CARLOS ERES

Spain 2021 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Carlos Eres, CEO of GFT, about revenue growth, insurance sector penetration, and the firm's primary concerns for the coming years.

GFT's revenues in 2019 increased by 4% to EUR428 million compared to the year before. How has the company and its operations evolved since 2019?

The company has quickly adapted to the current situation. In early March, we were all working in offices, and no one was really too concerned about what might happen. Two weeks later, everybody was working from home. In 2019 we had started a program to improve the work-life balance of our employees and had already implemented two days a week remote working for 66% of our staff. They had to demonstrate that they had a comfortable area to work in remotely along with certain other working conditions in their homes. When the lockdown was decreed, in just a single weekend we were able to send all our 1,800 employees home to work remotely. We did not face any significant disruptions in our operations. One of the concerns was the potential impact it might have on productivity, though it has been proven that people work just as well from their homes as in the office. We have also hosted GFT online events that were attended by almost 1,800 individuals at the same time. COVID-19 has had other consequences for us in Spain. Some of our clients suffered during the pandemic, which has affected us, too. The impact has not been very significant but it has been an unusual year.

In 2019, GFT doubled its penetration of the insurance sector, reaching 11%. What is your client portfolio per sector, and are you adding new sectors into your portfolio?

We have been breaking into the industrial market too. Fortunately, certain well advanced projects in the automotive sector have not been canceled, though some have been postponed. In 2020, we won a contract with the financial business of an automotive company in Spain that wanted to change its entire rental system. We participated in the bidding process and won the project which was unexpected and adds to our revenue pipeline. Our business is highly focused on cloud computing systems, and closely connected to the Cloud's three most important services – Azure from Microsoft, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services, all of whom we partner with. With Azure, we have demonstrated our ability to meet the demands of an insurance project. Our progress in the Industry sector has been more affected by the pandemic as we have not been able to meet companies face to face to demonstrate our services. However, we are working with an IoT platform, Sphinx Open Online, developed by a GFT company in Germany, that allows companies to manage complex information through a dashboard in which they can interact in real time. Some firms in the agriculture sector have also been interested in such platforms. Retail is also a promising sector for us, as it transitions to the online world.

You have signed several remarkable agreements in 2020, such as with Thought Machine. What is the strategy behind this agreement, and which others would you highlight?

We are not averse to partnering with and promoting third-party brands. We work with a number of companies, and have developed a framework to expedite innovation. We have strategies to approach potential clients together and believe these partnerships are a win-win to gain clients that we have not worked with before.

What differentiates GFT from its competitors?

We have around 6,000 workers scattered across the globe, from Singapore, Brazil and Canada to Poland, Italy and the USA. We are a medium size company that specializes in financial technology, and that means we are required to have certain standards of reliability, safety and good practice to meet varied compliance requirement. We aim to expand via acquisitions, such as that of German firm in-GmbH, who developed the Sphinx Open Online platform, and with partnerships with larger clients and Cloud providers. One thing that differentiates us is our motto: we are small enough to care about clients, but large enough to fulfil challenging projects anywhere in the world. We work remotely, therefore we can operate anywhere as a single unit. We have offices in Europe and the Americas and have established operations in the Asia-Pacific region with offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, where we have already delivered some very innovative digital banking client projects. This allows Tier 1 type clients to consider our offering in Asia as well. We are also exploring new opportunities in other countries. Some of those projects in other countries are managed from Spain.

What is your main objective for 2021?

One of them is to turn Spain into a supplier of advanced maintenance of applications; we want to provide maintenance as a service. We are able to maintain any application that any kind of business might use following strict measures. 2021 will be important for the insurance sector with projects that were postponed in 2020. And 2021 has to be the year the industry sector picks up as well. We expect demand for Sphinx Open Online services to be huge and we have many projects for European companies in the pipeline. And to come up with effective solutions for all these sectors - finance, insurance and industry - we have our Innovation Lab in Barcelona, which we are expanding right now. It serves as a key innovation hub for colleagues and clients.