What are we doing in Krakow?
We are setting up a new technology hub in Krakow, EQ Tek. The primary objective is to build world-class client facing applications. While this will be our main focus in Krakow, we will also be building internal applications and have a number of other engineering teams based there.
I've set up offices all over the world in the Far-East, the Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe and, in my experience, Krakow is one of the two or three best centres in the world for technology innovation and application development. Few people know this but, while Krakow has a population of only 750,000, it has about 200,000 students, most of which are studying science or engineering. Not only do they turn out a number of fine graduates each year, but Krakow is a real hub of technical innovation and entrepreneurship.
A number of premier tech companies have already established a presence in Krakow. This is great news as they provide a good pool of experienced talent for us to tap into, while not exhausting the good supply of talent on the market themselves. The important thing is that we create the environment that will attract, retain and grow the best talent. And so, we have set up the office to not only be a hub for our own technology but to be a hub for the tech community in Krakow. Our office is designed to be welcoming and accommodate tech events, such as meet ups, which are common in the centres like Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, London and Krakow. We plan to be a spiritual home for technologists in Krakow.
Tell us a bit more about those meet-ups. What happens at those Kevin?
Technologists are smart, well educated, curious and collaborative. They are constantly looking for better solutions, tools and ways of thinking about and approaching problems. Having these qualities in abundance is a requirement if you want to remain relevant in technology. So, on-going personal development is essential. Often, technologists find that, after their initial tertiary education, most of what they learn is from peers. And so, these meetings of technologists are a key way of both learning continuously and contributing to the technology community oneself. Technologists feel a strong bond with other technologists and they like to share with and learn from each other.
What will the site specialise in?
The site was established primarily to be a client application development centre. But it will also be home to a number of other technology teams across Infrastructure, Architecture and Security.
What will this mean for end customers?
Krakow for us is all about providing the very best technology experience for our customers. Customers really care about the here and now experience on their phones, tablets and PCs and our team in Krakow will be focussed on providing the very best experience for our customers.
I bank with a major retail bank in the UK. I love their mobile app. I can do everything I want from it, anywhere, anytime. I don't think too much about what is going on behind the scenes, other than my data and assets being secure. But what I really care about is what I can do on my device easily and quickly. And optimising this experience for our customers is something that we need to really specialise and excel in.
With the Krakow development team, what will that mean for end users?
It will mean richer, more powerful, nicer to use applications that evolve and improve continuously. We are assembling a team of highly creative and effective developers from financial services, gaming, sports betting and other technology-led B2C sectors that have a strong focus on both application usability and security. It is all about delivering the best user experience in a very safe way.
So why now?
Honestly, any time would be a good time to sharpen this focus as long as it’s soon.
But a major driver of the timing for us was the acquisition of the business in the US last year. We spent most of last year, and much of the first half of this year, bringing their systems in-house and integrating them with our infrastructure, systems and processes. This was a massive focus for us as we needed to do this securely and without creating client inconvenience or any risk to security or systems availability. This was our top priority until the second quarter of this year. But now that this task is behind us, and very successfully so, we are focussed of the enormous opportunities that this acquisition presents to us. Our colleagues have very ambitious product roadmaps for both delivering new services to our clients and for delivering existing services to them in a much better way. And all of this requires significant, new, client-facing product development.
Simultaneously, we have ongoing demand from our UK businesses for more client application development.
We decided to make this a key core competence of ours and to significantly increase our focus on, and investment in, this right now. We decided to, rather than “adding some people here and a few more there” to build a new facility in the heart of one of the best talent pools available anywhere, and that is what we did – as soon as the integration of the US business was behind us and we could move on to the next chapter of the story.
Who will the site support?
The site will support all of our businesses globally. We have already established teams supporting EQ in the US, our Boardroom and Paymaster businesses in the UK and several of our EQ Digital businesses. The site is about the “what” and the “how”. The “who” is the whole group and all of our customers.
In terms of UX (User Experience) technology, are there any really exciting aspects that we are looking at?
Absolutely. But I am afraid that you will have to wait and see what we do. I am not one for announcing to other market players what we are doing before it is done.
Suffice it to say that we have assembled a team, that we continue to build out, of the very best from Gaming, Sports Betting, FinTech and other high transaction, high security, often highly regulated businesses that offer great user experience and they are very busy right now on our next generation products.
What's your favourite thing about Krakow?
I love the energy and the vibrancy of the city. It is an ancient and very beautiful city, still with cobbled streets, and yet it is bustling with smart, young, creative, energetic technologists of the highest calibre eager to show the world what they can do. I just love the energy, creativity and enthusiasm – backed up by a solid academic foundation.