CIO of Finastra
Managing the enterprise systems for Finastra’s global workforce of 9,000 employees, as well as overseeing hosting operations and client-facing technology, is just part of the daily remit of Russ Soper, the company’s CIO. But, with an extensive career in technology in the financial services sector, Soper brings the skills and mindset required for such a role.
Soper, who began his role with Finastra three years ago, is no stranger to business-critical operations in the world of banking and finance. He began his career as a developer, moving into trading floor support for the Investment Banking arm of ABN AMRO where he grew his expertise in mission-critical Financial Services technologies.
Excited by its vision of the future of Open Finance, he joined Finastra in 2018 as Global Head of IT Operations, before his promotion to CIO in May 2019.
A journey to Open Finance
Reflecting on his position, he says, “I’m not sure there is an average day, but regardless of the task, our primary focus is always finding ways to improve the customer experience at every step of their journey – whether the customer is a client or a colleague. It’s about finding the balance between creating efficiency through streamlined operations, managing risk and compliance, and delivering innovation and better experiences that improve the day-to-day roles of our customers.”
This variety is, in part, driven by an industry that is continually evolving, both in the way consumers, businesses, corporates and other banks engage with financial institutions, and the technology and security considerations to support this evolution. Infrastructure, says Soper, is a crucial element of delivering innovation at scale and pace. “Years ago, the options were relatively straightforward.”
Developments at Finastra
So, how does a technology company stay ahead of the curve in a sector that is innovating and transforming at dramatic speed? The key, Soper believes, is a combination of expertise, innovation and collaborating with partners. Soper is proud of Finastra’s vision – that the future of finance is open – and the bold moves that it makes to bring innovation, collaboration and growth to its customers through its technology and its culture.
Finastra is the world’s largest pure play financial services software company with over 8,600 customers and its solutions are used by 90 of the world’s top 100 banks. As an entity, it is responsible for 8% of global FX trading, 6% of daily trade finance and 25% of all US wire payments.
“Open Finance is the only way,” continues Soper. “95% of innovation is likely happening outside of your company walls. The scale and speed of it means it’s impossible to ‘own’ it all in-house. Collaboration is the solution - which means being open. Open platform, open APIs, open standards, open ecosystems – open banking was just the start of the movement and it’s exciting to see our mission coming to life,” Soper says.
Customer services and digital transformation
The way customers engage today compared to ten years ago has been transformed, and digital is at the heart of it all. From neo-banks, super-apps and hyper personalization to wholesale offerings as-a-Service, the technology underpinning this new world needs to be fast, secure, efficient and highly scalable, says Soper.
Additionally, COVID has sped up digital adoption in multiple ways. Some analysts say cloud adoption was brought forward by five to seven years. Mobility and cloud became increasingly important as people needed accessible financial services in a remote world, he points out.
Indeed, Finastra’s own operations have shifted significantly, he explains, “We’ve moved many of our products to the cloud, improving agility. The pandemic forced us to approach challenges differently, with digital as the only vehicle. For example, we had to reimagine our project delivery processes, which typically involved in-person meetings and onsite implementations.
An inspiring and technology-filled future
The evolution of financial services and the speed of change makes the industry incredibly dynamic, and an exciting place to work. For example, the acceleration and opportunities offered by Banking as a Service and embedded finance, which Soper sees as game-changers.
“This is a big area for us,” Soper says, going on to explain that it relies on cloud and API connectivity.
“Banks can offer their specialties - products or services - ‘as-a-Service’ to a far wider audience at a far lower cost. They can wholesale to other banks, or provide banking capabilities to the hundreds of fintechs on our platform - we connect those parties together.”
He adds, “FusionFabric.cloud connects buyers and sellers, manufacturers and distributors, so we see our role evolving to become the orchestrator in connecting these players. It’s a really exciting time."
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