It was officially announced at the Annual General Meeting on 31 May: Marika Lulay, previously GFT Chief Operating Officer, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO), thereby assuming leadership of the company. She succeeds Ulrich Dietz, who after 30 years in office is now becoming Chairman of the Administrative Board. In our interview we spoke to Mrs Lulay about her plans for the future of the company.
Mrs Lulay, first of all a personal question: how do you feel as the new CEO of GFT?
We’re holding this conversation today in Stuttgart, but I well remember my first day in the tranquil town of St. Georgen in the Black Forest. That’s now 15 years ago. I’ve experienced at first hand how our workforce has increased fivefold over the course of the years and how we’ve grown into a global team with operations in twelve countries. This hasn’t always been easy, but throughout all these years it’s above all been the challenge of continually developing and regularly reinventing myself that has motivated me time and again. I’m now taking up a new position that allows me to develop even further and lead a company that’s close to my heart – so of course, that’s a great feeling!
What will change under your leadership and what will remain the same?
What will definitely not change is our focus and our raison d’être: GFT is and will remain the leading technology partner for the finance sector. This means that we offer customers worldwide first-class technologically and tailor-made solutions. Another constant factor is that we want to grow more rapidly than the market. We want to continue our international expansion, based on our own strengths and through strategic acquisitions. To this end we’re continuing to work with our proven nearshore delivery model, which allows us to combine cost-effective, highly qualified development teams with an individual consultation service on location at the customers’ premises. A significant innovation in our management structure is the introduction of a Group Executive Board that reflects and supports the company’s international focus.
What exactly does this Group Executive Board look like, and what are its tasks?
We established this Group Executive Board to reinforce our international presence and cooperation between the countries. With CFO Dr Jochen Ruetz from Germany, Managing Director Alfio Puglisi from Italy and Managing Director Carlos Eres from Spain – and with me – we’re also demonstrating our internationality at executive level. Furthermore, as heads of the four company divisions Strategy & Markets, Global Business Development, Global Delivery & Innovation and Corporate Services, we’re also responsible for the ongoing development of the global corporate strategy. I’m convinced that this cross-border, interdisciplinary management structure will establish a foundation for our continuing success. We also complement one another, forming a strong leadership team with specialist know-how.
What topics will GFT concentrate on under your leadership?
In the course of digital transformation, new technologies are radically transforming a wide variety of sectors – and this doesn’t only apply to finance. But here too, topics such as cloud migration, artificial intelligence, blockchain and Industry 4.0 are releasing enormous potential for the development of innovative services and new business models. We’re fully engaged in these topics, and together with our customers we’re setting out to make the best possible use of this potential. One example of this is our GFT blockchain incubator in the United Kingdom, in which we’re already testing various applications – in fact we’ve already launched an initial project with the Royal Bank of Scotland. Our experts frequently discuss and report on the potential opportunities for blockchain.
Could you name some further examples?
Everybody is talking about cloud technology these days, and for good reason: it will be increasingly become an important part of how firms manage their IT operations, new developments and innovation in the long run. And we’re also making this move with our customers. We couldn’t be in a better position for this, because not only do we have experts in this field, but we also understand the complex situation that banks find themselves in when they decide in favour of the cloud. This significant factor fundamentally sets us apart from our competitors. We can carry out the complex migration of individual IT systems efficiently, taking into account all the idiosyncrasies of the finance sector, thereby successfully modernising the IT landscape for any bank. Incidentally, for a bank, the move to cloud above all means cost savings, and can also offer advantages in terms of agility and productivity.
A further example can be seen the field of artificial intelligence. In Germany, the robo-advisory market alone is currently growing by 20 to 30 million euros per month. In addition, big data and cognitive banking are not only helping to release existing customer data, but also to process and structure this data, using self-learning systems able to make ‘intelligent’ decisions.
Payment interfaces are also becoming increasingly relevant in this era of Industry 4.0. These days, no line of business can do without customer-friendly processing of financial transactions. The worldwide market potential here is immense.
What do you see as being at the centre of the company itself?
The finance community is familiar with us as a technology partner and sector specialist, because we know the market, know our customers’ IT systems and always keep up to date with the latest trends. This image must also of course be reflected within the company: our employees in both consulting and development use efficient methods, work with the highest quality standards and thus enable appropriate new technologies to be identified and integrated. As I’ve already mentioned, both global thinking and local action are a constant focus for us. Let me put it this way: customers are given transnational support even though GFT doesn’t operate in every country of the world. For our internal structures, this means that all processes are rigorously adapted to the customer’s needs, which requires a certain degree of flexibility on the part of the whole organisation and our employees. Our employees and their know-how are and remain our most valuable asset, which is why we want to continue to extend our international knowledge management. The same applies to our career model; personal development at GFT can take place beyond the borders of individual countries.
Thank you very much for this conversation, Mrs Lulay! We’re eager to see what the future holds!
On 1 June 2017, Marika Lulay took over the reigns and became GFT’s new CEO. For even more insights, watch this video, in which she shares her vision for the future of the company and talks about the beginning of this new, exciting journey.