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Creating a web platform to power a federated business

The Client

Close Brothers is part of the United Kingdom’s financial services heritage.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange and operating since 1878, you’ll be pushed to find an organisation that is more blue chip. During this time, Close Brothers has built a strong reputation helping businesses thrive through invoice, asset, property financing, vehicle and brewery hire and premium financing. They also have a growing retail offering in Close Brothers Savings. Close operates as many federated institutions do, with a central lending facility supporting business units that are embedded in market places with differing and unique needs. Close doesn’t have a single marketplace, it has dozens .

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Close Bothers Asset Finance screenshot
Close Bothers Asset Finance screenshot

The Situation

Close is divided into a series of business units, each focused on servicing a set of audiences. Coherence provides an estate of over 20 web applications, all Drupal, all hosted on Acquia Cloud Hosting, addressing each audience and supporting the marketing needs of each unit. Close Asset Finance is typical, a lean marketing team, with strong marketing strategy and an ambitious organic and paid optimisation approach, looking after 5 websites alone: www.closeassetfinance.co.uk, www.closeassetfinance.de, www.braemarfinance.co.uk, www.braemarfinance.ie and www.closebusinessfinance.com. All these are run by a small focused team, with huge ambition. This team has all the skills needed for success - strong web analytical and campaign capabilities, content generation and optimisation skills, and data analytical capabilities. They are looking for a web platform that has the sophistication and power to allow them to execute their marketing strategy.

Close Brothers datahub screenshot on an iphone
Close Brothers Asset Finance homepage screenshot on a laptop

The Challenge

With 5 domains, each unique in their content approach, each requiring constant optimisation to maintain ranking, all needing to reflect a common user experience, brand identity, security and stability standards, how does a lean marketing team manage such a broad estate? And when you multiply that across the whole group, what does a multi-site web-estate with a common brand and divergent engagement strategies look like? How can marketers be empowered to manage their web properties without constant redevelopment to support common optimisation, message testing, campaign needs? How can over 20 applications, each integrating into a unique sales process and data-capture integration share a common platform, and still satisfy information security and GDPR compliance. 

The Solution

Coherence has built for Close Brothers a master design system - a master Drupal application using Acquia Cohesion to power a common set of base styles, responsive behaviours, typographies, design patterns and interactive elements. These bake-in best practices in accessibility, branding, semantic markup and user experience. This lets the content editor concentrate on messaging safe in the knowledge that what they publish will be rendered to the best standards for user consumption and search visibility. 

In addition to this, the design system helped us roll-out 5 websites within a year, each passing the bank’s technical, security and compliance checks, fully integrated into GDPR compliant CRM and optimised for search visibility.

Cohesion provided us with the ability to create a flexible design system of re-usable patterns within Drupal, helping us bring each site to market in a fraction of the time taken to deliver a stand-alone native Drupal application. Cohesion then allows the marketing teams to continue evolving their engagement strategies without costly onward development for core publishing tasks. Drupal provides the security, accessibility and integration features necessary to support the bank’s needs.

Acquia Cloud Hosting provides the production and development operations environment to support a high availability service.

The Results

The combination of Acquia Cohesion and Cloud Hosting, Drupal and the Coherence design system approach, creates three pillars of success for Close Asset Finance.

Firstly, a lean marketing team was able to migrate an estate of 5 applications, with thousands of content items and dozens of integrations from Drupal 7 to 8 in under a year, while maintaining domain authority, and conducting all other campaigns, outbound and content generation activity. A migration of this size can often bring a business’ marketing activity to a halt while the technical migration is completed. Asset Finance did not skip a beat. Ultimately this meant that Asset Finance were able to start realising the opportunity that their technology investment provided months ahead of a traditional approach. 

Secondly, the powerful and flexible drag and drop editing capabilities in their new CMS give them the capability to optimise, message test, create campaign collateral, respond to events and maximise opportunities using their own time and skills, and without relying on their agency.

This allowed them to deploy budget on core marketing tasks - to be experimental and curious - rather than spend time and effort in lengthy agency briefing cycles. Crucially, it has allowed them to remain on the first rank of search results for their key terms against an ever more competitive marketplace.

Lastly, they have the agility to gain further reach with their marketing. They have a web estate with greater accessibility, for example. They have been able to create a German and Republic of Ireland market presence where before the costs of creating a standalone presence would have been prohibitive.

With Acquia Cohesion and Coherence’s design system supporting over 20 applications across the Group, Asset Finance have the freedom to target their audience’s needs within a framework that provides an entire institution with the ability to learn, optimise and evolve.

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