June 2011: Cloudy with a Bit of Thunder

Victor Anderson, editor-in-chief, WatersTechnology

There is little doubt that for many in financial services, cloud is the future. For London-based Majedie Asset Management, which has no technology whatsoever within its four walls, cloud is the present. But that doesn’t mean that cloud—which, for all intents and purposes, is the most recent, most sophisticated and most pervasive version of the application services provider (ASP) model—is free of challenges, the two most pressing of which are security and reliability. But these flaws are more perceived than actual, although anyone with a marketing background would counter that assessment by insisting that consumers’ perceptions are their realities.

Simon Hazlitt, responsible for Majedie’s technology and one of the firm’s cofounders, addressed both of these points at Waters’ recent London-based European Buy-Side Technology Summit. In his post-lunch address—unquestionably the most challenging time-slot in terms of holding delegates’ attention due to the residual taste of coffee and the ubiquitous desserty-type things that follow any half-decent conference main course, accompanied by the feeling of bloatedness and heavy eyelids (admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about)—Hazlitt contended that Majedie’s nine-year-old cloud strategy had actually enhanced the firm’s data security. Not only that, but he also recounted the four outages that Majedie had experienced since its 2002 founding, arguing that a few hours’ down time over a period nearing a decade is a significantly better track record in terms of reliability and robustness than any buy-side firm running its own technology.              

I’m not for a moment suggesting that cloud is a panacea for all financial firms’ technology challenges. But if you’re a startup and enjoy the luxury of a greenfield site, and have a relatively simple business model, there’s not a single reason why you cannot and should not look to the cloud for your technology provision.

There’s a truism that goes: It’s not what you say, but how you say it. This is especially pertinent to Hazlitt, a brilliant orator who has become a regular on the UK conference circuit, although he hastens to add his involvement is more altruistic than using these engagements as marketing opportunities. (In case you’re wondering, Majedie’s funds are now closed and the firm isn’t on the lookout for additional institutional mandates.)  

During his address, Hazlitt used a number of often amusing analogies to illustrate cloud’s revolutionary potential, the most memorable of which demonstrates the notion that it’s not cloud per se that will enable the business, but rather the business’ use of cloud that is crucial. “It wasn’t Da Vinci’s paintbrush that made him special, was it?” Hazlitt quipped.

Touché, Mr. Hazlitt.

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