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«The data center is the lifeblood of enterprise offerings»

Fintech’s business strategy is based on a simple yet brilliant approach: it focuses on its core strengths, says data center and fintech expert Ashley Davis. In this interview, he talks about how companies excel and what the future might hold.

If you could re-invent financial technology, where would you start?
I would start at the P&L level (profit and loss). Many of the historical issues have stemmed from internal policy reporting that has prevented sharing of infrastructure resources. As such, it has caused enterprise organizations to have ‘sprawled, under-utilized, and in many cases retained technical debt’ within their enterprise. This internal P&L ownership model has been the primary hindrance to adoption of shared infrastructure.

What are currently the most disruptive forces in financial technology?
The biggest changes are driven by ‘shared vs owned’ technology resources, aka the cloud. It introduces efficiencies, tears down technical debt and provides for an evergreen lifecycle refresh policy with full transparency of usage.

What can other industries learn from fintech’s approach to technology?
Fintech is committed to aspects of cost reform, time to market, competitive edge and specialism. Basically, its approach is as simple as it is brilliant: play to your core strengths.

«The concept of ‘pay as you go’ is a disruptor.»


Which businesses are best equipped to react quickly to new situations and even discover new opportunities in the process?
Typical characteristics that have led towards the evolution of financial services are early adoption, pioneering technology concepts, new market entry and exit, scale/elasticity and risk management.

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So, it basically comes down to speed and agility?
Yes, as with any disruption that occurs in the commercial landscape, regardless of sector, speed of penetration, the ability to scale to meet both increase in demand and equally restriction of demand is best served through an elastic model. The concept of ‘pay as you go’ is a disruptor. The alternative of course is technical debt associated with large capex investments that typically become stranded, and by default force organizations to keep to a life cycle refresh – often at odds with their USP and their core competence.

«Good partners provide core data center competencies while enterprise organizations specialize in their USP.»

How do data center platforms contribute to business success?
Data centers provide elasticity, ease of provisioning and resilience, and they allow for the separation of people and data (a best practice – comingling of people and data in the same building increases risk of failure!). Other advantages are high availability principles and risk mitigation. The data center is the lifeblood of enterprise offerings: it forms the digital backbone of the economies in which they operate and determines the survival of the entities that consume them.

What are the most important requirements for a good data center partnership?
End-to-end expert knowledge, accountability, service culture and high availability principles. In short: a good data center is always on. Good partners provide core data center competencies while enterprise organizations specialize in their USP and do not need to possess the competencies required themselves. For them, all infrastructure and MEP engineering is now redundant. These are included in the skills and approach offered by an expert data center operator. The operator’s key competencies are engineering, service provision, security, agility, capacity management, networks and infrastructure expert knowledge.

«Successful enterprises remove the cost conflict from P&L disparities and automate repetitive tasks.»

How can technology provide the necessary flexibility as well as the necessary means for a long-term strategy?
Obstacles need to be removed. Lifecycle and organizational mismatches, for example, are very evident in a company when technical debt accumulates. Successful companies remove the cost conflict from P&L disparities and automate repetitive tasks. This frees up resources for digital transformation, which unlocks sustainable flexibility.

From your specific experience, do you have any suggestions on how best to cope in times of uncertainty?
Rely on a fact-based approach. Today’s technology provides powerful tools that measure performance-led indicators and allow for stakeholder engagement with full transparency of cost and risk for program certainty.

What technological developments do you expect to shape the near future of the financial industry?
AI, machine learning and broad cloud adoption. As we mature and automate, many attributes of the traditional workflow too can be automated. Likewise, repetitive processes can be machine-managed to actually enhance the client experience. Digitalization of economies around the world is forcing disruptive changes – as did Covid! Covid fast-tracked many digital corporate programs, accelerating investment and enhancing the user experience. The cloud is one of the beneficiaries of these step changes. The other beneficiary is the end customer!

About

Ashley Davis, member of the Green Advisory Board, has an MSc in Intelligent Building Design and is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the IET. He has spent much of his career in financial services, responsible for the design and program management of mission-critical facilities spanning HQ buildings and corporate data center portfolios. Most recently, he was a Managing Director at UBS, responsible for data center strategy. Davis has been involved in the data center industry as both a consumer and developer of facilities.