Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Amazon Web Services (AWS) Enterprise Summit, an event that gets bigger every year. As someone who has previously sold enterprise-scale AWS migrations to enterprise clients for a number of years, I’ve always been so surprised at how nervous the financial services sector has been about something that has so many benefits they can exploit. I’ve heard of many top secret proof of concepts taking place in the departments of Chief Information or Chief Technology Officers, and even the commonplace (yet discreet) use of development and test environments for non-mission critical applications; certainly no one could be accused of jumping into production head first!
Of course, Amazon has taken steps to allay many of these fears, such as opening data centres in the EU for data location and regulatory purposes, and perhaps some of the larger, long-term, traditional outsourced data centre contracts have finally run their course. Nonetheless I was delighted to see that some well known brands in this space have finally stood up and nailed their colours to the AWS mast!
Karl Heery, of Aon’s Centre for Innovation and Analytics, gave an inspiring account of having moved its global risk insight platform onto AWS - a repository that runs across 185 client countries and 72 lines of business, with a premium flow of $147 billion. The department sees it as a duty to share learnings and successes across the rest of the Aon organisation now.
In capital markets, Borre Wessell, Global Head of Front Office Technology at ICAP, was clear that its all-encompassing strategy was not simply cloud-first, but Amazon-first! Once the decision was taken to migrate to AWS in the second quarter of last year, it boldly started with the biggest application; Fusion - a truly front-office, mission-critical portal, which is the single point of access to all its services. The target is to have the whole IT estate running on AWS by the end of this year, which I think is testament to how many tools and services AWS keeps launching to make this journey quick and easy.
The tables have turned
Among the usual drivers for AWS adoption, such as cost savings and repeatability, ICAP recognised that the security provisions, tools and protocols available on AWS are absolutely suitable for its requirements, and, perhaps more interestingly, it was seen as key to attracting new talent into the technical organisation. In this age of FinTechs and fast paced innovation in other sectors, large financial institutions are struggling to hire the most talented individuals, those who are truly passionate about challenging the boundaries of technology these days. The tables have turned, and AWS is helping ICAP fight back!