‘Companies that use data in an ethical way will win the trust of customers’

4 Feb 2020

Felix Marx. Image: Truata

Truata’s Felix Marx discusses the evolving data privacy market, the importance of being flexible, and how he relaxes in his vintage Volkswagen van.

Felix Marx joined Truata as CEO to advance its goal of giving consumers control over their data under GDPR, while enabling businesses to serve their customers through data-led decisions. The data privacy and analytics firm, which was founded by IBM and Mastercard, established a Dublin HQ in 2018.

Marx has more than 20 years of experience in financial services and telecommunications, working across Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and North America, with a range of technologies including identity and trusted service management, identification and smart cards, and security.

‘We are in an evolving market – so market readiness and clarity about the new privacy laws and regulations are challenging at times’

Describe your role and what you do.

As the CEO of Truata, I oversee all aspects of the company in a rapidly evolving market. With new privacy laws emerging around the world, there are endless opportunities to innovate and do well by doing good.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I have a fantastic team which supports me a great deal in everything we look to achieve as a company. For where we are in our journey, flexibility is the key. There is never a dull moment and the market environment is very dynamic. Priorities to me, no matter what, are always my employees and customers.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

We are in a maturing and evolving market. So, market readiness and clarity about the new privacy laws and regulations are challenging at times. This will resolve itself over time as regulators become more aligned.

Certainly, there are also technology challenges, but we all work together to keep on top of the latest trends and move at a rapid speed to keep innovating.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Data privacy and regulations such as GDPR straddle all industry verticals and sectors. Companies that utilise their data universe best in a privacy-protecting and ethical way will win the trust of their customers and be the winners in highly competitive markets. We help companies to achieve exactly that.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

The belief that personal privacy is a fundamental human right and needs to be protected. Being able to do this in a commercially successful way, is one of the most if not the most – motivating career opportunities I have ever had.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

Do not protect the past – ie ‘the good old times’. Learn from it and evolve. Be flexible to the new requirements of our time and keep learning every day. Environment, markets, people, organisations, communication – they have all changed so dramatically and will continue to change, and that requires us to continuously rise to the challenge.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Listening and communicating is so important, as well as ensuring we walk the talk and over-deliver.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

In general, we are blessed in Truata when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and I think that is mostly true for our industry as a whole. It’s in our nature. Where I do see improvements are definitely in gender equality  I would like to see more women in leadership roles.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

Not really a mentor, but a lot of inspiring leaders. The one who impacted me most in my style and school of thought was Ajay Banga, the CEO of Mastercard.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I would recommend The Fifth Discipline [by Peter Senge] to every leader. For me, it was specifically important as I did a master’s degree in human-centric knowledge management and this book makes it very clear that the only sustainable advantage an organisation can have is that it learns faster than its competition and reacts faster than its competitors do.

The Globotics Upheaval [by Richard Baldwin] is also a very interesting read that depicts how early victors in today’s world could become the losers in future. ‘Globotics’ is globalisation combined with robotics – any technology to make it easier to outsource service jobs targeting the middle class. The book inspired me to really start thinking about the ethical use of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

It would have to be my phone, laptop and lots of coffee for the office, but I also need my customised Harley-Davidson to enjoy the beauty of my home country Austria, as well as my carefully restored 1967 Volkswagen T1 (Bulli). I use the Bulli to decelerate in the fast-moving and ever-changing environment that I live and work in.

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