The five minute CIO: Simon Moorhead, IFDS

17 Jul 2015

Simon Moorhead, global CIO, IFDS

“We’re interested in driving business outcomes, not IT for IT’s sake,” says Simon Moorhead, global CIO for International Financial Data Services (IFDS).

IFDS is a leading global provider of outsourcing and technology solutions to the collective investment, retirement, insurance, and platform markets.

Last year, Moorhead took overall responsibility for the global strategic development of the firm’s technology infrastructure and operations across its locations in Asia-Pacific, Canada and Europe. He is based in the UK and joined the IFDS Board of Directors, reporting to Simon Hudson-Lund, executive chairman.

Moorhead joined IFDS from the Bank of England, where he was Chief Information Officer responsible for ensuring IT change was aligned with the bank’s policy and operational priorities. In that role, he led the IT programme that helped create the Prudential Regulation Authority in April 2013.

Previously, Moorhead was at Reuters in a global IT role after more than a decade as a management consultant for Ernst & Young and Cap Gemini. He began his career at HSBC.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

Information and technology underpins everything we do at IFDS. It supports our daily delivery of service to our customers, the change and functionality that’s supported by our application software, and all of the supporting tooling that helps a 6,000-person organisation to run.

We operate a full-service internal IT shop from Enterprise Architecture, to Infrastructure. Most IT roles are delivered by in-house teams, but we use the support of offshore development partners to cope with periods of peak activity or supportive additional skills.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

We’re interested in driving business outcomes, not IT for IT’s sake. As such our IT strategy seeks to deliver excellence in managing service (keeping the lights on), managing change and in ensuring we remain compliant to meet the demands of security and regulatory good practice. Our future aims to drive simpler more standard solutions, in order to reduce the cost of change and the cost of operations, and to ensure that we can reduce the time it takes to bring customers into our growing business.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

IFDS has a highly-integrated information systems infrastructure that is focused on transaction processing capabilities for investors and distributors and extensive data management capabilities. The systems support back-office processes of reporting and financial management, as well as the front-office client engagement processes within our call centre, document management teams and digital online delivery.

The technology supporting these applications is based in two UK data centres but supports operations across Ireland, UK, Luxembourg, Thailand and India. Our focus on real-time systems to support customer interaction shouldn’t mask the criticality of development and test environments for very large projects across our business, nor the normal range of office and enterprise tools to support a 6,000-person organisation.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

Budgets are clearly important as they underpin delivery of the key goals, and act as a statement of intent for other parts of the business. They are as important for showing limits of what’s not going to get done and to help manage the expectations of stakeholders within the organisation. We follow a financial planning process alongside the rest of the organisation that allows one-year priorities to be seen within the context of a long-range plan and allowing for some flexibility in where those investments might land. Our Change governance also enables priorities to be flexed within the year as we manage the delivery portfolio to hit the demands of our customers together with the need for internal improvements.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

IFDS is only 20 years old as a company but through that time has operated a mix of technologies supporting different phases of growth in the business. Sometimes the drive to meet customer demand has led to multiple technologies supporting multiple solutions. The current phase of our growth recognises that there is value in simplifying technologies and operating from common sets of infrastructure wherever possible. We have significant investments currently focused on converging our hardware platforms on more common standards to deliver resilience, performance and simpler support.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

The bulk of the IFDS IT team are full-time, permanent employees. We value the experience and skills of our staff and recognise that retaining the knowledge of our industry and our estate helps us to deliver better to our customers. Having said that we do work with partners either to support peaks of workload both in the development teams and in installing significant uplifts in our infrastructure, or alternatively to offer 24-7 cover for some services.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

We have lots of great technologists in IFDS, from architects to infrastructure specialists to developers and support staff. Whilst the most significant technology choices are escalated to me and my direct team, most of my focus is on my leadership role. That is about making sure we’re heading in the right direction and we have people and money directed towards the right things. For me, leadership also covers the motivation of our teams, helping to make sure that individuals have the right support from their managers and are working on interesting and challenging things.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

The financial services industry is under constant change. Current challenges include cost pressures, regulatory changes, the impact of digitisation and new business models. The way in which we deploy information and technology across our organisation will drive our response to each of these issues.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

We use multiple metrics across different parts of the organisation from ITIL aligned service management statistics, through cost and quality measures in our delivery portfolio to a subset of risk and security metrics that we report to our risk boards. The most important feedback, however, is the softer assessment that we seek from our clients in either monthly or quarterly meetings, which judges our IT performance for the services we offer to them. We study this feedback closely and take action to respond to issues.

Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

We remain on a path overall to increase the maturity of our operations and processes, and whilst that’s sometimes in discrete jumps it’s probably a path that will never end as we constantly seek to improve the way we deliver services to our customers. The current priorities include improvements to design and change governance (i.e. making sure we’re doing the right things), service management, and various points of the SDLC, which is under constant review.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

Our priorities are to deliver our significant portfolios of new clients across each of our businesses, continue with our Technology Refresh programme providing increased resilience and performance from our infrastructure. We have several projects to support our continued growth to ensure we have capacity for higher business volumes in our workflow and automated processing. There are also some interesting innovation projects that may significantly change the shape of what we do in the future.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years