Two years after deciding to leave Fedil to take control of its fintech Seqvoia and put it back into orbit, Nicholas Buck was almost tired of people looking at him with somewhat naive admiration, as if he were the head of the famous American private equity fund Sequoia. “If I was the head of a company that manages $85 billion, I would have gone to California a long time ago!”
Behind the good word to which the entrepreneur never gives up, he understands that he must do something to give a clearer image to fintech, to make his strategy understood, to highlight the values that he wants to promote. “Seqvoia is a software company that is pivoting towards a world that is more solution-oriented than product-oriented. We are talking about multiple solutions which are assemblies of technologies and it was necessary to create a brand which carries the solutions, modular according to the needs of the customers”, he explains.
“The name ‘Aventerra’ has a ‘we’re moving forward’ side to it, but we’re moving forward ‘here on dry land too’ and customers appreciate that with us. We asked our clients how much the company was worth. They replied that the technology is very good, but what interests us above all is the seriousness of the people. It is the continuation of the strategy between building it, making a link between where the products are invented and managed, and the major financial centers like Ireland and Luxembourg.”
Palana Services to support Seqvoia
And once the new name was finalized by a specialized agency, Nicolas Buck realized that “the client did not want to take care of the technology himself, so he asked to do it for him. Either you give it a technology, it’s Seqvoia, or you do it, it’s Palana. This is the second pivot, which is particularly strategic, the creation of an outsourcing services company, Palana Services, which is managed by Benjamin Collette, one of the leading experts in managed services. We have imagined cross-shareholdings between the two companies with the Colette brothers, who of course have a past, associates of Deloitte, the great leader in the managed services market in Luxembourg.”
Once the information of the day has been laid out, in his direct style, the man moves on to more intimate matters. “It is also a pivot for me insofar as I am taking the step of outsourcing for the first time. There is ambition. We don’t mix people. Mixing everything is a source of conflict and you always have to keep an element of innovation. Sometimes, you have companies that do service that could be automated by technology, so they don’t really play the game. The service requires you to first recruit experts who above all have “business” skills. Customers are looking for these skills first, without really looking at what’s going on behind them. Above all, they want a result. Do you do this with technology or an excel file, they don’t care except when there are errors. And the big difference in our association is that we come from the software world and when Palana is going to use our software, the client will have access to the software for a lot more transparency.”
We have seen big leaders, who have lost market share due to a lack of rigour, being bought out. There is still a major battle currently between Kneip and Fundinfo in terms of the distribution of this product data.
He sold rigor in his software, he will sell rigor in his services company. “Regulations are increasingly restrictive in terms of outsourcing. We are going well beyond the framework of support PSF, the regulated entities will increasingly have to show how they make their choices, what the risks are, have they done their due diligence… Many activities can be delegated in asset management. The regulator watches that all of this is done correctly. We have seen big leaders, who have lost market share due to a lack of rigour, being bought out. There is still a major battle currently between Kneip and Fundinfo in terms of the distribution of this product data. With Avanterra, we position ourselves rather upstream of asset management for the management of data in our organization and not necessarily outside. These companies must have a register of “product” information. Luxembourg is a center of products, you need technology to manage products.”
On the full cycle of financial products
With around fifty people at Avanterra – around ten in London and 40 in Luxembourg – and a dozen people at Palana, the dual company wants to gain market share in a profitable way. Position yourself as an alternative to the market. “Knowing that the leaders, the Big Four – it’s not slanderous to say it – always have this problem of independence! They do auditing, tax advice, regulatory advice, outsourcing… At some point, there will be limits to this development. And the market will need neutral players. Deloitte really developed because it did not have the same problem of independence, the shares of PwC were so important at the level of the audit, they had a door to develop, ”he assures shrugging his shoulders, at the same time he calls to remember the story.
“We need multidisciplinary people who can very quickly begin to immerse themselves in a specific problem. And that has always been the big advantage of the Big Four: the multitude of talents and their skills are an inspiring model, they know how to manage knowledge. When we have a new subject, we put ten people on it and we move on. Lawyers have the same competence. For me who comes from techno, it’s very interesting. Interested, curious people, in a complex world, are rare resources,” he acknowledges. But “Palana is run by a former Big Four executive who understands how to develop staff and take people who come from the University and who we will train quickly. It’s more complicated in the classical world.
Both rocket stages are in place for launch and will be in orbit in about 36 months. “Outsourcing and technology mandates are fairly long cycle mandates, but clients in the financial industry are fairly loyal clients,” assures Nicolas Buck.
“If you were looking for a short sentence to start, he repeats in an almost professorial tone, say that our companies deal with the digitization of the life cycle of financial products, from ideation to distribution and at the end of the product, in silos today. OK?”