Most individuals have by no means heard of a Swiss man referred to as Francisco Fernandez, however tens of hundreds of 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 chargeable for the safety of $four trillion (£three.2tn) of financial institution deposits world wide.
Mr Fernandez is the founder and boss of an organization that’s as little referred to as 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 methods are utilized by greater than 450 banks world wide, 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 severely, particularly defending banks from cyber-attack. To assist make its software program as safe as attainable, the corporate has a novel strategy – it pays know-how companies in Israel to assault it.
With quite a lot of hi-tech Israeli corporations 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 lively army service, and they’re good.
“We often appoint them to assault our methods in a managed approach, after which with their assist we attempt to make our methods bulletproof.
“We do our homework, safety is a continuing factor… we get hundreds of assaults per yr however to date, contact wooden, we’ve got by no means had an intrusion into our methods.”
For a corporation that immediately enjoys annual revenues of greater than $500m (£351m), Avaloq has come a good 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 employees, however Mr Fernandez had massive ambitions.
He says he had lengthy recognised that the software program utilized by most banks internationally was each overly difficult and unstable, but additionally too costly.
His concept was to supply an easier however stronger common software program system that could possibly be utilized by a number of banks.
So with a small sum of money coming in from a single financial institution buyer and a few extra consulting work, Mr Fernandez and his group 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 offered 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.
Mr Fernandez says that many individuals thought it will be a “mission inconceivable” for Avaloq to discover a purchaser for its new software program, however then due to 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 go well with. Abroad banks quickly got here on board too.
In the present day Avaloq presents banks two providers – the usage of its software program, or a extra intensive service whereby it additionally takes over the working of a financial institution’s pc system. Some 17% of banks (holding $700bn of funds) now go for the latter, which makes use of cloud computing know-how.
Avaloq makes its cash via persevering with licence charges, and aside from a 10% stake held by a Swiss financial institution, the corporate is owned by its workers.
Of its 2,500 members of employees, 500 are programmers. Along with a most important base in Zurich, it additionally has workplaces in Edinburgh and as far afield as Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
As an alternative of employees getting particular person bonus funds for hitting private targets, all employees get a bonus if the corporate meets its annual goal, be that income progress or prolonged geographic attain.
Antony Peyton, deputy editor of commerce paper Banking Tech, tells the BBC: “Avaloq’s success could be attributed to chief government Francisco Fernandez’s astute management, and the Avaloq Banking Suite, its core software program providing for personal banks.”
‘Fugitive mother and father’
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 determination to take a danger and launch Avaloq.
“My mother and father 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 baby 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, the most effective [universities] on the planet for pc 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