The five minute CIO: David Christian

2 Mar 2012

David Christian, head of IT at CurrencyFair

Here’s the latest in a series of exclusive interviews on, where we learn the thoughts of Ireland’s IT leaders on tech trends and strategy. This week, we talk to David Christian, who is head of IT at CurrencyFair.

Trading in multiple currencies, CurrencyFair is a peer-to-peer online market for foreign exchange that lets people swap funds directly with each other, saving money through bypassing banks’ fees.

How big is your organisation – how many users across how many sites?

CurrencyFair is a web-based company, we have almost 10,000 customers using our online foreign-exchange service over 45 different countries and several different time zones. We have offices in Dublin, London and Australia; our IT infrastructure allows people to work from almost anywhere.

Describe the role IT plays in delivering a service to the business.

Our IT systems are the core of our business. We anonymously link individuals and businesses selling foreign currency with others that want to buy it, saving on bank charges. Our IT systems smooth this process along. The target is to do this as efficiently as possible while ensuring security and reliability in a scalable architecture.

Do you see your role primarily as a technical one, or a business one?

Primarily technical, however, in a start-up company like CurrencyFair, you generally find yourself involved in a very broad range of activities. For example, you may be ensuring delivery from third-party vendors, designing new website features, support existing systems and coding all in the one day.

Since CurrencyFair is a start-up, what implications does that have for how you approach IT?

Cost is a very significant factor for us so we try to keep as much of our IT requirement as possible in-house. However, as a financial service, we need to ensure the highest levels of security and availability; this is where we outsource work, and we find business partners, such as Version One, Ward, Monsoon and Data Electronics are invaluable to our business in providing a secure reliable service for our customers.

Has your 2012 IT budget increased, decreased or remained the same as last year?

Definitely increased. We are currently looking to hire top-quality Java programmers interested in a dynamic, start-up environment.

What is your main IT project for this year?

We are constantly improving our service by delivering a new-look website, and improving existing screens and features based on customer feedback and what we have learned to date. We will also be introducing mobile applications, as well as an API.

What IT initiative are you most proud of?

Developing in-house a scalable and secure website which has delivered exceptional availability since launch almost two years ago.

What has been the hardest challenge since you took your current role?

Working to deliver a functional product and subsequent enhancements in a time-pressured environment.

What’s your approach to major applications: build or buy?

Almost all our core IT systems are bespoke and developed in-house. We do, however, build these systems on established infrastructure to ensure reliability, recovery and availability.

What technology trends are of most interest to you personally and to your own organisation?

We are closely watching development of mobile technology, particularly in the areas of online payments.

Outsource or in-house IT?

Both. Where we have the skills, we do the work in-house. This helps us to maintain a good knowledge of all our core systems and control costs. When we don’t have the skill levels required internally we outsource, we also outsource key critical items, such as security to industry-renowned security experts.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic