Interview with CEO Rob Heyvaert

The Next 10 Years

As Capco enters a second successful decade, CEO Rob Heyvaert reflects on key issues from the first ten years and looks forward to a future that he believes is full of promise for the global financial services industry.

Interviewer: Looking back on your first ten years with Capco, what have been the most significant developments?

Heyvaert: Without a doubt, I would say the rise of connectivity. It’s a fascinating example of technology driving a whole culture and a way of doing business. The speed and volume of global financial business now is simply phenomenal, compared with when I started in the industry.

Interviewer: Will this connectivity level the playing field? Or is it going to intensify competition?

Heyvaert: Both. It will remove a lot of previous obstacles to doing business. For example, straight through processing is going to become prolific. That will create opportunities to increase efficiency and strip out cost. The players who win that race will have a serious advantage and the right technology will make it easier to win. But, for every common platform that helps level the playing field, there will be institutions who still pull ahead. Because they have an uncommon strength in customer service. Or they are more innovative. Or they get to new markets faster. It’s going to be fascinating.

Interviewer: Was the Credit Crunch the defining moment of modern financial times?

Heyvaert: Yes and no. Yes, because a lot of people and major international businesses were caught up in it. No, because it didn’t spell the end of capitalism or even of financial services as we know them. It led to many positives, such as a more mature and holistic view of risk.

Interviewer: More mature and holistic in what ways? Isn’t heightened awareness of risk simply a reaction to a new age of tougher regulation?

Heyvaert: To an extent, but by no means entirely. Without exception, the clients we work with feel the expectations of compliance. They know they have to comply. But one of the most satisfying aspects of our work is helping them grow the realization that you can go “beyond compliance”.

Interviewer: Meaning?

Heyvaert: We call it the “silver lining” of compliance. It’s the insight that transparency, effective data and information management, the whole way you document and manage risk are about more than satisfying a regulatory agenda. This is more than a “box check”. It’s about creating a more commercially agile, more competitive operation. Get all this right and you will be running a better business. You will see revenue growth and profit. Compliance will be more than a by-product but it will just follow naturally.

Interviewer: Do you think the status of technology and operational issues has changed within the industry?

Heyvaert: When I started, I don’t think they had any status! Seriously, the Big Shift is that financial services are now a de facto information business - customer information and transaction data are the life blood. The corollary is that financial services are also an IT business. That means technology is a huge source of potential advantage. Our job is to bring technology into the role of “positive transformation agent”.

Interviewer: How do you know when you’ve done that?

Heyvaert: Our clients are measurably better able to do what they want to achieve. The danger is that when you combine a lot of big market drivers like mergers and reform with a lot of technology that never really grew out of a single coherent plan, you get complications. You need systems that cope so businesses can produce an optimal response. What you want in principle is simple: a higher performing business that can take advantage of opportunity and be resilient in the face of the fluctuations that happen in any market. What you get in practice is a road block. Complexity that breeds more complexity.

Interviewer: So, complexity is an issue?

Heyvaert: Complexity is the issue. It’s our whole raison d'être - or rather dealing with complexity is.

Interviewer: How do you deal with it?

Heyvaert: We have an approach that we call “complexity comprehended and harnessed”. It’s about understanding, and respecting, the individual elements that contribute to the complexity which exists today. Usually, it’s the outcome of decisions that were taken historically with the information available at the time. In good faith. People didn’t set out to fail. But events overtake systems. You need a special blend of knowledge and approach to sort it out.

Interviewer: What goes into the blend?

Heyvaert: More than anything, people who are determined to succeed. One of the things that makes me proudest about Capco is that clients literally say, “When you guys show up, I know everything will be sorted”. We have this unstoppable conviction that you can sort it and you can get an alpha result from even the most sub-optimal situation. But it takes experience. And expertise. I think we inhabit a unique “crossover territory”. We understand the growth drivers and the inhibitors. We understand regulation, and not just the rulebooks but the actual impact. But we also know what to do in a highly specific way to make a merger work operationally or to sort out a complex architecture, or whatever the real practical task is.

Interviewer: What does Capco want to achieve in the next ten years?

Heyvaert:
I want us to look back and say we made a difference to an industry that I believe we are a part of. I want us to be able to say we helped bring transparency to risk in finance and compliance. I want us to have played a role in making market infrastructure more accessible and better leveraged. I want us to contribute to a better banking platform. I want us to go on challenging ourselves to be innovative. Above all, I would like to think that Capco is always relevant - part of the answer and never the problem. A client said to me recently, “Cost is what you pay, value is what you get”. I always want us to create and deliver value.