Dutch Technology Magazine, Emerce,interviews Angelique Schouten at WebSummit 2015


07-11-2015

CLOUD FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES

We’re here at the Dutch Embassy in Dublin for the Web Summit in 2015. I’m here with Angelique from Ohpen. What is Ohpen?
Ohpen is the first software platform in the world that enables banking in the cloud. So, all of the banks and insurance companies that offer mutual fund- and savings accounts are able to fully operate in the cloud, and they can do that with us.

So that basically means that a bank will dismiss all existing COBOL, legacy systems within their company, and migrate towards an entire new system, right?
Yes, that’s correct. Basically they’re saying goodbye to, not only the old software they have been running, but also to the hardware that often costed millions of euros. And they are able to update and match their processes towards this century, making their company future-proof.

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But that would mean a major project for those banks.
Yes, it’s huge. It’s basically like performing an open-heart surgery, because you’re aiming to transition all accounts, clients and data to an entire new system. So it’s not something you’re going to do every year.

I can imagine that banks are very hesitant to take a huge step like that.
The most important thing is that you decide which data you want to migrate, and that you run elaborate test runs in advance, making it absolutely certain that the transition will perfectly succeed.

Are there any Dutch banks, you don’t have to mention any names, which are now already running your software?
Yes, there are various Dutch financial institutions that currently are operating on our software.

We as consumers, we don’t notice this at all?
The only thing you’ll notice is that probably these applications will less likely endure failure malfunctions, therefore maintaining a very high uptime rate and basically always stay accessible. And no technical failures. So the only things you will notice are its benefits.

And what are we talking about in terms of cost savings, when you are completely transitioning towards a SaaS solution or a cloud solution in comparison to traditional systems?
When a financial institution chooses a SaaS solution, they are able to experience up to 80 to 90% of cost reductions. This reduction is not only achieved with the reduction of personnel but also hardware costs.

And looking at one of the big four major banks, what can you tell us about their annual IT-based spendings?
That’s a very good question. Looking at a large bank, you are talking about investments, solely based on hardware, with costs that are easily able to run up to 60 to 80 million euro.

And that’s only looking at hardware, and what about personnel costs?
Personnel costs? I once read a study indicating that 20% of financial institutions consists of IT personnel. Basically, you will not need them anymore, or you will only need a few, with an entirely different position and responsibilities.

You are a Dutch company that was founded in 2009, if I’m correct. Looking at your growth rate, what can you tell me in terms of percentages?
You can see that the length of a sale cycle length for a company like ours is pretty long: it takes approximately two years from making first contact to signing the contract. That’s why we are focusing on gaining one, or two new financial institutions per year, and we eventually want to double this amount. Plus, we want to plan an international rollout of our company. That is basically our next step.

Are you mainly doing business within the Netherlands?
Mainly in the Netherlands, and we’re currently looking towards the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Those countries are our key markets.

Are you also encountering other Europeans, or Americans?
No, fairly little. What we’re seeing is that most banking software providers are aiming at optimising their current platform, but not looking to fully operate in the cloud. So we do notice other players, but those players only offer traditional software which still demands local on-premises installation of their software.

Why not just throw in 150 million, and go all-in?
Painting the inside of a bus stop can only be done by a certain amount of people, so you want to have a strong foundation first. Our top priority is to extinguish legacy software, and prevent that we create it for ourselves, so we don’t want to make the same mistakes others made. That’s why the foundation has to be a hundred percent right. Nobody has ever created an international platform before, on which only one software version is being used worldwide. And that’s what we do.

What kind of challenges regarding growth are you facing as a company, what does your company need?
The thing we need the most is good personnel and great IT people, who really know and understand their profession. And sales people who have both a background in IT, as well as financial services, like in insurance or banking.

Everybody is talking about it, especially among the tech scene in the Netherlands: that finding good personnel, and especially developers, is hard. There are different ways to solve this. How are you solving this?
One: through a joint mission: we have one strong mission: reinventing banking software. And the best way to attract great IT personnel is by indicating a strong mission with a clear vision of where you want to go. That’s one. Secondly, we’ve made our office as comfortable as possible: we have a kickboxing ring, invite personal trainers and yoga instructors…, everything.

This sounds like a time before the bubble.
No. It’s eh, on top of.

And are you also looking for recruitment abroad? We’ve heard that there are different kind of strategies: from attracting European talent from Portugal, Spain, etcetera, to recruiting talent in countries far across the globe. What are you doing?
When talking about recruiting talent, we are now looking in the UK. It’s also depending on the location of our first international office, but we aim to keep our core developers in Amsterdam for now.