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#226 Financial Services in the Cloud: Chief Information Officer CIO, Mary Cecola, Antares Capital

Financial services has lagged other industries in moving to the cloud. As cloud computing gains greater acceptance, financial services organizations are adopting cloud in greater numbers.

In this episode, we talk with one CIO who has adopted a cloud-first approach to computing and IT. Mary Cecola, the Chief Information Officer of Antares Capital, explains her approach to cloud computing in financial services.

Michael Krigsman is an industry analyst and host of CXOTALK.

We are grateful to Avanade, the largest professional services firm supporting the Microsoft platform, for underwriting this episode.

For more information: https://www.cxotalk.com/episode/cio-report-cloud-first-financial-services
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From the transcript:

Michael Krigsman:

(05:21) You say that cloud is not just infrastructure, and would you please elaborate on that?

Mary Cecola:

(05:28) Yeah. You know, as we started moving more and more things into the cloud, we did choose Azure heavily because we wanted to be extremely mobile. The Antares deal teams and the employees here are mobile. They’re fast. They’re dedicated. They can move through and close a deal in 6-8 weeks. So, we wanted to really give [them] mobile technology. So, we are committed to the Microsoft Suite here, front to back with Skype, and everything else to give them that on the road. We also then decided to do virtual desktops in the cloud, and we have our virtual desktops leveraging Citrix in the Azure cloud.

(06:06) We chose to use OneDrive instead of a local drive and share drive. Instead of share drives, we use SharePoint so they really have all the tools at their fingertips wherever they are. As we kept moving, it almost became a challenge. We moved our first things into the cloud. We still talked about having a datacenter and having some things, but it almost became a challenge: “How much more could we put there?” And, I will say now that we are fully in the cloud, 100%. We have our desktops, we have all of our servers, domain controllers are out in the Azure cloud. And one thing you find is it changes your business model with your business.

Michael Krigsman:

(09:41) What’s that like to be CIO in this kind of very, very different environment?

Mary Cecola:

(10:04) Yeah, it’s really exciting. I mean, 1) Antares is an exciting place to work for. One of the guys I hired recently said, “I love this place because you can really get things done!” So, 1) We have an environment where we’re moving quickly. We have a team that’s really committed to being technology innovators. But, also, one reason I’m so committed to being technology-forward and making sure we didn’t repeat the sins of the past is when you’re in a really large organization, just keeping your desktops up to date, staying in the most current version of Office can be so difficult! And, the way that we’ve done this with 365, we’re on the latest version all the time. We receive the updates. We don’t have those kinds of problems.

Michael Krigsman:

(11:03) So, of course, I have to ask: What are some of the challenges that you discovered as you were making this, I was going to say, “cloud-centric, cloud-first migration.” But it wasn’t a migration. It was a construction.

Mary Cecola:

(11:17) It was. And, our timeline was so small coming out of GE, you know? I’m meeting these… Basically, it [the timeline] was fourteen months when I was hired. By the time staff was in, you had twelve months to really build every layer of your technology and go live. And we did meet our date on that. I think that it was a really interesting challenge, and I think being… You could say it’s “cloud first” but we did build the entire thing in the cloud.

(11:48) Some of the challenges we had with that, though, is tools you were familiar with, or maybe companies you were familiar with dealing with, they weren’t ready. A lot of people tell you they’re prepared to be in the cloud, but you have to dig into that and get under the covers. Some of the tools that we wanted to use, and that were Microsoft tools, weren’t ready yet. So we had very honest conversations with Microsoft. We knew where they were on certain things, but we had to use other tools in the interim. And now, we’re migrating over.

(12:14) So, I think some of the challenges we’ve had, and you’ll find when you’re in the cloud, is that vendors you might have used before that you were comfortable with, you have to look at them again. Some people you know might not be as open-minded to it. And, you know what? We find a lot of fun and interesting problems, but having a team that likes to take those on and says, “No, let’s not step back. Let’s keep moving forward.” That is one of the key things you’re going to need to overcome challenges.


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