5 Minutes with Isabella De Michelis Di Slonghello, founder and CEO of Hi Pulse

Posted on : 28-06-2016 | By : richard.gale | In : 5 Minutes With, Featured Startup, Innovation

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Isabella De Michelis Di Slonghello, CEO and founder of Hi Pulse, a fintech firm focusing on privacy preferences management. Isabella previously was Vice President for Technology Strategy at Qualcomm.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I’m a Mum on duty and an entrepreneur launching a new technology business. It’s a real challenge to match and deliver on both fronts. As (at High Pulse) we are in the development phase of the product and it’s an internet service, which will boost consumers privacy, I have taken a lot of inspiration in talking to my children when we designed the requirements. Not surprisingly, they returned very constructive feedback showing they are fully aware of the internet economics and of the so called free-internet model functioning. They are 9 and 13 years old. So I take this as a good sign of maturity of how younger generation are looking at the internet: a wonderful experience on condition to remember what the rules of the game are.

For several years you have worked in Government Affairs… the EU is now taking major steps to strengthen data protection, such as the GDPR – what changes should we expect in the next couple of years? In your opinion, is GDPR sufficient?

I consider the adoption of GDPR a pivotal step in the construction of the digital world of the future. Many are the challenges to its implementation, however the goals set forth in the Regulation are achievable and companies shall start immediately looking into what the new requirements set. I hope other jurisdictions in the world will get inspired from the GDPR. I sense that some players in the market may feel uncomfortable with some of the provisions and in particular, with those which relates to “enforcement”. However, a strong enforcement scheme is what will trigger a much more solid and consumer friendly environment and this is really highly welcome.

Based on your experience as Vice President and Managing Director at Qualcomm Europe and VP Technology Policy Strategy (EMEA) at Qualcomm Technologies, what advice would you offer to women aspiring to leadership positions within the IT/tech industries?

Leadership positions are always open for women who want to take on opportunities in IT/tech as in every other industry. But it requires a high level of commitment, a great dose of energy and the openness to understand that finding a mentor and building your own network of influence are as important steps as distinguishing yourself by skills like executing, partnering and communicating.

In your opinion, how can we get more girls into IT?

It’s a public policy imperative. Computer science programming should become a basic competence from elementary schools onward and be taught to boys and girls at the same time. There would be lot more girls in IT if coding would be treated for what it is – a basic learning tool like, maths and physics.

Which tech innovations/trends are you the most excited about?

Bringing internet connectivity to the next 4 bn people in the world is one of the greatest objectives which I would like to see realized in coming years. Technology innovation in that space has lot of potential. Applications in personalized health have also strong potential. I expect big data to be a big contributor to future trends and financial technology to really take a boost in coming years.

5 (or 10) Minutes With Nektarios Liolios, Co-Founder & CEO at Startupbootcamp FinTech

Posted on : 10-06-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With, Finance, Innovation

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You were part of the fintech innovation before the phrase ‘fintech’ even existed – can you please tell us about your early ‘fintech’ experiences?

I was part of InnoTribe – a non profit initiative set up by SWIFT in 2009. We considered it to be our responsibility towards our members (banks and national institutions) to educate them about technology changes.

First, we initiated InnoTribe Sibos, the big thought-leadership conference and after that, little-by-little, we started introducing new things. We launched our innovation projects, looking at working with startups to build solutions for the community and set up the InnoTribe Startup Challenge – my baby, which started as an experiment. We talked to the bankers, the consultants, business providers… who we didn’t talk to was the startups. Therefore, we decided to organise a competition where the main prize would not be money or funding but access to the industry experts and knowledge base.

This was how I got into this and how my life started gradually shifting from being in a very corporate job within the industry to this beautiful space which operates between the corporate financial industry and entrepreneurship – Startupbootcamp Accelerator.

 

What is it like to work at Startupbootcamp? Which element of your work excites you the most?

I left SWIFT to work in fintech because I got really excited about working with entrepreneurs, who have a great vision and take risks to execute.

This environment is completely opposite to corporate life; you don’t see organisations taking many risks, you don’t see organisations executing fast. I find it hugely inspiring to engage with entrepreneurs who come with the most amazing propositions, seeing the ones who have the hunger to execute their vision, who know that as a startup you need to act fast, you need to be open to feedback…

The other side of my job that excites me is being able to have ‘my’ involvement in industry by doing things differently. Our programmes (Fintech and InsurTech) are funded by organisations, which understand the importance of innovation and have both the appetite and the capabilities to execute.

Working with banks and insurers who are smart in the way in which they approach innovation, who actually do not just talk, as many do, but DO – is actually as exciting as working with entrepreneurs.

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During your time at Startupbootcamp, the company launched FinTech programs in London, Singapore and New York, as well as an InsurTech programme in London – what are the key differences between the current state of FinTech adoption and FinTech opportunity in these metropolites? Which cities are next – do you have plans to launch programs elsewhere in the nearest future?

There are not that many differences between these cities. Across all of the programmes we don’t see as many payments innovations anymore, a lot of it is focusing on wealth & investment management, they all have the same startup ecosystem, the financial industry, a good pool of mentors to draw from.

Perhaps one thing worth mentioning about Singapore is that when we launched it, we were the first programme, the first FinTech accelerator and this was only 18 months ago! When you look at the landscape now there is about a dozen of them. This shows that the market is big enough and the appetite is big enough for there to be multiple initiatives.

New York is probably a bit more arrogant. Entrepreneurship, or at least the methodology, has originally come over from the US, so there is a perception of saturation, which actually does not reflect the reality. We still manage to attract amazing startups and partners.

We are working on three more programs and I can’t currently yet disclose the details but what I can reveal is that we are now also looking at some emerging markets/locations. We hope to launch additional programmes within the next three months if all goes well.

The New York issue opens up an interesting conversation…

What frustrates me is that people look at what FinTech accelerators do and compare them to traditional startup accelerators, working with e-commerce propositions or apps they could put on app store and which will sell the next day.

With FinTech it does not work like that. It is a regulated industry, you need to collaborate, your customers are the distributors. Therefore the key thing we are trying to achieve with accelerators is not so much to achieve funding for startups – funding happens if a startup is good. Our goal is to offer startups the opportunity to test and validate their proposition with a bank or with an insurer; they need to prove that whatever is built is going to be used. Starting a pilot during an accelerator programme and proof of concept are more important than raising a quarter of a million or half a million in so early stage.

In the US when you talk about startups in general success is measured by how much money is raised.

 

Over the last two months, Startupbootcamp FinTech team visited Tel Aviv, Dublin and Turin with the FastTrack tour. Could you please tell us more about the events and the initiative?

FastTrack is an initiative to attract startups to join the programme. These one day events are very informal and startups apply for them locally. We have put together a small community of great local mentors, with whom the startups can spend some quality time together and receive feedback to their business models – so there is value that is added to them. If we see a startup that we really like, we fast track it to the final selection. Right now our FinTech London applications close on 26th of June and we are looking for more FinTech startups to apply to find the best 10 hidden gems.

This is really for us to meet the founders in person. Everyone who works within this space will agree: the team is more important than the product. You need to meet the founders, spend some time understanding their vision, you need to see how ‘coachable’ they are, how open they are to feedback – all of this has an impact on how attractive they are to a programme.

What I find interesting is that sometimes, when we go with a fast-track tour to a certain location, it’s the first time anybody has put a FinTech group together. When we did the very first FastTrack in Beijing, about three years ago, nobody had been to Beijing before to talk about FinTech.

 

What needs to be done to build a stronger bridge between the startup community and the financial industry?

What we do very much focuses on that, this is really the key thing an accelerator does. I think that despite the few people who do something like us, there is still a lot of need for ‘translation’ – banks have certain assumptions, startups have certain assumptions and often there is nobody in the middle to have them speak the same language.

When we talk to the banks, we try to get them to understand that a startup cannot operate according to their requirements. When they say: We like what you do we’ll come back to you in six months, the banks need to understand that startups do not have enough money to last for six months. That is why they came to the bank now. Equally, if a startup has a first conversation, if they have a proposition and the bank says ‘I like it’, they also need to understand that even with the best intentions, a bank cannot start using a startup’s technology within the next two weeks, because of procurement processes and diligence – a lot of it is about understanding each other.

Another aspect is that there is a lot of nonsense in B2B to be frank about it. Banks often pretend to be doing something meaningful when they’re not. It’s crucial for banks to understand what they need -the value they will get from the startup innovation.

What they will see in the programme is not what will change the direction of a company. It is about experimentation, R&D. If they like a startup and run a proof of concept, one day it might be relevant for the bank. There is also the assumption that ‘we’re going to set up a fund, and do all things FinTech – this is a bit naive and just  the way it is presented to the outside.

 

Which tech innovation do you predict to be the next big thing? 

Everybody wants to know that and nobody really does! I think one of the things that is important is that because nobody really knows, it is about trying new things, seeing what works, where things don’t work.

Of course I will mention blockchain – everyone talks about it being the next big thing but no one knows how it might manifest itself. The underlying principle of this technology has great, transformational potential and slowly we’re starting seeing real propositions. Around 25% of the propositions we receive are blockchain-based. It is a large number, 80-100 applications per location. Out of these, if we are lucky, we might get 1 into the programme. A lot of it is noise, it is people being excited about the tech, but people who are not focused on solving a business problem (which is what a good startup should be doing). We however started seeing startups which are looking at more niche aspects on banks’ challenges and propose blockchain as a solution.

In the security space proxy voting is a big problem. It’s a process that hasn’t been touched by any kind of innovation for 40 years and blockchain is exactly the type of technology that can help the based proxy voting problem, yet no one offers such innovations.

Blockchain is exciting, bigdata is exciting. Yet who knows what is going to come tomorrow?

 

You are known to be a big shoe fan. How many pairs of New Balances do you currently own? 

I don’t have a precise number, I’ve got about 200 pairs:)

5 Minutes With Edward Meinert, Global eHealth Unit Head of Education at Imperial

Posted on : 28-04-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With, Data, Innovation

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As the Global eHealth Unit Head of Education at Imperial College London, could you please share your insights and predictions on the direction and speed of digital change within healthcare?

Digital technology and digital innovation have already had significant impact on the healthcare industry. If we think back to electronic medical records and their advancements from the late 90s to where we are today, it is quite powerful how we started from collecting very basic patient demographic system to the holistic electronical medical record that exists today.
When we think about that advancement and then the advancement in wearable technology, and in the ways information can be gathered and the big data context, the possibilities are endless for the ways digital technology and digital data stratification can impact the way in which physicians can collect, capture and analyse information to make clinical judgements for individuals.

 

Which innovations within healthcare IT excite you the most?

I think the biggest innovation is the ability to collect data across an aggregate population to create insight on what is happening. An ability to capture data across countries, nations and the world to then provide researchers or organisations with capabilities to see what is going on with people in the real-time capacity.

 

What do you see as the main obstacle to the implementation of a bigdata-driven approach to decision making by many organisations?

I think the biggest obstacles are the issues that have to do with privacy – ensuring that we can protect patient confidentiality and prevent misuse of information. That is the biggest obstacle. The second, which is a challenge in all the data, not just in the healthcare industry, is enabling data linkage and providing researchers or organisations with the ability to create synergies between different data points.

 

Security and privacy are paramount in the field of healthcare data. How can patients’ sensitive data be protected in the slowly but surely approaching digital health era?

There are many ways and techniques that can be used to ensure strong information governance. It is really about applying rules to the ways in which information is captured, at the first level; when information is transferred, ensuring certain protocols for the language in which it is transferred and then, when used by mass consumer organisations for either insurance pooling or just understanding what is happening across the population, again, creating strong rules of information governance. Abiding these rules and getting the processes that will protect information. However I do not think it is a barrier. It is just a hurdle that needs to be overcome in the deployment of the systems.

 

How do you see the future of healthcare careers?

I think the future is quite exciting in the sense that there are big opportunities for multidisciplinary individuals who are skilled in computer science, management, analytics to apply their skills into healthcare, to help enable clinicians and practitioners with the capabilities to use these data insights to impact the way in which we practice care. I think it is an expansive area of opportunity for people with interest in healthcare who do not necessarily have a clinical background to apply their skills and expertise to the way in which we solve problems within this industry.

Featured Tech Startup – Interview With Allan Martinson, Starship Robots

Posted on : 26-04-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With, Cyber Security, Featured Startup, General News, Innovation, IoT

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What is it like to be part of a startup which brings robots to life (and to the streets of London)?

Our robots have been named #4 most anticipated tech product of 2016, right after Apple’s new iPhone. It is totally awesome!!! I have been part of many companies in my life but this one has completely spoiled me. It is such a ride.

 

starship woww

 

Starship Robots was featured in Forbes’ first episode of ‘The Premise’ tech podcast, during which one of the co-founders of Starship noted that the delivery industry is the largest undisrupted industry in the world and stated that “Millions of parcels are being delivered every day in a wasteful manner and its possible to automate this using today’s technology”. Could you please expand on this?

In EU and US alone the delivery firms carry 25 billion packages a year, plus we are doing 130 billion shopping trips on our cars. There is absolutely no point of moving a 2 or 7 ton gas-guzzling vehicle to bring somebody a few kilos of deliveries. You better put wheels to this package or bag and let it roll to you, with 0 emissions, 0 noise, 0 road congestion.

An average family loses an hour per day on shopping trips. We have a mission of giving people this 1 hour back. You can do your own math how many billions of hours we could release.

 

What do you consider as the most interesting insight you have learnt during Starship Robots’ trials? How prepared are consumers for their adoption?

People are MUCH more friendly towards those devices than we ever thought. And absolute majority takes them as the most natural thing on Earth.

 

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Each of Starship’s innocent-looking robots is equipped with 9 cameras, providing you with a 360 perspective. How would you respond to concerns over data privacy linked to what some could consider the introduction of surveillance machines to the streets and people’s doorsteps?

What is the difference between a driven looking at surroundings through the car’s window and our operator (potentially) looking at the sidewalk through cameras? Nothing. Following your logic, we should drive cars with closed eyes 🙂

 

As someone working in new tech, how do you imagine European metropolises in 10, 20 years?

European cities in 20 years will have self-driving cars and around 3 delivery robot per each such car. That is not a joke but based on our calculation on transportation needs.

 

When can we expect a launch of Starship Robots?

We expect a full launch in 2017. BTW We are looking for a name for the robot and feel free to submit ideas on www.starship.xyz.

5 Minutes With Nigel D. Solkhon, CEO of ISITC Europe

Posted on : 14-03-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With

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As one of the founding members of the organisation, you were invited to become CEO of ISITC Europe in Q4 2015. What is your vision for the organisation?

ISITC Europe was formed in 1992,  6 months after the forum was established in North America. It is a voluntary organisation that has lead operational and technical change over the past 25 years, contributing to the rise of efficiency in the securities markets to the mutual benefit of all participants. The initiative has lost members and focus over the past 5 years, which I believe, left a gap in the industry for a vendor/participant neutral forum to educate, debate and advise on the industry needs.

The new agenda I established with the IELG (ISITC Europe Leadership Group) in December 2015, was targeted at 3 levels:

  1. Deliver value to ISITC Europe Members
  2. Re-establish ISITC Europe as a contributing forum for industry change
  3. Establish work groups around contemporary and innovative topics (Blockchain, Standards, Regulation, Industry Engagement and Cybersecurity)

The value will be derived from the right context of debate and education as well as the fee reduction we applied in 2016. The work groups have attracted more people/firms than the total membership in the past 2015, proving the demand is strong. Lastly, we are holding our first General Meeting on 25th April which will allow members and non-members access to the work group updates as well as discussions around the individual topics.

 

According to your view “technology has a huge role in translating the data into information and creating efficiency”. During a recent interview you also expressed your belief that the current interest and investment in blockchain technology among financial firms will reveal its impact as soon as in 1 – 1.5 years. In your opinion, how will the financial industry change as a result of the adoption of new tech including blockchain?

The most difficult challenge is to predict the future. Adoption of new technology happens every day, whether it be a database, network or application, it is the natural evolution of the industry. Blockchain is seen as disruptive technology, meaning that the adoption may change not only the process but the actors. This has resulted in the fear and greed emotional response. Whenever new technology hits the industry there is a period of chaos, as use cases are researched and new companies and consortia are formed. ISITC Europe is not about choosing a technology or consortia but about looking at the impact of the technology on the operation and technical use across the firms and providers. There already exists products and services based on this technology in operation today. However, most of the payers in the industry are at the stage of defining which processes (internally or externally) will benefit from moving to the new platform. Moving will incur costs, as migration from old to new is never an exact science, and is always dependent up the last adopter to close off old processes. Suffice to say, Blockchain has made the industry think about current processes and models, and ISITC Europe will be in the middle of validating any changes.

Mr Solkhon jp

You said “Blockchain is seen as a catalyst for change and ISITC Europe members need to be involved in setting the agenda for change”. Can you explain the ways ISITC can contribute to setting this ‘change agenda’?

As I mentioned previously, ISITC Europe is a neutral platform for participants to have open dialogue about common challenges to drive a common equitable solution. I could be sitting in my office with an issue that I believe is unique to me/my organisation and without a forum like ISITC Europe I would not know that everyone has the same issue. A problem shared is a problem halved could be a relevant adage, however sharing the problem allows for a wider community looking for a resolution. ISITC Europe educates its members by bringing people together from a range of firms and discussing common topics. Once the knowledge is shared, the debate begins, and once this is formed into an opinion, this can be shared with the entities canvassing the industry for input to regulation, technology and industry future models. By making the ISITC Europe agenda interesting and relevant, a common voice can be heard.

 

What are the potential security challenges of blockchain tech?

I am no expert on security, but I certainly see the concern from Governments, Banks, Asset Managers, Brokers et al. ISITC Europe will look at these concerns, work on a scope of activity to deliver in a set time and pass any relevant outputs to the other working groups to review (for example standards of regulation). This is an area where I personally will be interested in being educated by the experts.

 

What do you consider as the most common mistake financial organisations make in terms of cyber security?

This is a tough question. Any technology has an evolution path, and this appears to be accelerating in certain areas. The positive side of this is that we can see benefits to our everyday life such as contactless payments, social media etc. Unfortunately this is not the case for those looking to fraudulently use technology for gain or disruption. Mistakes will happen, and thankfully most are used to prevent recurrence in the future. As more and more of the services delivered by financial  services organisations are delivered through self-service electronic means, the attacks on these assets will inevitably increase. ISITC Europe can be a place to share these issues and raise awareness and share solutions.

 

As Citi’s Regional Head of E2C EMEA, can you briefly describe its Execution 2 Custody solution?

My day job is actually similar to ISITC Europe in that it supports efficient trading and settlement of assets across the Citi trading and Custody landscape in a very efficient model. The trades are executed and sent by Citi in a journey that can be as short as 1 second for the entire process. We use open architecture standards such as Fix and ISO 15022 enabling clients to integrate much quicker and gain benefits from the automated flows. We count Private Banks, Retail brokers, Bank retail flow, Institutions, Market infrastructures and stockbrokers as clients.

 

 

Featured Startup – 5 Minutes With Avtar Sehra, Crowdaura

Posted on : 26-02-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With, Featured Startup, Finance, Innovation

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In your view, which aspects of the financial services industry are the most likely to be revolutionised by the Blockchain?

Blockchain is being presented as a savior of the financial system, which a key focus point on clearing and settlement. However, there are many aspects of the trade-lifecyle process that are being either overlooked or ignored and some of those aspects are fundamentally much more of an overhead in terms of time and cost than some of the post trade activities. In addition, using current technology the post trade activity cannot be fully autonomised as smart contracts still need external scheduling services to trigger key Blockchain events, such as cashflows.

Blockchain capability and capacity will increase in terms of data security, storage and compute. As this takes place, the chain will become an increasingly fatter layer in the financial services trade life cycle technology stack. For example Crowdaura is already experimenting with instrument document structuring, pricing and execution on chain as well as looking at the obvious post trade activities. While we are focusing on simple debt, equity and swap instruments at the moment, we have our sights on much more complex products and deal structures.

We also believe that the current view of deploying a global Blockchain fabric for financial services is most likely an incorrect approach. We think a global finance Blockchain network will develop like how many other networks develop, such as the Internet. For example there are huge opportunities for driving greater efficiencies in the internal trade lifecycle from execution, trade capture to documentation, confirmation and other post trade administration and control activities. At the moment these internal trade lifecycle processes are stymied by inefficiencies related to transfer of data between systems and executing reconciliations and reporting, or trying to maintain unpractical or uneconomical golden data sources.

In Crowdaura we are already experimenting with deployment of internal operational chains, where our applications can plug into, and providing adapters to integrate in-house or third party applications into the chains. Eventually these local area chains will then be connected to wider areas chains through trusted internal “pegging” nodes, very much like how LANs connect to the Internet in a current enterprise environment. In this model certain internal functions such as confirmations, clearing and settlement, can then move from the internal to the external chain, whilst still maintaining data security and privacy.

avtar

Crowdaura has recently been chosen for both the Fintech Innovation Lab (as the only Fintech startup in the lab utilising Blockchain) and the Microsoft Accelerator program – what made you stand out from competing startups?

Crowdaura beat over 300 start-ups to be accepted into the 6th Microsoft London Accelerator cohort, and over 600 start-ups to win a place in the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab. We are one of the first Blockchain start-ups to be accepted into the Microsoft Accelerator, and this is because Crowdaura doesn’t position itself as a Blockchain company. We leverage a complex stack of technologies, with Blockchain being one of them, but our focus is to provide a best in class Financial Services offering.

We feel that Crowdaura is a glimpse into the future of investment/wholesale banking, as we bring together digital platforms, machine learning and Blockchain to enable large financial services firms to provide automated self-service banking to clients for securities lifecycle management. We want to help financial services firms do what they do, but more easily, cheaply, quickly and safely. This is achieved through automation of activities such as legal/regulatory document structuring; intelligent marketing, distribution, execution; and a Blockchain based clearing, settlement and administration engine.

What made us stand out is that we focus on developing technology for real world financial application. We look at a specific market, the business and operating models being used in that market, and then we try and build a minimal viable end-to-end system that enables frictionless execution within that market. We have many key services that are pre-developed, and most of these are web based (SaaS solutions), which can all be provided as a centralised “investment bank engine-in-a-box”.

However, the true power is leveraged in networks where exchanges can connect up with brokers, or banks with buy-side clients. In such cases we have developed a Blockchain engine, chain agnostic – meaning we can utilise the Bitcoin Blockchain, Etherium Blockchain, or any other blockchain and that can be leveraged for clearing, settlement and depository services, and executing Delivery Versus Payment (DVP) using fiat currencies. We are also experimenting with more on-chain functionality; obviously administration of coupons, dividends and voting are the easy wins. But we have a longer term vision connected with chains that have greater compute capabilities as we feel this is where the future is for truly distributed markets.

Could you share your experiences of working in an accelerator?

The London Microsoft Accelerator program itself has been steadily gaining momentum since launching three years ago, offering a select few start-ups mentoring, support and resources as they push their product through development and bring their offering to market. The accelerator culminates in a pitching event where VCs, Angels, and notables throughout industry assemble to view some of the finest start-ups in the UK and potentially offer investment.

Microsoft Accelerator (MSA) has been extremely supportive in helping us develop the technology side of our business whilst we were still in ‘stealth’ in the fourth quarter of 2015. With their help and support we were able to successfully win a place in the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab as the only ‘blockchain’ startup in this year’s batch. Being part of the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab is a great opportunity as it gives Crowdaura the opportunity to work with many of our potential clients in Investment Banking to refine our product and execute novel proof of concepts (PoC’s). So far it’s been exciting to network with different high-potential high-growth startups, share ideas, and discuss collaborative efforts in the future. There is also a lot we are learning from our start-up colleagues in the lab, they are all immensely intelligent and talented people running some incredibly innovative startups.

 

5 Minutes With Mark Prior

Posted on : 18-12-2015 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With

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Which recent tech innovations are you the most excited about?

I get most excited about how my business can benefit from technology (whether it’s new or not). It’s my team’s job to understand our business; its processes, strategy and competitor landscape and bring technology to bear to address those challenges.
Smith and Williamson is a very client centric business – there is a great opportunity to leverage even well-established technology like IPT, Workflow and Document management to improve the service we provide to clients. Additionally Cloud based collaboration tools offer new ways to engage with our clients 1-1 and perhaps open up new markets for services.

Like all industries if we can both improve the service to the client through technology and at the same time lower the cost of servicing a client we will be successful.

From a pure technology perspective I’m looking forward to improvements in price and functionality of end user devices – particularly low cost 2in1 windows devices displacing the desktop or traditional clam laptop as the default end user device. I hope the combination of these devices, windows 10, office 365, Wi-Fi and IPT will provide a better mobile platform that’s easier to manage and support and offers a seamless user experience regardless of location and connection type.

Looking ahead I’m also interested in how graphene will impact IT – whether it’s in battery technology or the size and speed of microprocessors, it appears to have the potential to be revolutionary (and it was invented in the UK!!).

 

How do you see business applications in wealth management adopting As-a-Service operating models?

Firms buy solutions that best meet their needs – how those solutions are delivered is often secondary, however vendors that deliver their solution (only) as a service are I feel better placed to rapidly adapt and evolve their offering as it’s a single code set, single port etc. This should keep their costs down and by passing those savings to customers they will drive adoption and create a virtuous circle. It should also mean they can focus development resource on new features rather than maintaining multiple code sets and branches.

 

In your opinion, what are the biggest data security risks that financial organisations are currently facing and how can they be overcome?

I think everyone understands the need for perimeter security, good patch management, access controls etc. But I think an area this is sometimes overlooked are “end users” either inadvertently or deliberately exposing data. We need to ensure we classify our data based on risk, educate our employees and have appropriate audit trails and controls based on data classification (all easier said than done). Service like MS Office 365 and OneDrive mean this has to be driven as much by policy and education as by IT.

 

Why did you choose Broadgate to assist you? What value has working with Broadgate brought to your team?

I’ve known the team for many years and trust them to do a good job for their clients.

Broadgate’s engagement style is collaborative and consultative, unlike other firms where every conversation is viewed as a selling opportunity.

 

Which technology trends do you predict will be a key theme for 2016?

Every year we think it will be cloud – maybe this year it will happen (though personally I’m not sure it will) Financial service firms are still hesitant to put client data into the public cloud and many firms say the cost of cloud is more than the marginal cost of adding capacity to their own facilitates.
Hosting strategies are difficult to formulate as the options are many and varied with no clear leaders. I think Google will drive into MS market share (a few years ago I can’t recall anyone seriously considering alternatives to MS Office) which should ensure healthy competition and better options for their customers.

Five minutes with…

Posted on : 27-11-2015 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With, Cloud, Cyber Security, Innovation

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We are doing a series of interviews with leaders to get their insight on the current technology market and business challenges. Here in our first one, we get thoughts from Stephen O’Donnell, who recently took up the post of CIO for UK & Ireland at G4S.

Which technology trends do you predict will be a key theme for 2016?

“The key trend is the adoption of cloud technology moving from the SME market space, where it is already strong, to really making an impact in the enterprise space.

We’ve seen cloud and SaaS being adopted by smaller companies and now it will be adopted by bigger enterprises. We’ve also seen support for cloud based services from major system integrators and software suppliers like Microsoft, SAP and so on. The time for IT delivered as a service has come and the cloud is about to become all-encompassing across the entire IT world.

This has big implications in the ways that CIO’s and business leaders need to manage their systems, away from low-level management of infrastructure into the management of services and concerns about service integration.

Fundamentally it’s a bit like the Hollywood movie industry moving from the silent movie era to the talking era. Not all of the actors made it through – they did not have the skills and experience and I think this is what will happen in the IT industry. Some IT leaders will have difficulties, others will be more successful thanks to their deeper understanding of the business impact of IT, how automation and cloud based services can really help businesses drive competitiveness and agility, reduce risk and cut costs.”

 

You recently joined G4S as CIO, the worlds leading international security solutions group. What is your vision for the future of technology services there?

“G4S are adopting the cloud very aggressively. We have 622,000 employees, we’re a really large entity and we have stopped using Microsoft technology and are now using Google and the cloud instead. This consists of Google Apps for work, Google Docs for word processing, Google Sheets for spreadsheets and Gmail for email and collaboration platforms. In terms of the cloud, we use Google Drive for storage, everything is now in the cloud and we access it through a browser.

You have no idea how much simpler the world becomes. All of the complexities fade away. It’s now very much about managing the cloud contract and ensuring that the end-users are familiar with the technology and are appropriately supported. It’s very simple, it integrates extremely well with any device. We’ve seen very happy customer experience – whether using a chromebook, a Mac, a PC with a browser – people can access the systems in the same way and just as securely. Wifi capabilities in the office also become a lot simpler and we don’t have to be worried about highly secured corporate networks.

I think everyone would agree that the world is moving away from landlines to mobile communications. From standard telephone calls to IP-based telephone calls: using – in the consumer space Skype and WhatsApp, in the business space Google Hangouts, Skype for Business and so on – we see a massive adoption of that in business. We’ve really adopted Google Hangouts for collaboration and conferencing and have moved away from desk phones to cellphones.

Even when you look at the shape of our business… we have a huge number of people and the vast majority of them are working on customer site because they are security guards there, they do facility management, they’re doing cash in transit. They’re working in public services, working for hospitals… Having landlines just doesn’t make sense.

The whole company has gone mobile I don’t have a desk phone and – actually – you know what? I don’t miss it at all. I have a cellphone and it works extremely well, when I want to collaborate I use some of the internet-based tools like Hangouts. Equally –  why do you need a fax? When was the last time you’ve sent or received a fax…?

Migration from fixed to mobile has been a key change in the workplace and I’ll be surprised if more companies don’t adopt this. It’s all about simplifying the environment and being more economical.”

 

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges IT leaders face in terms of securing organisations’ critical data?

“It’s a very relevant question. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks by ISIS someone said the terrorists only have to be lucky once and the authorities need to be lucky all of the time. I think the same applies to corporate and corporate data security.

Everyone is under absolutely intense attack and due to the complex systems, we have to make assumptions that, regardless what we do, some of our critical data will become exposed.

It could be through employees or through contractors whom we trust who might choose to do the wrong thing, or it might be via external agents, who manage to overcome our security systems either by using technology or by stealth, for example phishing attacks getting access to our data.

I think the key things are that we can put all the peripheral protections on our data: firewalls, secure data centres, the man guards on the gates etc. but we have to encrypt the data.

We have to adopt digital rights management so that we can restrict the data to those who are supposed to see it and ensure that anyone who steals it won’t be able to use it due to encryption.

If you can’t publish your corporate data on the internet and know it’s safe, then it’s not safe. So it really needs to be encrypted and protected. That’s the core principle.”

 

You spent two years at Broadgate, what was the most rewarding client project you delivered working with them as a consultant?

“That’s a really difficult question as all my projects at Broadgate have been quite exciting. If you don’t mind I’ll tell you about the highlights of the things that I did as a Broadgate Consultant.

I worked in the insurance business for as Chief Technology Officer and I took a massive 2 year development backload and cut it down to delivering in real time. My change programme involved taking the company from being a waterfall software delivery shop into being an agile delivery shop.

It involved the entire Development Team and Project Managers and the end result was that in a very short period of 6 months, we changed the business and its view on the IT departments ability to deliver. A very positive outcome.”

 

It’s interesting how your work was also about changing businesses’ view on the importance of IT protection?

“I very much agree. I think that very often businesses wrongly focus merely on cost-cutting.

It is also worth noting, that a radical process, such as operating model change can be difficult for incumbent teams to deliver. Bringing in a fresh pair of hands, someone who doesn’t have the business-as-usual activities to get on with and can focus on change really accelerates such projects and helps business.

At a large retail bank, I went into the voice communications department. The organisation was spending £55m a year on third party costs – telecommunications, calls etc.. My work there was to introduce a new operating model – consolidating business into a single telecoms entity and cutting costs. In a very short period of time (11 months), I saved the company £27m and simultaneously dramatically improved service levels offered by the business, so it was a real success.

Another engagement was really a short but exciting project at a wealth management client who had a business imperative to modernise their IT platforms. It was a really exciting piece of work working with the CIO and we made the decision not to modernise IT platforms but migrate functionality into the cloud. The piece of work I was set to do was responsible for the new cloud strategy: assessing costs, determine what the approach should be, identifying critical success factors and considering the things that might get in the way of the client executing on their vision.”

 

What do you see as the biggest technology disrupters in data centre services?

“Just like everything else in the world, IT is commoditising and lately we’ve seen this accelerating.

Everyone uses IT, the younger generation check their Facebook and Instagram several times an hour, it’s an absolutely essential business tool – try to work without email – absolutely impossible.

The industry commoditises and consolidates and IT is becoming a service. We see large global organisations delivering IT services that are ready to be consumed, you don’t have to self-assemble them. If you buy a car you expect it to come with tyres and a steering wheel. That’s not how IT has been consumed – you had to buy all the parts separately and assemble them. That’s changing. It is all commoditising, it’s becoming holistic, delivered as a service.”