Francisco Fernandez

Picture copyright
Anouk Baumann

Picture caption

Francisco Fernandez and his enterprise are little identified

Most individuals have by no means heard of a Swiss man known as Francisco Fernandez, however tens of thousands and thousands of us depend on him to take care of our cash.

An unassuming 53-year-old who likes enjoying the piano in his spare time, he’s answerable for the safety of $four trillion (¬£three.2tn) of financial institution deposits all over the world.

Mr Fernandez is the founder and boss of an organization that’s as little often called he’s – Avaloq.

The Swiss enterprise and its 2,500 workers could fly underneath the radar, however it is likely one of the world’s largest suppliers of banking software program.

Its techniques are utilized by greater than 450 banks all over the world, together with the UK’s Barclays, HSBC, and Royal Financial institution of Scotland, plus Deutsche Financial institution, Societe Generale, UBS and Nomura.

As you’d count on, Avaloq takes safety very critically, particularly defending banks from cyber-attack. To assist make its software program as safe as doable, the corporate has a novel strategy – it pays expertise corporations in Israel to assault it.

Picture copyright
Getty Photos

Picture caption

Avaloq says it sees off 1000’s of cyber-attacks yearly

With quite a few hi-tech Israeli firms on the forefront of defending towards hacking, Avaloq makes use of them to check its defences.


Mr Fernandez says: “The Israelis are very, superb, they [the young tech workers] are popping out of energetic army service, and they’re sensible.

“We frequently appoint them to assault our techniques in a managed means, after which with their assist we attempt to make our techniques bulletproof.

“We do our homework, safety is a continuing factor… we get 1000’s of assaults per 12 months however thus far, contact wooden, we’ve got by no means had an intrusion into our techniques.”

For a corporation that at present enjoys annual revenues of greater than $500m (£351m), Avaloq has come a great distance since 1991 when Mr Fernandez led a $200,000 administration buyout of the pc division of Swiss financial institution BZ Financial institution.

On the time the division had simply 5 members of workers, however Mr Fernandez had massive ambitions.

Picture copyright

Picture caption

Avaloq’s expertise makes use of cloud computing

He says he had lengthy recognised that the software program utilized by most banks the world over was each overly difficult and unstable, but additionally too costly.

His thought was to supply an easier however stronger common software program system that might be utilized by a number of banks.

‘Mission unimaginable’

So with a small amount of cash coming in from a single financial institution buyer and a few further consulting work, Mr Fernandez and his crew set to work on constructing their software program system. It took them 5 years.

“Constructing a complete banking system takes time,” says Mr Fernandez.

When the software program was lastly able to be bought to banks, Avaloq discovered that the notoriously risk-averse Swiss banking sector was reluctant to take an opportunity on a start-up enterprise that by then nonetheless had solely 20 workers.

Picture copyright

Picture caption

The corporate relies in Zurich

Mr Fernandez says that many individuals thought it could be a “mission unimaginable” for Avaloq to discover a purchaser for its new software program, however then because of a contact he was capable of showcase it to at least Switzerland’s central financial institution, the Swiss Nationwide Financial institution.

The central financial institution was impressed sufficient to purchase the software program, which inside six months noticed 5 industrial Swiss banks observe swimsuit. Abroad banks quickly got here on board too.


In the present day Avaloq provides banks two companies – using its software program, or a extra intensive service whereby it additionally takes over the working of a financial institution’s laptop system. Some 17% of banks (holding $700bn of funds) now go for the latter, which makes use of cloud computing expertise.

Picture copyright

Picture caption

The enterprise stays owned by its workers

Avaloq makes its cash by way of persevering with licence charges, and other than a 10% stake held by a Swiss financial institution, the corporate is owned by its workers.

Of its 2,500 members of workers, 500 are programmers. Along with a foremost base in Zurich, it additionally has workplaces in Edinburgh and as far afield as Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

As a substitute of workers getting particular person bonus funds for hitting private targets, all employees get a bonus if the corporate meets its annual goal, be that income development or prolonged geographic attain.

Picture copyright

Picture caption

Mr Fernandez says his household background helped give him the need to realize in life

Antony Peyton, deputy editor of commerce paper Banking Tech, tells the BBC: “Avaloq’s success may be attributed to chief government Francisco Fernandez’s astute management, and the Avaloq Banking Suite, its core software program providing for personal banks.”

‘Fugitive dad and mom’

Mr Fernandez is the son of Spanish refugees who fled the dictatorship of Normal Franco and settled within the Swiss metropolis of Lucerne earlier than he was born.

He says his background performed a big half in his resolution to take a danger and launch Avaloq.

“My dad and mom have been fugitives after the Spanish Civil Battle, and that tradition, of leaving your nation, and having the heart to come back out of your consolation zone, may be very a lot in my DNA.

“As a toddler we could not afford a automotive, TV or central heating, however rising up in Switzerland was an enormous privilege, and I used to be capable of attend ETH Zurich, top-of-the-line [universities] on this planet for laptop science.

“I really feel privileged to have the highest job at Avaloq, however I do not take something without any consideration.”

Observe The Boss collection editor Will Smale on Twitter @WillSmale1