GTT: Out of the box and into the cloud – Rick Calder

Across Europe, the move to digital banking services is sweeping through the financial services industry as banks strive to derive more value from their data, create better customer journeys and improve efficiency. Data centres are key to this strategy and access is increasingly achieved through cloud-based services. Future Banking speaks to Rick Calder, CEO of cloud-enabled network provider GTT, about how banks can access the cloud in the most secure, efficient and reliable way.

Digital services are redefining the banking industry and to achieve the flexibility, responsiveness and data capacity required to stay at the cutting edge of a customer-oriented business model, banks need more IT capability. They want to achieve it, however, without the potentially enormous expense of installing new systems, so they are increasingly turning to the cloud.

Cloud-based services not only offer the agility that enables banks to respond quickly to changes in customer requirements but also the possibility of implementing a single network for voice, video and data, and doing so in a cost-effective way. The regulatory pressure to ensure customer data is kept secure, however, makes some banks hesitant about using the public cloud. Some choose cloud service providers (CSPs) to handle their cloud requirements yet there are alternatives out there that could offer not only better performance, but also greater security than in the public cloud.

"In any organisation - but particularly those in the financial services space - every CIO is beset by the need for more data bandwidth. This is driven by some big trends, not least of which is the need to provide access to public internet utilities - the public internet is growing by 20-30% every year," says Rick Calder, CEO of GTT. "The size of files being transferred between data centres and other business locations is also growing exponentially, especially in financial services, so organisations need a bigger pipeline.

"There is also a compelling trend for moving IT applications outside the business and accessing them through the cloud - that has become the really big driver now. Financial services lags behind other industries in this because it understandably has issues with using the public internet," he adds.

Vision of data

Considering GTT's broad portfolio of network services - quite apart from its growing number of financial services clients - Calder has a clear vision of how the company can help overcome the challenges of the banks' growing data burden, and their concerns about security when accessing cloud-based services and applications.

"GTT is a cloud networking company that offers a better way to reach the cloud. It is not a data centre business, a software company or a cloud services provider. We provide a way for businesses to securely reach IT applications through the cloud. We can help financial services organisations access cloud-based services over a secure network so that they are not using the public internet," Calder explains.

The first of GTT's four key areas of business is the operation of its global Tier 1 IP network that connects to any location in the world and with any application in the cloud.

Its cloud networking services provide a better way for many multinational clients to reach the cloud with confidence in the security, simplicity, speed and agility of its services.

"We provide a large internet backbone - one of the top five in the world - and we provide services to big carriers and to large corporations that may have many branch locations. Our second major focus is intra-company communication through our EtherCloud services, which allow secure and direct connection between sites anywhere in the world - including data centres - to enable the sharing of information between them as easily as over a local network. We also provide managed services - including managed router and managed security solutions - and we can provide access to any secure corporate network from a mobile device or PC," Calder explains.

"We also provide a secure payment systems backbone for the processing of card transactions, and finally we have a wide range of voice connectivity products, including VoIP, global SIP trunking and hosted PBX solutions. In short, we provide services to any corporate location anywhere, and provide secure access to any data centre or CSP that a company chooses to use. Around 70% of our revenue comes from multinational companies and of that proportion around one quarter is from financial institutions, so the industry makes up a significant part of our total revenue," he adds.

A different path into the cloud

GTT's strategy is simple - provide ubiquitous network connectivity to any location in the world and with any application in the cloud, expand cloud networking services to multinational clients and deliver outstanding client experience. Its connectivity is based on over 250 points-of-presence (PoPs), located in over 300 markets including the top 56 metropolitan areas. This underpins its ability to deliver private, public and hybrid cloud network solutions across the globe.

The location of its PoPs in the world's top data hubs - where cloud service providers such as IBM Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure host their services - ensures fast, reliable and direct connectivity to leading CSPs to support reliable performance for mission-critical applications and services.

"Another big advantage we offer is the extensive diversity of our internet backbone. Fibre and cable trunks will fail, so we provide multiple options. We encourage people to have two or three access points. We don't own the 'last mile' connectivity but we work with over 2,000 providers who do. That variety ensures security of access for offices and branch locations," explains Calder.

"GTT is not a CSP, but we provide our clients with access to their CSPs because all of them are present on our backbone. That is part of our diverse offering to ensure our clients get what they need," he adds.

Calder's claims are backed by an understanding of how important guarantees of performance are to financial institutions. GTT's approach to service level agreements (SLAs) reflects the need to cater for the desires of clients in heavily regulated industries such as financial services, and allows for much flexibility in determining the specifics of SLAs.

"We don't have rules; we have business processes that can be redrawn to suit our customers," Calder notes.

A company that knows its customers

GTT's track record in the financial services space has given the company a keen understanding of banks' needs in the era of the cloud and the challenges they face. Its client base in the sector encompasses a diverse range of organisations.

"We provide cloud networking services to a wide range of multinationals - connecting them to any location and to any application in the cloud - but financial services is right in our sweet spot. We might be competing with other telecommunications companies - BT, Verizon or AT&T, for instance, that provide access to the internet - but we are easier to do business with, our services are fast and inexpensive, and we want to say yes. It is as much about our culture as anything else," says Calder.

"We always start with a new client by addressing a specific pain point such as a data centre or a new branch location. Once people try us, they are quick to abandon the incumbent. All of our clients started small but they grow very quickly in their engagement with us."

In the US and Europe

Although the majority of its clients are based in the US, GTT has a strong presence in Europe, where it is looking to grow its share of the market.

"When I joined GTT in 2007, its turnover was $50 million, and revenue was balanced between the US and the rest of the world. We have grown the business organically and through acquisition; it is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has revenues of over $400 million with prospects to grow rapidly in the future. The last three acquisitions have been mostly centred on the US, so Europe and Asia-Pacific only make up 20% of our revenue now, but Europe remains a key market for us," explains Calder.

"Use of the cloud is an inevitability and it is driven by economics. Internal data centre operations now have competition from much cheaper options that involve moving IT applications outside. Of course, there is a need to maintain security but we offer a solution for securely accessing the cloud with stability, agility and with a cost profile that grows on a flexible rather than a fixed basis. That is why financial services institutions are getting on board with GTT," says Calder.

Banks have little choice about whether or not to embrace cloud-based services but GTT has shown that they do have a choice about how they access them.

Rick Calder, CEO of cloud-enabled network provider GTT.