s because you started earning more.
Camiel: “We are currently working with fifteen municipalities in the Netherlands and have just won a tender for 89 others. You can access the app based on an invitation by the municipality. It really is a useful tool to help prevent people from getting into too much debt. At a later stage, it can also be used for things like debt management.”
Initially, Buddy started with a small number of programmers, but there was soon a need for expansion. Through his network, Camiel ended up coming to LINKIT for help. “It’s an interesting company. I got into a conversation with them because I needed a Dev Ops engineer in the short term. We were introduced to a friendly, clear and articulate engineer. There was no hassle at all. On Thursday we had the contract drawn up and the Following Monday Goncalo began his work with us”.
A new challenge
The Dev Ops engineer in question, Goncalo Carvalho, began his work with Buddy just like any other assignment. “I had previously worked at large enterprises such as KLM, so I was curious how the environment at a small start-up like Buddy would be. Besides me, only four other developers were working there, although there are now nine.’’
“At first I was mainly involved in the maintenance and monitoring of the backend. Luckily with Buddy, they had already done a good job from the start. The first parts were built in Terraform, they worked properly and were also able to scale. The data was also stored in good order. I myself have mainly been involved in the support service side of things. This includes things like logging, creating dashboards and visualization of data. It is especially important that if one of the data pipelines breaks, we can recover the data quickly and restore things to order. We want to inconvenience the users as little as possible. And for that you have to apply a clear structure.”
A technical challenge
Over time, however, a second task was added, Camiel explains. “The technical challenge at Buddy lies mainly in the behaviour of people with financial problems. For people without money problems, such an app is quite easy to configure. Most have a fairly predictable spending pattern. But people with problems can shift enormously with their payments. Sometimes they don’t pay any bills for a month, and then suddenly they pay a load of bills at once. That kind of behaviour makes it very difficult for the algorithm to predict when and what costs should be paid.”
Goncalo: “I am now working on a parallel project. This is more focused on data processing and scripting to analyse and debug the data. An important objective of this is to improve the algorithms to the extent that they recognize more clearly and predictable the patterns of the users.”
For a Dev Ops engineer this is an interesting sidestep, but it’s not the only one, Goncalo explains. “Because we work in a small team, we sometimes have to wear many hats. I’m also programming regularly now, which is also pretty new to me. I like it myself. I love the variety in the work.”
A special switch
However, that’s not the only thing that appeals to Goncalo. “I noticed that the team is very nice to work with and felt at home here from the day I started. Besides, I’m someone who likes to get the best out of himself. Buddy’s social component really appeals to me. It is nice not only to work for your salary, but also to build a tool that can really help people in some way. I’ve honestly been looking for a workplace like this for a while, and with Buddy I found it.” It was no surprise that after a few months Goncalo decided to switch and work for Buddy permanently. This is not a standard step for LINKIT to allow, but one that we decided to cooperate with in exchange for a fee. In part, that’s because Buddy was not a standard customer.
Daan de Groof, CEO IT and Innovation at LINKIT, explains it like this: “When I came into contact with Buddy Payment I was inspired by the progressive ideas and huge drive of Camiel, as well as the entire team at Buddy. Many municipalities struggle with debt relief and at LINKIT we have a lot of knowledge, plus experience within the social domain. We felt happy to do our part and hope to build a good partnership with Buddy Payment in the future. Regarding Goncalo, they have a top-notch talent in the house!”
On to the future
Goncalo: “I am very happy that I got this opportunity from LINKIT. In the end, everyone was happy with my move, and that encouragement helps the switch. I’m really curious about what Buddy can contribute to society. I will do all I can to make it work!
Camiel is also very satisfied with his new employee. “Everyone on our team is happy with Goncalo as a reinforcement. I certainly do not rule out the fact that next time we knock on LINKIT again if we need reinforcements.”