The Currency of Cloud

A pioneering cloud service is helping some of the biggest companies in the world reduce their risk exposure around foreign exchange transactions - with Europe part of the plan Originally posted on TelecityGroup.ie. logo-telecityWith some multinationals losing up to 80 per cent of their earnings due to foreign exchange rate volatility, little wonder that many of them are eager to adopt technology solutions to mitigate the risks. FiREapps has been one of the biggest beneficiaries, attracting a slew of heavyweight customers that includes Google, Pfizer, Accenture and Ericsson. The firm has been around since 2000, though chief executive Wolfgang Koester will point out that the first four years were largely spent in research mode. The game-changing move came in 2006 when the company took all of its expertise in managing risk and turned it into a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution. In the process, Rim Tec – short for Risk Management Techniques – became FiREapps. Up until then, the business had been about co-sourcing solutions with mid-size companies, reducing their exposure through consultation and data analytics. The firm became an early cloud mover when it identified a way to go global and target much larger companies. “It was about seeing the service through our customers’ eyes and coming up with a much better business model where they didn’t have to install software onsite and have people managing it,” says Koester. “We can offer our services to anyone, anywhere in the world, and get them up and running in a month without ever going onto their premises.” He compares this with monolithic ERP systems and treasury solutions where it can take a year to get an implementation working properly. “That’s a ridiculous timeframe in today’s world,” he says. “Corporations just don’t have a year to solve a problem.”

Business case

FiREapps has combined classic cloud selling points with a solution that has direct benefits to the bottom line, a sweet pitch with a compelling business case. For such a savvy and focused company, it’s no surprise that classic cloud bugbears were addressed from the outset. The firm was encrypting on-the-move data long before it was a regulatory requirement. “We have kept ahead on security from the beginning. For most companies, security is a trade-off. They tend to spend a little less on it and more on their core product or services, and just hope that it will be enough,” Koester says. “For us, it’s core to our product and we have to continue to invest. We have to stay ahead whereas most companies settle for the status quo.” Because FiREapps is easy to integrate with other products, clients can pull in raw data from multiple sources inside their firewall – everything from forecasting software that might be as simple as a spreadsheet, to complex ERP and treasury systems. Then they push the data out to the cloud for contextual analysis, opening a pathway to executable decisions that will immediately benefit the bottom line. With year-on-year growth of 40 per cent since 2012, and plans to expand the 70-strong workforce as it opens offices in the UK and Germany, FiREapps has achieved success through a killer combination. The platform conforms to a simple SaaS delivery model but all the years of research have given it a rich capability that has made it a market leader, according to Koester. “The only thing every company has in common is that they have a completely different approach to managing foreign exchange risk,” he says. “We have built a very flexible, self-service platform that interacts and executes on the data the way our clients choose. That was the major breakthrough; that’s why we have companies all around the world using it.”

TelecityGroup partnership

When the time came for FiREapps to extend its footprint into Europe, one data centre emerged as the partner in waiting. What steered the company to Ireland and TelecityGroup was expert advice. In its early days, FiREapps used a US hosting company that it liked enough to acquire. As the software-as-a-service model evolved, the team became a trusted part of the business and was dispatched to Europe in search of the perfect host. “There were key elements that would drive their decision-making: it obviously had to be a secure and robust environment; we had to have the ability to manage it remotely and, like any other business, it had to fit it in with our cost model,” says Gage. The team came to Europe to investigate the market, carrying out physical inspections and talking to prospective providers. A shortlist of three data centres was drawn up. “From a service, security and value perspective, TelecityGroup came out top by a distance. The others were not even close,” he says. According to Gage, it was much more than having the required levels of ISO certification and management accreditations. TelecityGroup ticked these boxes but it was its partnership approach that was the real difference. “Our clients demand very thorough security reviews and every one of them has different processes, so our architecture is designed to continually adapt. It's key for us that TelecityGroup can fit in with that,” he says. “If a customer has a specific requirement or question about the data centre, I need to know that someone in TelecityGroup will have the answer.” The relationship is flourishing as TelecityGroup fulfils a valuable role for FiREapps as the business moves forward. “We needed a data centre with a responsive team that would be an extension of our business. Our top clients view our data centre as part of our overall offering, so whoever we chose had to mesh well with us and ensure we could maintain our track record of success,” says Gage. “With TelecityGroup we have a world-class facility that can do this.”