Gearing Up for Canadian Success: Unveiling Trask’s Blueprint with John Armstrong

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Expanding the company abroad is certainly not an easy task, especially given that there is a lot of competition in these new markets. So we asked John Armstrong, Trask's expansion leader for the Canadian market, to share his outlook and goals for the near term.

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John Armstrong, Independent Consultant and Strategic Advisor to Trask

Hi John. What initially inspired you to join Trask? What unique qualities or opportunities do you identify in our company?

I had the opportunity over the last few months to get to know Trask and to work with my friend John Weisel to think about how we would help you get into the North American market. And I have been very impressed with several things.

First, I think the skills in the firm are excellent, especially those around technology, integration, and application development. And the second thing is that I believe Trask has the assets and solutions that are very relevant to the North American market.

These are assets that are very hot right now in the market. Know your client, onboarding, API management for Open Banking are just a few I would note.

As a senior advisor to Trask, what unique opportunities and challenges do you see for the company in Canada?

First, Toronto is North America's second-largest financial services market. So it is a huge market for financial services, and, along with New York, our initial focus for entry into North America.

Toronto is headquarters to five of the biggest banks in the world. We have three of the largest life insurance companies in the world, and our pension funds in Canada are also amongst the largest in the world. We also have many other potential clients in the mutual fund space and so on. And, as I said, I think the solutions that Trask has developed, and the experience Trask has with clients in Europe, will be very relevant for the Canadian market.

With your extensive knowledge of the Canadian market, what key advice would you give to any company looking to expand operations?

First, when we talk about Trask entering and focusing on financial services, as I mentioned, it is a large financial services market. Hence, the market is attractive. And the capabilities Trask has are very differentiated in the market. Things like Open Banking and Payments for example, where Europe is ahead of Canada, so we can bring that “been there, done that” experience.

At the same time, any firm looking to enter the market has to ensure that it is focused. You cannot be all things for all clients. So any firm, and we are no different, needs to concentrate on where they stand out. Then you need to execute flawlessly and start to build a reputation. Related to that is the need to hire really strong people in the local market. And we have a plan to do that.

What solutions will be of the most significant interest to the financial services market?

I mentioned a couple of them - you have something called PSD2 in Europe, which is open banking, and we have not got that here yet. But it is on its way in the next 12-18 months.

That is an area where Trask has supported clients in Europe. You have worked with clients on Open Banking solutions, both with Fintechs and large banks. Those experiences and assets will be very relevant for banks and fintech in Canada to say: “OK, you guys did that in Europe, now help us in Canada.”

Another topic I am very excited about is Intelligent Automation, where you have done outstanding work. Banks are doing that, but they are not finishing the journey. I think being able to help banks and other financial institutions with intelligent automation is critical.

How will the role of technology continue to drive the business change agenda for the financial services industry?

The Financial services industry, probably more than any other industry, is driven by technology. People say that a bank is just a big technology company that happens to take deposits and give out loans. Technology can be a key differentiator for banks.

Things like mobile banking applications, the use of AI, the use of straight-through processing, low-code, and those kinds of things have all been happening over the last decades in terms of technology innovation, and that will keep on going. So again, AI will be very prominent in the banking space, in both the back office and front office and in areas like risk, finance, customer support, etc.

Cloud is another area that is moving rapidly. Banks and other large firms need to develop a clear cloud strategy, to understand where it fits and where it doesn’t. The banks here still all have large data centers, and on-prem will be dominant for a while. But as they build new applications and do things around AI, those are all cloud-driven solutions. And if you look at things like Salesforce, Service Now, and other as-a-service applications, those are all cloud-based. So,I think migration to the cloud is a crucial trend.

Can you share with us your vision for Trask in Canada over the next few years?

Right now, we are making our name known in the market, reaching out to potential clients, and saying this is who we are, and this is what we have, and it is going very well.

We are getting lots of interest from clients like banks, other financial services players, and potential partners. By partner I mean other consulting firms that perhaps do not have that offshore presence, do not have that Central Europe capability, and maybe do not have the technology skills to provide what clients are looking for.

And that is going very well. I would target having 7 to 8 core clients in the next 24 months that we are doing a significant amount of important work for and solid revenues from these clients, and then go from there.

I think we also want to start hiring top talent in Canada. We want to bring on teams with the requisite skills that can work in a complementary way with the folks back in Prague. We are already sourcing and talking to strong consultants we can bring in because we really want to have a hybrid model for working with clients where we have people on the ground in Canada.

These local folks would support our delivery teams in Prague. And that makes it, from an economic standpoint, very attractive to clients, and from a delivery standpoint, it makes it easy to work with us.

I would love to see 300 to 400 people in Canada in four years. Let's say that is a reasonable number to support our European delivery capabilities. And that probably makes us a $75 million or so a year business in Canada.

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