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Case Study Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco

Modern tools and Agile practices help a bank meet customer needs

We worked with the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco to rebuild their online transaction service and reports via a new member portal. The bank provides reliable liquidity to its member institutions to support housing finance, community investment, and economic development. The project involved elements of product strategy, design, development, and content strategy.

FHLB Dashboard

What we did.

We fine tuned, applied, and extended the new visual design, created by another agency. We added streamlined transaction flows, new data visualizations, report data display, and navigation to help member users be more efficient.

On the development side, we used modern tools like Ruby on Rails and Chef, implemented continuous delivery with Jenkins, and supported the bank's migration to the cloud.

How we did it.

High level organization

It all started with a 2 week assessment of the bank’s development organizational structure, including people, processes and technology. We recommended changes regarding the bank’s  office space, use of agile tools and a strategy for migrating to cloud computing. The bank reviewed our recommendations and asked us to implement nearly all of them.

Applying design to meet requirements

Another agency did the initial user research and the visual design for the bank’s member portal. Our product and design team extended those goals and standards to the bank’s product and business requirements to meet member needs.


We took many “bluesky” concepts and strengthened them by determining what was feasible from a budget and development perspective, and worked with the bank to prioritize the delivery of features by facilitating value/effort trade exercises.

Leading company-wide change

The member portal project was set up as a pilot to introduce process and tool changes, and exceeded expectations by becoming the model for early adoption of new technologies, processes and behaviors that other bank teams could incorporate into other projects...

This initiative was chosen by the Federal Home Loan Bank to pilot a new software delivery paradigm, with new team organization, a two-week sprint cycle, greater transparency overall, and even a new office layout. 

What we learned.

We succeeded in making a huge impact for the bank from a tools and process perspective, and even in delivering value to the 13 pilot member banks using the new member portal. The pilot users are delighted with the new features we built for them.

We implemented feature flipping to enable frequent releases to production and to allow specific testers to test features safely in production. This technique added some overhead to our process but allowed us to keep a two-week cadence to our production deployments.

Using design specifications provided by another agency, we found the balance between effective and practical design, and user and development requirements, ultimately providing bank customers with a more streamlined and efficient online experience.  

This project really highlighted the importance of quality unit test and integration suites. The pre-production environments are significantly different from production due to the nature of financial data, so having a very robust test suite and the ability to simulate real-time market services proved to be invaluable.

Lab Zero takes high-complexity/high-compliance products seriously and can deliver well as a team with product, design and development. We were able to redesign the member portal functionality, which transacts millions to billions of dollars per day, in an agile way. We introduced the latest tools and techniques to support user-focused requirements specification and continuous delivery.