GlobalFintechSeries Interview with Henry Umney, SVP of Commercial at ClusterSeven
Henry Umney joins us in the Global FinTech Series interview to talk about his experience being in fintech while sharing interesting insights into what it takes to scale, build and grow a fintech company.
Catch the snippets:
Can you tell us a little about yourself, Henry, and what your fintech journey has been like so far?
My fintech career started in Hong Kong 30 years ago, selling derivatives pricing and risk management software. Since then I’ve worked for a variety of companies selling solutions aimed at the front, middle and back office for banks, insurance and asset management companies.
Could you talk about some of your biggest learnings from your experience within the Financial Software and Services industry?
It still surprises me that financial services firms, despite best efforts, continue to fail to decommission legacy systems. Part of this is the disconnect that exists between the business and IT; firms would benefit from investing more in bridging this gap, and I see this being ever-more important as services are outsourced and offshored, and the reliance grows on IT with the introduction of things like machine learning and AI. At best, this will lead to inefficiencies, but as these functions are moved further away from business there’s the potential to cause operational issues and financial losses or fines, which lead to reputational and regulatory damage
Scaling and constantly training a team in new segments like fintech is crucial to achieving business goals, could you share some of your top takeaways when it comes to hiring and building a strong team for a young tech product/company?
Hiring over the years has had its challenges, which have been mitigated by using near- and offshore facilities. The key for us has been to assiduously balance the workload between support of existing products and new releases, and using more up-to-date development tools.
How according to you will the fintech segment shape up in the next couple of years, given the constant innovations and investments in certain areas? What do you think this landscape will look like in future?
I think that whilst there is a huge investment in “playing” with the latest innovations, e.g. AI, pressures to reduce operational costs will focus firms on getting some of the basics right will not necessarily involve these new “toys”.
Could you talk about some of the other innovative fintech apps and platforms in the industry that according to you are set to be new game-changers for this niche?
The jury is still out on whether blockchain will make a big difference. It will be interesting to know if the interest in AI will prove to be the result of hype, which appears to have contributed to the early enthusiasm for blockchain, or if AI will truly deliver value; currently, the picture isn’t clear.
We’d love to know your thoughts on why it’s important for financial institutions to implement an MRM solution?
Reliance on models is not new. However, the rapid increase in the use of models in all corners of the business means that model risk frameworks need to be updated to cater to the wide variety of models needed. There is also now a new set of stakeholders that are not familiar with what good model governance looks like. Moreover, most model risk management programs are supported by manual processes using basic office tools, which is not sustainable with the increase in model usage. This is an area of particular focus for regulators, so any lack of transparency will result in audit findings and the associated costs.
What regulations does an MRM solution help address for a financial institution?
The specific regulations are dependent on the jurisdiction the institution works from, e.g. in the US it’s SR11/7, in the UK, SS3/18 & 19, TRIM in Europe, and so on. That said, there is a wider directive from regulators to ensure accountability of senior management (e.g. the UK’s SM&CR), as well as for firms to verify their operational resilience. This is driving a focus on ensuring that models are fully understood and all calibrations meet the firm’s risk appetite.
We’d love to know what some of your top FinTech predictions for 2020 are?
To start, I think modelling will become central to commercial operation, making model risk management a constant business theme.
The Bank of England’s Operational Resilience initiative will enforce a joined-up approach to regulation.
The UK’s Senior Managers & Certification Regime will expand into other countries
Climate change and being green are likely to challenge fintech to support financial services initiatives in more eco-conscious ways.
Your favorite FinanceTech quote
“If we were as cavalier with data in my previous role, we’d have killed people,” said by a senior exec who came from a pharmaceuticals firm to a financial services firm
We’d love to know what some of your future plans are!
As the focus on understanding the IT landscape outside of IT’s control grows in significance ClusterSeven will evolve its solutions to provide more transparency over this estate as well as developing ways of integrating this analysis into mainstream systems, data warehouses and data lakes.
Henry is SVP Commercial at Mitratech and joined Mitratech as part of the ClusterSeven acquisition in 2020. Henry joined ClusterSeven in 2006 and for over 10 years was responsible for the commercial operations of ClusterSeven, overseeing globally all Sales and Client activity as well as Partner engagements before being appointed CEO. Henry has over 30 years of experience and expertise from the financial service and technology sectors and prior to ClusterSeven, he held the position of sales director in Microgen, London and various sales management positions in AFA Systems and ICAP, both in the UK and Asia.