May 19, 2020

ClusterSeven: architects for holistic and strategic risk management

Brittany Hill
6 min
ClusterSeven: architects for holistic and strategic risk management

Henry Umney, CEO of ClusterSeven discusses industry trends and his predictions for 2020.

Could you tell me a little bit about your company and your role at the company?

We provide Shadow IT solutions for compliance, risk management and governance to Fortune 250 companies and to the banking and financial services sector. A third of the world’s top 30 banks are clients as well as multiple leading insurers, investment managers and energy firms. 

Organizations deploy enterprise IT systems for business operation, but equally many business-critical processes reside in Shadow IT (non-IT supports applications – e.g. spreadsheets, databases, business intelligence systems, etc.). These applications and processes form a significant part of financial institutions’ ‘business-as- usual’. The Shadow IT tools are popular with end users, because they are easy to deploy, powerful, and can quickly address important business issues often involving business management, portfolio management, product development, management and regulatory reporting. 

However, the user-maintained applications are typically uncontrolled and unmonitored, and so pose a threat to organizations’ operational resilience. For instance, poor-quality data, entered directly or acquired from a linked spreadsheet can impact the quality and value of a model or calculation, materially affecting the availability or performance of a business service or offering. Our solutions provide a framework for control of the Shadow IT environment, which today is a regulatory requirement. 

In my capacity as CEO, I’m responsible for the general management of the business including its P&L, developing new strategies for growth, relationships with clients and partners and everything in between. 

What are the current trends within your industry?

Evolving regulatory scrutiny on internal and auditory controls is the most prominent trend today, not just in the US, but globally.  For example, the Federal Reserve has recently highlighted that while the US banking and financial services sector is sound and profitable, there are inherent “non-financial weaknesses” that could potentially jeopardise the operational resilience of institutions. The Federal Reserve’s latest Supervision and Regulation Report 2019 highlights these issues as matters requiring immediate attention (MRIAs), referring to internal controls around IT governance and risk management. Other regulators too are demanding that institutions pay attention to model risk management, data management, IT infrastructure, internal auditory controls and such. Examples are SR 11 7, MIFID II, Solvency II, IFRS 9, BCBS 239, SOX and SS 3/18.

Balanced against this are the economic drivers facing US institutions. With low interest rates, and strong competition, growing the bottom line depends on managing the cost base very efficiently, while innovating with new products and services to increase the revenue base. Banks are investing heavily in their modelling function to help deliver both these, using them to explore areas to develop new services, while using scalable data and analytics, and leveraging automation to drive efficiencies. These efficiencies are aimed at helping make the best use of scarce and valuable modelling teams, while also enhancing their productivity and business value.  

What makes your company competitive?

Our solutions can help organizations identify, monitor and mitigate operational risk emanating from unstructured and uncontrolled use of Shadow IT. What makes us stand out is that we are completely industry agnostic and so our solutions are deployed across sectors and business lines. 

Our solutions are not department specific but have been architected for the enterprise. This helps our customers adopt a holistic and strategic approach to Shadow IT risk management and governance in order to strengthen the areas of “non-financial weaknesses”, as the Federal Reserve calls it. 

The core value of ClusterSeven comes from its ability to combine expertise, experience and functionality to address a range of intractable, but critical business issues. We enjoy long term relationships with our customers, so are in a good position to provide practical advice about how their implementation of our platform can be utilised to support a change to their business.  

This expertise also extends to our extensive partner community, that offers a range of complementary services to help customers solve complex technological, operational and commercial challenges. These challenges can go well beyond our core areas of expertise. 


Our relationships also extend to working with industry Associations, including the American Bankers Association and Financial Managers Society, to educate their members about options open to them in resolving their current array of issues. It also provides us with their unique perspective on industry issues, which we discuss further with customers and prospects. 

What innovations has your company been developing during 2019?

The most exciting project we have been working on in 2019 is preparing for the launch of our new Model Risk Management (MRM) solution, which will take place in Q1 2020. We are launching an innovative approach to MRM that takes institutions away from the large enterprise GRC platforms often pressed into service for MRM environments. The solution will provide agile MRM capabilities that will allow users to implement a comprehensive MRM environment in weeks, not months or even years. The customers we have worked with to develop this approach have provided excellent feedback and recommendations that we have incorporated in the solution. This collaborative approach has also helped us to understand their challenges in more detail, and we are very grateful for their support and insights. 

What are your predictions for the industry in 2020?

Geo-political, regulatory and technological complexities will make model risk, operational resilience and SM&CR key focus areas for the banking and financial services sector and indeed more widely across industry in 2020. 

Modelling will become central to commercial operations, making model risk management a constant business theme. Due to general uncertainties in the geo-political landscape – trade wars, Brexit, Middle East tensions, etc. – these events are likely to cast a shadow over the global economy. With reports signalling a slowdown, business operations will look to their modelling teams to seek opportunities outside of its traditional remit, placing a heavy reliance on this niche function. Alongside this, with the availability of advanced machine learning/artificial intelligence-led tools, firms will look to leverage them to gain operational efficiencies, which again will place a reliance on technical staff who are familiar with these technologies.  The multifaceted economic, business and technological complexity will create the perfect storm, greatly increasing the risk of modelling errors, which potentially could have crippling commercial and regulatory consequences. This will make model risk management important as organisations will need to take concrete measures to pre-empt commercially impacting errors and evidence best practice model management to auditors and regulators.  

With most regulators demanding ‘operational resilience’, organisations will need to take a joined-up approach to regulatory compliance, as opposed to the siloed methodology that exists today. 

Interestingly, the UK’s Senior Managers & Certification Regime (SM&CR), which is the first of its kind in the world and potentially the strongest regulation of people in business thus far – will begin to be adapted by regulators globally, including the US. Already, countries including Australia, Canada, Singapore and Ireland are considering ‘light’ implementation of the regulation. This regulation enforced individual accountability for senior executives in industry.  

Is there any exciting news you’d like to share with our readers at Business Chief USA?

Alongside our new MRM solution, we will be working with Chartis, the respected industry analysts, who are researching alternative approaches to the challenges of MRM, that do not necessarily involve vast IT project and budgets. We will be exploring the points raised at the GFMI Model Risk Management Conference in San Francisco on 29-31 January 2020. The report will also be available from the ClusterSeven website in due course. 

For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief USA.

Follow Business Chief on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Share article

Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

Share article