7 December 2012

Blog post: Get up, start-up. Stand up for your rights!

Get up, start-up. Stand up for your rights!

European technology currently is in good shape. Skype and LinkedIn are profitable, and Cambridge’s ARM has shipped more chips in 2012 than Intel in its entire history.Magister Advisors recently predicted that in 2013 at least one “new” technology firm in Europe will achieve a $1bn value. Candidates include small loan provider Wonga, e-payments company Klarna and music identification service Shazam.

This is remarkable, in particular in the face of a worldwide economic slump. But what catalyses the creation and development of the next wave of companies in Europe, and how can this be sustained and supported? Telefonica’s Startup Ecosystem Report gives a few answers by analysing technology hub spots across the world. Only two European cities made the top ten (Tel Aviv and London), whilst the rest are US or Canadian. Paris, Moscow and Berlin are in the top 20. After all.
A lot is promising: London offers a range of support networks and capital infrastructure, and Paris’ focus on B2B start-ups creates a range of opportunities. Moscow is home to more entrepreneurs with master degrees than in the Silicon Valley, and in Berlin office space is cheap and access to the Russian and Eastern European markets is good. There are a structural and significant problems though, preventing European cities becoming more popular technology hubs. Access to skills is a big issue. Access to funding is an even bigger problem, with significantly less money flowing into the European startup scene compared to Silicon Valley. This also has an impact on speed of execution.
Venture Capital has re-discovered its appetite for technology firms, and the government also lends more support. Less bureaucracy such as the UK Entrepreneur Visa makes it easier to set up and run businesses, as do R&D tax breaks. Direct funding comes in form of schemes such as UKIIF. Also, the European Commission is currently devising a strategy to make Europe a global player in technology.
Many signs are positive, and they better are. Much more could and should be done however to make access to funding easier. Technology is a key sector and important contributor to our economies, and entrepreneurs and start-ups deserve all the help they need to become big global companies in the future.

First published on the MHP blog on 7 December 2012, read the full post here:

24 April 2012

Blog post: Digital Currencies: No Threat to Their Real Counterparts - Yet, PYMNTS.COM

There has been much speculation about the fate of the Euro over recent months. Maybe a bit too much as it is difficult to predict (and tiring to hear) what will or will not happen to a currency which is still in its youth, in historical terms. These recent developments in the currency arena however have prompted a renewed focus on alternative currencies, so let’s take a look at these – their future may be easier to predict too, after all.

Published 24 April 2012, read the full article here:

28 February 2012

LinkedIn Discussion: Cloud Computing

"Cloud Computing and Financial Services - is that really a good match?

I've recently written a brief article about the (potential) role of cloud computing in financial services, and whether hedge funds are paving the way. What is your opinion - do you think that cloud computing is the way forward for financial institutions, or are you sceptical?"

See the comments in LinkedIn's "Banking and Finance Technologies" group here:


3 February 2012

Blog post: "Financial Services in the Cloud: A match made in computing heaven?"

Talkin' 'bout a generation can be daunting. There’s Generation X and Y which kind of makes sense, but then Z is I or @ or Me. TheiPhone 4S is the 5th generation of the device which means that generation 6 will be the iPhone5. As confusing as this is already, technology generations last considerably shorter than family generations, and sometimes they are so short you barely mention their existence.

So I was quite interested when I was invited to a breakfast seminar on “Third generation Cloud Computing for Hedge Funds” as I had completely missed generation number 2. The idea is straight forward. Rather than outsourcing all IT services to a public or private cloud, the third generation is all about being hybrid and pushing a number of IT services into the cloud whilst keeping others within the direct reach of a hedge fund.

For me however the two never really seemed to be a good match, considering the financial services’ reluctance to give away control over any of their data. They have valid reasons for this. A regulator may question whether data is stored appropriately and safely. There’s no physical server room to show in case an interested investor pays a visit, and if an external provider goes down there is a knock-on effect on a number of funds which could be disastrous for the whole industry. In addition availability is key and any services in the cloud need to be easily and speedily accessible, at any time.

Having listened to a number of arguments, it made more sense to me why companies within the financial services industry - and hedge funds in particular - are amenable to the concept. Being active high-frequency traders, they use state-of-the art IT systems and consequently need to be forward-looking when it comes to embracing new technologies. Outsourcing IT services promises they can fully operate their business from anywhere with a very basic equipment such as Internet connection and laptop. This significantly reduces operating costs which can be £30,000 per month, music to fund managers’ ears who are always keen to increase their margins.

Hedge funds take a risk by speculating on specific market developments. That risk is assessed in strict due diligence procedures, and funds will only choose to put money where they expect to make a substantial profit. Likewise you would expect them to outsource parts of their business only if they’re absolutely certain this is the right thing to do. They will thoroughly check any provider’s longevity of clients, profitability and how they deal with outages. And they will check how much of the provider’s cash is re-invested in the architecture.

I’m still a bit sceptical, but given the mouth-watering incentive of lower costs I can see why hedge funds are attracted to Cloud Computing. As hedge funds are, in their own way, cutting edge in the financial services industry, they may well lead the way for many more players in the industry following suit. There are a few obstacles and it’s unclear how these can be surmounted, but first steps have been taken and with Cloud Computing having received the official EU seal of approval recently it will be even more exciting to see whether the hedge funds’ current IT gamble will pay off.

Appeared on MHP blog: http://www.mhpc.com/blog/financial-services-cloud-match-made-computing-heaven

21 January 2012

Pension Rocks 2012

My band DB/DC competing at Pension Rocks 2012:

The term "Supergroup" is much maligned, and with good reason, as most of them are rubbish. DB/DC are no exception. Four financial PR people who met at work and discovered a common interest in simple songs with as few chords as possible, they retain their "raw" sound largely by not rehearsing. Steely Dan they ain't.