Coronavirus has been hard on the overall business scenario. But, the upsurge in digital adoption during the pandemic has made software-as-a-service or SaaS-based businesses emerge stronger than ever. In fact, those that are coming up with innovative business models are expected to be resilient in the face of the pandemic. A clear example is, Clearwater Analytics, a global SaaS-based provider of investment accounting and reporting – that has continued to add clients and hire employees during these challenging times, especially with the sudden shift to a work-from-home model. The company has completed one year of its business operations in India and believes that its Delhi-NCR center plays a strategic role in the Asia Pacific region with access to a strong talent market and round-the-clock servicing capabilities. In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Warren Barkley, Chief Technology Officer, Clearwater Analytics, explains how the company has continued to grow globally, its upcoming growth and expansion plans for the India market and offers leadership lessons for tech professionals to survive and thrive in the new normal.
CXOToday: The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted industries and businesses across the globe. What strategies have you adopted to stay afloat?
Warren Barkley: The safety and security of our employees is our top priority. Clearwater Analytics took early action when the pandemic hit and had all 1,100 employees prepared to work from home before governments had implemented lockdowns. This included making sure they had adequate equipment and technological resources to do their jobs. We also work hard to ensure our clients continue receiving excellent servicing and timely data. Because we are a cloud-centric solution and have such talented, adaptable teams, our clients experienced zero disruption in the delivery of their data and reporting when the pandemic hit.
CXOToday: How are technologies such as analytics and machine learning powering the enterprise? Can you explain with some examples?
Warren Barkley: There are many parts of the business where machine learning is being used and applied by Clearwater Analytics. Data ingestion from thousands of financial sources is the key to our solution. Clearwater Analytics uses machine learning to import almost any form of data into our systems. From web scrapes to individual trade tickets, to PDFs, we use computer vision to convert the unstructured data into consumable data. We also use machine learning to evaluate and learn how our systems are operating and utilized. These models allow us to find delays in data handling and suggest improvements that allow us to deliver more accurate data to our customers even faster.
CXOToday: What kind of growth potential do you see in the India market? How are you creating a key differentiator with your service offering?
Warren Barkley: In times like these, when market conditions can be volatile, and regulations change, investment teams need a complete and up-to-date view of their portfolio. Clearwater Analytics’ cloud-based solution provides daily investment accounting and reporting to institutional investors, corporations, and insurance companies. Our system is flexible and able to handle multiple accounting bases and currencies, making it ideal for companies seeking to expand operations in new markets. India is strategically essential for us to achieve the technology scale envisioned for Clearwater Analytics. While our primary markets are the US and Europe, India will play a key role as we expand in the Asia Pacific region.
CXOToday: How do you plan to expand in India? Can you tell us about any new launch announcement in the pipeline in the next one year?
Warren Barkley: We chose to expand in India because of the large pool of highly talented and motivated technology talent, which is the key to building and operating Clearwater Analytics’ SaaS platform. We have hired aggressively during the past year and plan to double our workforce in Noida by the end of the year. Open job roles include software developers, machine learning scientists, data operations specialists, reconciliation analysts, and investment accounting experts. We have experienced, highly trained individuals on our teams in Noida, and they are integral to our core platform development and operations.
CXOToday: You have brought a vast amount of experience and learnings from tech titans such as AWS and Microsoft. How can you use those learnings to create a differentiator for Clearwater Analytics in India?
Warren Barkley: Microsoft and Amazon are successful because of their strong and innovative cultures. We are adapting many of the processes and mechanisms I learned there and are applying them at Clearwater Analytics.
If I were to summarize, the three most essential principles are:
- Be fast (we are almost always late)
- Look for AI everywhere (if it isn’t in every new product find out why)
- Be customer focused (we are here because of them)
CXOToday: Has the role of CIO/CTO become ever important in the wake of the pandemic? What could be the key priorities of tech leaders in such difficult times?
Warren Barkley: Some companies were ready to make the pivot to remote work, and others were not. If we learned anything from the pandemic, it is that enabling employees to work from anywhere is not just for employee satisfaction but required for business continuity. Being cloud-native is needed for this new reality. Security is more complicated and needs more focus to avoid extinction type events. Leading virtual teams is hard; if you thought you were communicating enough before, double it.
CXOToday: What are your tips to technology leaders to survive and thrive in the new normal?
Warren Barkley: I would tell technology leaders to hold weekly roundtables with line employees, which helps you to connect across the organization. Over-communicate the mission and vision of your organization. The business case for cloud-native systems is undeniable, so it is time to drive those on-premises applications to the cloud. Find unstructured time with your leadership to talk and plan. Machine learning is accelerating all aspects of the business – get on board.