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A conversation with Isuru Palliyaguru



Building a technology platform from scratch that allows businesses to craft their own financial structures to better support their businesses is a big undertaking. P^werFinance Development Team Lead Isuru Palliyaguru discusses the process for building a unique platform from the ground up, developing software in the fintech space, and why P^werFinance presented an opportunity too good to pass.

What’s your role, and what does your typical day look like?

As the Development Lead, I am responsible for crafting the right technology solution for P^werFinance and the future of finance platform. This includes all the coding for connecting the different parts of the platform, developing and utilising APIs to bring the experience to the user, and building the architecture for the software stack. We are building the platform and internal systems from the ground up, which makes for fairly busy days. 

To develop a platform like this effectively there needs to be collaboration and alignment within our organisation, so I work very closely with the business and the leadership team to understand the objectives of upcoming projects. It is a simple step but one that many companies get wrong, and with the scale of what we are developing, we don’t have time for crossed wires or things getting lost in translation.      

Within my team, I’m helping our developers find better approaches to both simple and complex problems, reviewing their work and teaching them skills and solutions across different coding languages. It is a really rewarding experience and seeing them grow and achieve their goals is probably my favourite part of the job.

What made you want to join the P^werFinance team and take on the lead developer role?

The role of a developer at an established company is mostly about maintaining legacy code written by previous programmers, and these can be up to 20 years old. This is important work, but at a start-up you create your own technology and software using the latest code. There is a freedom of expression, I suppose, and that made me excited.

For me, I knew there was risk, but Dave’s vision for the business hooked me. Because of the traditional nature of New Zealand banking there is a lot of space for advancement and room to help those that need it. It was an opportunity too good to pass on.

What was it like going from developing software for established organisations, to helping build and grow an ambitious start-up?

To put it simply, I would say it is risk vs. reward. At an established organisation you can go through the motions and relax a bit more. At a start-up like ours you work on the product from the get-go – it is your brainchild. You bring it to life, and there is a clear path for growth which is hugely satisfying/nerve-racking, and a lot more work of course. They say maintaining a house is a lot less work than building one, but I would encourage any developer to take the leap and try creating something from scratch.

What skills are you bringing from your previous role, and how are you applying them at P^werFinance?

I have a diverse background, having worked with a range of back-end systems. Funnily enough when I started, I had to learn JavaScript, as I come from a Python background traditionally. I won’t get into the details of this but essentially it was like re-learning a language. So, I suppose you could say I am quite adaptable.

I bring a lot of experience to the role. Development and software architecting are real strengths of mine. I don’t always have all the answers and I still ask a tonne of questions, but I am now able to see hurdles and barriers before running into them, which can save a lot of time and resources.

What has the reaction been from your old colleagues about joining P^werFinance?

Leaving my last role as senior software engineer at Centrality for a fintech start-up was a risk, and a few of my colleagues were nervous for me. But after chatting about the vision for P^werFinance, and the real urgency to deliver scalable technology solutions in the banking space, many understood why I had to make the leap. They also knew I loved to be challenged in my work, so I don’t think many thought it was that crazy.

How do you intend to grow and evolve the future of finance platform?

We hope to use cutting edge technology to make finance fairer for New Zealanders. We have an advantage of not having to maintain existing systems, so we can use new technology to reach more people and provide more options to consumers. By decentralising financial offerings and using technology to engineer more personalised financial products, P^werFinance can deliver better outcomes to a wider range of customers.

What are the goals you are focused on for the next 12 months?

There are lots to do but our priority is about getting our core APIs up and running, particularly the administration portals for our staff. Having these will mean a lot less admin for the team, allowing them to better serve our customers and core stakeholders.

Long term, the aim is to enable more New Zealand businesses to realise their goals by offering simpler and more equitable access to finance, and in turn help their customers.