In 2020, the world experienced a digital acceleration which had a massive impact on technology consumption. Mobile adoption soared amongst consumers, as did the importance of verifying identities, transactions and interactions online. As digital ecommerce grew, a wealth of new online accounts and services appeared across a wealth of industry sectors with digital strategies needing to adapt and looking to specialists for data and technology support.
While the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and it's now-prominent long-term effects, organisations such as GBG are working hard to provide safer ways to operate in a digital world using data & technology. It will also see us step in and support companies whose technology foundation isn’t fit for purpose and work to drive the new hybrid digital operating model we’ll all have to become accustomed to.
In a time when most transactions and interactions have moved online, businesses are looking for technology to offer secure transactions, manage compliance, and enhance the user experience.
Meet GBG’s chief technology geek
With a career spanning over three decades, it is only fair to mention that GBG’s technology office is in the right hands. Speaking of the role of the CIO on a board level, Mamone says "Previously, technology often felt like the second class citizen, the silent operational business enabler, whereas now, and especially with the barriers to entry being lowered for our customers, my role has become a key boardroom strategy and talking point.” Mark’s position and that of his near 350 strong global technology department has taken centre stage – whether it's the CTO driving the technology strategies and reviewing the next emerging trends, to the engineering teams who build the products and eventually the cyber security teams protecting data. The team is focused on the customer to engage and make them feel safe, secure, and valued with their technology decisions. The conversation starts at the CIO level, where Mamone feels at home; he loved to code as a child, and still does as he is currently learning Rust and researching ‘mob programming’, so is happy to talk tech at any point. However, he also sees the bigger picture and the compliance accountability required to make decisions that affect the use and control of data mindfully.
A leader focused on collaboration and respectful challenge to drive tech change
Mamone's leadership style is that of the 'Participative Leader', meaning he recognises the value in working together to reach decisions on solutions, ensuring he has the right team supporting him with the best collective capability. Mamone uses respectful challenge to encourage a sense of healthy and empowering debate within his team whenever he can. He is a firm believer that successful leadership comes from autonomy, and Mamone feels his role lies in effectively mentoring his team, providing the guide rails for them to make the right decisions, and becomes autocratic only when necessary. A motivational leader and technical visionary, Mamone has spearheaded the strategic data and technology evolution at GBG, firstly to help cope with the pandemic and then over the long term, is setting the strategic focus for the delivery of a technology approach that keeps data at its core.
More power in data than ever before: the root of tech transformation
COVID-19 saw global business fast forward ten years or more into the future which had a huge impact on technology transformation. It required prioritisation on data access and securing it against a growing threat landscape, as well as reforming IT to ensure seamless access is available anywhere and at any time.
Mark feels this new digital platform is focused on two key drivers – the emergence of data alongside technology delivery that supersedes any human interference.
With data, Mamone and his team at GBG are clear on the responsibilities it has surrounding the use, care and availability of digital data , "When we think of data, we think of it from different perspectives. The first thing is making sure that we don't let our customers down on the care we put around that use of it, but also the trust that our customers place upon us in terms of securing their data." To meet this demand GBG has built two key operational initiatives – privacy by design and security by design. Privacy by design is orientated around the different rules and regulations, and remaining diligent about compliance so that customers understand what data is available and how GBG uses it and for customers legal rights surrounding that information are preserved. Security by design is making sure that security is “shifted left” and thought about from the outset and designed into our products and our processes, meaning consumers can be assured of the security of the systems and data and that the right level of protection around it is applied.
When it comes to the technology Mamone points out that it’s the foundation to manage user data. The right technology works to ingest the data received and then enhance it in a way that is usable and beneficial to the user. GBG uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to take data and by using advanced algorithmic techniques, create intelligence insights and value that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, enabling a level of accuracy & quality that’s beneficial to its customers and their consumers. Speaking of GBG’s key differentiator and competitive advantage however, Mamone adds that there is a human element that sits atop the whole machine learning ecosystem. He says “There are a variety of different techniques that we implement for human engagement; for example when you look at automation and the use of machine learning, we introduce human checks and balances into that process where it is sensible to do so, especially early on as we're proving out a new algorithm that we've built.” Human checks are integral in identifying and synthesising behavior signals, and oftentimes, these aberrations can be overlooked by machines. A common use case is for our products to highlight something as suspicious, for a human-in-the-loop to then check. However, humans can introduce disadvantages as well. At GBG, Mamone and his team understand that with human involvement comes a risk of introducing bias into the data pool, and this bias can unintentionally create havoc in how that data is then synthesised. It’s for this reason that we take special care in considering such impacts and explore solutions to avoid it.
Security remains key to trust in a digital world
GBG continues to invest in security, to enable customers, deliver frictionless digital experiences, whilst eliminating fraud and compliance risks. As the operating environment shifts again to a more hybrid model GBG supports customers with a best of breed toolset and partners to meet evolving customer demands. It’s that flexibility that serves us well and sees us build long-term partnerships with our customers, who ensure that users can transact online securely and confidently.
Partnerships: an open source to technology
Equally, with partnerships, the expectation is bi-directional, with Mamone adding that they let the experts be experts and this is the key to a successful strategic alliance. Moreover, choosing a partner that fills a need for the organisation also frees up time for the organisation’s resources so they can focus on fulfilling their objectives and meeting their goals without worrying about the logistics involved in building an infrastructure from scratch. For example, using cloud partners, such as AWS, Azure, Google has given GBG a presence across a number of markets, and that has helped it penetrate and serve locations that were previously not under its purview or jurisdiction. “Our ability to grow globally, and to satisfy more specific requirements like data sovereignty would have been much harder without the relationship with cloud partners.
They can and will always do better in all the geographies that we operate'' adds Mamone. The elastic nature of their scalability means GBG can save time, money and grow with their customers. Mamone says “The big cloud partners can accommodate considerable volumes that we see through our products – but it also means that when we don’t need an environment to be up and running, we can switch it off, reducing cost.” GBG’s focus lies on the application layer and building a great product, so we sit on top of that infrastructure and focus on the functional sides of the microservices that bring our products to life, helping GBG operate smoothly and seamlessly across borders.
In a way, GBG looks at strategic alliances as an open source to technology, where partners are brought on board to help GBG meet client needs that sit apart from their core offering. This ecosystem of partnerships helps GBG remain true to their customer’s needs while also providing the best version of their product without compromising on resources and time.
Fast to transition to remote working - GBG is now supporting customers to do the same
As many organisations are now adopting a workplace culture to meet the new normal, GBG has also introduced initiatives that look at the overall wellbeing of employees at the current place of work – their homes. Mamone adds “We worked hard to ensure that individuals have the flexibility and are empowered to drive their own agenda and schedule.” Mark runs the largest team at GBG, and so any and all business-specific strategies have been introduced in one way or another by the office of the CIO. Keeping in mind the macro-economic landscape that COVID-19 has now presented to the world, customers want methods that are safe, secure and seamless. This growing move to online means that products by GBG need to be able to cope with concerns of reach, security, compliance, scale and speed. To do this, GBG leveraged the cloud and the very latest technologies within that cloud such as event-driven architecture, micro-services, containerisation and functions as a service (FaaS).
Speaking about trust and the backbone GBG has to play in that, Mamone emphasises that now is not the time to be complacent, adding further "You could have argued that Polaroid or Nokia had their respective markets sewn up. They didn’t. You could argue that there was no marketplace larger than Walmart – you’d be wrong. Tesla has disrupted Space. Amazon, online retail. Netflix, online media. But if you think these can’t be overthrown, you’re wrong. It’s going to be hard but in the current climate, nobody can be complacent - we certainly aren’t. That’s why we focus on our team members and the customer, with data and technology at the core of who we are. This is valued by a growing global customer base looking for secure solutions that can evolve to help them prosper and grow. It’s ever changing, and we’ll never get complacent.”