AI, BLOCKCHAIN, AND CLOUD TECHNOLOGY MADE EASY

Spain 2020 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Carlos Eres, Managing Director of GFT, on the Spanish finance sector, the rise of fintechs, and R&D.

Can you give us an introduction to the company?

GFT is a German company that was founded 34 years ago and went public in 1999. In parallel, Deutsche Bank was developing an internal hub for international projects in Barcelona. GFT saw the potential to run projects in Spain through Germany, later running the same projects from Spain to save costs. In 2001, Deutsche Bank decided to move its subsidiary to the market, which is when GFT acquired the subsidiary and entered the financial services sector. We were 300 people, growing locally while also supporting the growth of our international business. We decided to focus on banking, which is our expertise and thus certified many of our people and developed our knowledge of investment banking, growing from 300 to 1,000 people. From Spain we began the process of internationalization to Brazil, the US, and Mexico as well as expanding our operations into the industrial sector. Nowadays the GFT team in Spain is made up of around 2,000 employees, working for local and global projects in six locations.

What services make up the majority of your global operations?

Our core business is developing projects, maintenance, and consultancy. We accompany our clients through the process of digitalization with tools including AI, blockchain, and cloud technology. In the finance sector specifically, our focus is on clients adopting open banking systems with our help. Some customers have asked for more end-to-end solutions, which sometimes require partnerships. We are partners with the three main cloud providers: Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services. Such partnerships are fundamental in our line of work as the majority of companies have such partnerships, creating a special relationship with the provider of a product or service. This helps to give a better portfolio to the customer.

You had a global revenue of EUR412 million in 2018, almost EUR94.2 million of which came from your Spanish clients. What differentiates the Spanish financial market?

From 2008 onward, there were many mergers and acquisitions in the banking sector. That process has yet to end; when it finishes, we will probably have five or six big banks. This makes dynamic movements in technology with the banks competing hard for customers. Santander and BBVA are two large international banks. Sabadell is now in process of internationalization, now in the UK and with a subsidiary in Mexico. This means that the banks cannot be seen as just local. Given our international footprint we support these banks globally. For instance, we work for BBVA and Santander in Spain and Mexico. And for Santander also in Brazil. Size matters, so you can be more efficient. You are also able to access certain markets that you could not enter if you were smaller.

How do you believe the traditional banking sector ought to evolve to tackle the rise in new players such as fintech companies?

Despite the rise of fintechs, banks still represent size as they are based on legacy systems. However, that is set to change in the future. In the past, one of the KPIs was the number of branches, which is no longer the case. Fintechs decide which part of the cake the banking industry takes. This is only a slice, but it is very promising. If you can go to customers without a number of branches, employees and IT systems, then you can get the benefits without a huge cost. Moreover, cryptocurrencies are making a great deal of noise. The banking industry as we have known it will disappear, forcing banks to reinvent themselves for the future with technological changes happening, including open banking that works to personalize and adapt banking services to clients depending on their needs.

How much are you investing in R&D?

One tenth of our budget is dedicated to R&D and we have a team in Spain leading the global business development of the GFT Group. We also have a team working with fintechs and different partners since 2014 in our GFT Digital innovation Lab. We have won the testbeds award at the last edition of the IoT Solutions Congress. There, we showed a data streaming demo of a connected car in partnership with Google and demonstrated how we can use this car to get information and data to be used in different sectors, such as insurance, automotive, logistics, etc. We are able to manage the idea of an entire bank, being able to take care of everything but infrastructure. As well, we are leveraging our knowledge of new technologies to expand into new sectors. Moving forward, we are entering the industrial sector.

Where do you want to go forward with your expansion?

In our eyes, the two most promising sectors for future expansion are retail and automotive. We have a team working in Valencia for an industrial company in Germany that only builds robots. We also aim to help banks accompany their clients in their day to day journeys, by facilitating all their concerns related to finance wherever or whenever it occurs