At the inaugural Fintech Awards South West at Aerospace Bristol last year, Navos Technologies’ CEO David Davies was named Fintech Leader of the Year.
In this Q&A, Matt Hyde, managing director at Fintech Awards South West, chats to Davies, the former chief information Officer of FTSE100 Hargreaves Lansdown, about Navos’s journey, commitment to innovation, data security and the importance of strategic collaborations.
David, can you provide an overview of Navos Technologies and your offering?
Navos was founded in 2020. The technology business was born out of frustration when I was unable to find a company that could provide real world experience of effectively delivering digital solutions for financial services firms. This resulted in inefficiencies and delays given the regulatory landscape, but a concept for an exciting new venture.
Navos, a combination of two ancient Greek words meaning to navigate difficult waters and it seemed apt as we are meeting the needs of an industry where delivering digital change is sometimes presented with challenging headwinds.
Since inception, the business has opened two offices in Bristol, and continues to grow at pace. As the firm does not sell products, but helps deliver solutions, whether developing software systems from scratch, or integrating with the world’s most innovate providers, Navos is ideally placed to collaborate in a client centred approach and has built a track record of delivering. As a ‘one stop shop’ for technology, digital and cyber solutions, it is commonplace for our clients to be able to consolidate multiple IT supplier contracts into one, therefore reducing costs and improving service.
With over 150 years of wealth management experience in technology, aligned with a three-pillared approach of providing advisory, execution and support services, we find ourselves in a unique position aligned with a pragmatic approach.
Due to the approach of being able to not only strategically support businesses of all sizes, but support their evolution, through a fully UK based team, there is rarely a scenario we aren’t able to tackle. Something that excites each and every one of us here at Navos!
How does Navos Technologies foster a culture of innovation within the company?
Within the sector there are broad range of offerings, and fintech is seen as one of the most innovative areas of financial services at the moment, with the likes of artificial intelligence being just one of the topics of interest.
We not only live and breathe fintech, we own it, as in 2022 Navos successfully acquired fintech.co.uk and integrated it into the group. This now provides a super exciting foundation for individuals, firms, or investors, to pitch ideas and concepts to a group of likeminded technologists and experienced financial services leaders, to get things moving – whether through investment, grant support, or a combination of them both.
Internally we regularly run Hackathon’s (normally supported by copious amounts of pizza) to challenge our own thinking and develop our own ideas. The innovative thinking also stretches outside the office with regular social events, the most recent with us embarking on a ‘locked in a room’ challenge – which was fiercely competitive!
You will regularly see Navos at most fintech or industry conferences, whether presenting or attending to showcase our proposition. Innovative approaches that combine industry firsts such as truly hybrid solutions, using best of breed technology vendors, and a customised client experience for example, are just one example of our programme deliveries this year.
Navos is working with global platforms, providing services to retail investors and on a global scale. There has also been a huge increase in the number of financial advisory firms looking to evolve their existing propositions in order to be a step ahead. A regular piece of feedback we receive is such traction to deliver in the industry has been nigh on impossible until we came long – further supporting the gap in the market I identified. There are a number of hugely exciting projects underway at the moment which we are unable to outline in too much detail however we can say that there new products on the horizon that will introduce efficiencies to the advisory sector and established firms that will find them having the competitive edge. So watch this space!
How does Navos Technologies ensure that its products or services prioritise the protection of user data and maintain compliance with relevant regulations?
It’s a great question and one we are at the centre of most weeks. Cyber Security is continually evolving issue for every business, irrespective of size, and I am a huge advocate of firms having a pro-active approach. My view is that it much better for IT teams (or their technology partners) to find issues on their own watch, and resolve them, before the criminals do. Unfortunately it is common to hear responses such as ‘it’s OK we are all covered’, ‘it won’t happen to us’, or ‘we don’t have the budget to test’.
However, I can assure you that budgets soon become available reactively. Even more worryingly is that businesses have already been compromised, and they were unaware until we told them. So no, you’re ‘not all covered’, and it regularly costs less than some imagine to remain on top of what is likely to be the most prominent risk in any business. Only this year a number of high profile businesses were hit with large ransomware attacks, rendering them offline for days or weeks, so it begs the question, could your business afford to be attacked, and if not – what are you doing about it?
In reality, as I have had the privilege to sit on both sides of the fence, from helping run a FTSE100 business, to now supporting others to run theirs, I can often share my views on what has kept me awake at night. Insights that are rarely available but predominantly, these are cyber related, and rest assured cyber criminals don’t have to go cap in hand to a CFO, or take months to approve a PO, so the adversary regularly has an advantage.
Data privacy dovetails into this topic and with the prominence of digital solutions now in each of our phones, tablets, or laptops, it only takes a tiny slip to have profound effects. GDPR for example is still very much in play but is regularly forgotten. Not to mention the regulatory pressures of these non-functional aspects of digital programmes, which are just as important as a slick user journey – only for some, and not on every occasion.
Collaboration often leads to new ideas and solutions – are there any notable partnerships or collaborations that Navos Technologies has engaged in recently?
I couldn’t agree more, and given our position as an agnostic solutions provider, we pride ourselves in partnering with the best technology firms – on a global scale. Our proposition commonly incorporates multiple partners coming together for the first time to benefit clients, with Navos being the enabler, and system integrator. New ideas and concepts are discussed regularly and the art of the possible is now in the reach of most given that solutions are now being ‘born in the Cloud’ resulting in integration possibilities rarely seen before, together with an exciting eco-system of investors who see the possibilities of disruption through digital.
While I would love to tell you more about some of our recent projects, my lips are sealed until the products launch!
Ultimately, I feel that the wealth management and financial advice sector is where banking was 10 years ago. Challenger firms, whether through consolidation, or simply realising the opportunity are embarking on truly innovative projects – but for the first time I’ve ever known, these financial services firms are saying, ‘If we can’t find it, we’ll build it’. I know myself, my family and friends, would certainly do more with their financial advisor if the technology was better, a topic of regular discussion in the Navos office!
How does Navos Technologies stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and trends?
We are fortunate that our team consists of some of the most talented engineers, architects and technicians available and this means that staying abreast of changes within the sector is second nature to them. Being a nimble business focused on delivering, we don’t weigh ourselves down with bureaucracy or irrelevant meetings and writing reports – whilst others are doing these things, the Navos team is writing code, engaging in workshops and launching new products. A lot of us have worked in both environments and I can say for sure which one we all prefer to be in. This pragmatic approach regularly sees us using emerging technologies and concepts, and as alluded to earlier, we bring these to life through Hackathons – so we are certainly innovative in our make-up.
Commonly, the Navos team all understand the industry in which we are supporting, which makes a huge difference on how we add value, but also efficiency to projects. We also ensure that any new innovations are shared across the team to benefit clients, if we believe it will support a better outcome. Given our background, Navos has become the first port of call for the financial services sector meaning that we are hearing from firms first hand. This allows us to stay ahead of other companies that might think they are performing a similar role or indeed elements of the role which, I appreciate, is a bold, but true statement.
We are now the ‘go to’ for service providers, platforms and startups, looking to understand whether their products and services can succeed or what changes they might need to make, in order to appeal to companies they are targeting.
What steps does Navos Technologies take to promote diversity within its workforce and ensure an inclusive environment?
As someone who lives and breathes diversity and inclusion, this is an instrumental part of both how I work, and every aspect of the business. Imagine someone sat around a FTSE100 boardroom table without a university degree and perhaps the odd tattoo – well, that was me in a previous life.
D&I are spoken about but are they really part of a firms culture? Like really? At Navos it is – irrespective of beliefs, looks, or background, we embrace individuality, in fact, we encourage it. This is our business and it isn’t run by a library of HR policies or procedures, but through real life experiences, and allowing people to be the best version of themselves, in a trusted environment.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a diverse team around me and that is one of the best bits about Navos. Diversity, if done right, breeds different ways of thinking, working, and delivering, and with a culture that means I sit alongside the team in every sense, I am regularly challenged on ideas, which I love.
We are continuing to evolve in every way, and this will always be the case; to ensure that by recruiting the best people, Navos will go from strength to strength.