One-to-One with Geezeo: James Elwood, Chief Technology Officer, Geezeo

August 24, 2017
James Elwood

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in financial services and Fintech about where the industry is headed, sometimes the most fascinating insights are revealed. One-to-One with Geezeo is an ongoing series that gives our friends, clients, and partners an opportunity to share their experiences and their knowledge to gain an idea of where this exciting industry is heading. In this installment we talked with our Chief Information Technology Officer, James Elwood about cloud services in the banking industry.

Geezeo: How long has Geezeo been using Amazon Web Services and why did you choose that as Geezeo’s cloud service?
James: We’ve been on the Amazon Cloud since our early days in 2007. We elected the cloud computing because it provided a relative easy way to establish our operating platform. I wanted simplicity in accessing servers, building storage and databases and establishing a broad set of application services over the Internet. We needed to trade capital expense for variable expense.

We traded the building and supporting of data centers and servers, for the flexibility (and constraints) of only paying for how much we consume. This decision still holds true as Amazon Web Services (AWS) gives us the option of expanding capacity with remarkable ease. Scale and simplicity were two significant influences in our move to AWS.

Geezeo: What are some of the considerations a bank or credit union should make when deciding to move to the cloud?
James: First let me say that many of the largest financial institutions already are in the cloud and using AWS.

An executive at a client bank told our CMO that it took nine months to deploy a new physical server at the bank because of the myriad of required departmental approvals. Once they moved to AWS, their internal software development team was able to set up and deploy a server on Amazon in a day.

Infrastructure planning and acquisition should not be a barrier to problem solving and product development.

Geezeo: What is holding back some financial institutions from moving more towards to the cloud?
James: Conventional wisdom is that companies in regulated industries such as financial services are avoiding public cloud like the plague, has already changed. I do, however, feel some bankers are worried about risk associated with outsourcing file and data management to a third party, however, these are organizational challenges.

Many of the tools you need to secure data in flight and at rest are present in places like AWS, and often are far more easy to implement and maintain. It is a matter of finding a similar path and adjusting longheld policies and procedures around chains of custody, logging, and access controls that are rooted in a history of hardware defined history (I still get asked about our physical offsite backup tape policies).

Some technologists still fear a loss of physical control over their data. What developments should they be aware of, that should offer them comfort?

Banking industry technologists know that they must optimize all critical aspects of their operations. This includes retail delivery models through risk management. The consumer has changed and banks and credit unions are looking for a foundation for long-term innovation and growth. The AWS Cloud provides access to the largest, most robust ecosystem of consulting and technology partners and business solutions to elevate your organization’s performance. You access as many resources as needed and only pay for what you use, without large upfront investments.

Geezeo: You do a lot of traveling in your free time. What is your favorite aspect of traveling and do you have a favorite destination?
James: The people. It’s cliche, I know, but the absolute truth is that I want to connect with the world around me and find our commonalities. My favorite moments have been sharing laughs with a complete stranger where we cannot speak each other’s language, or the joy when you finally make it to a place that you’ve only been reading about for your whole life.

My heart is in Costa Rica. When I started learning Spanish I fell in love there, and not just with the country, and have been making many friends and memories with each visit.

Charged with managing the overall enterprise architecture and security of the Geezeo product suite, James Elwood focuses on providing the most secure and stable platform possible for Geezeo. A member of the Ping Identity SaaS Advisory Board, James is a graduate of CCSU and the Phoenix University MBA program. In his rare free time, he can be found chasing his daughter from behind his camera or raving about the latest obscure album he stumbled upon. James has a new found love for Costa Rica.

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