30 Great Places to Work 2019
In the desire to earn greater returns, financial institutions help to funnel money to the most successful businesses, which allows them to grow faster and supply even more of the desirable goods and services. This is how financial institutions greatly contribute to the efficient allocation of economic resources.
SmartStream provides Transaction Lifecycle Management (TLM®) solutions and Managed Services to dramatically transform the middle and back-office operations of financial institutions. Over 1,500 clients, including more than 70 of the world’s top 100 banks, 8 of the top 10 asset managers, and 8 of the top 10 custodians rely on SmartStream’s solutions.
We have Haytham Kaddoura, CEO with us who can help us understand more about the company.
How did you get the business idea?
I certainly couldn’t take the credit for the business idea, the business started before I came onboard. SmartStream has a long and rich history, and much like many technology companies it started with a solution to a problem and SmartStream pioneered the concept of automating the reconciliations process for financial institutions. Many of the talented people who have helped influence and shape the business are still working with us today – not many technology companies have managed to retain this level of industry knowledge. I kept a watchful eye on the business before I approached the company and led the acquisition of the business for the DIFC in 2007. I was initially a Board member before being appointed as the CEO in 2016. During this time I have led the growth and development of the business, firstly we started a reference data business in partnership with leading banks, which I’m pleased to say has gone from strength to strength –the SmartStream RDU provides high quality reference data with the adoption of best practices, whilst meeting regulatory requirements for over 21 global institutions.
In addition, we purchased a collateral management business to further bolster our TLM (Transaction Lifecycle Management) suite of solutions; we now offer a complete end-to-end processing platform for the middle- and back office. More recently, I would say one of my biggest achievements to date, and one that I’m very proud of, was the launch of the SmartStream Innovation Lab in Vienna. This was announced last year and we’ve been incredibly busy. We employed a team of highly skilled team consisting of applied data and computer scientists to investigate how data is processed for financial institutions, data which we have gathered for more than 30 years.
A company’s mission is its reason of being. What is your company’s mission? How far have you reached in fulfilling your mission?
SmartStream’s mission - “To deliver innovative and reliable solutions that enhance the operational efficiency and efficacy of our clients whilst positioning us as an integral element in the success and happiness of our partners and our people.”
The business is built on SmartStream’s market-leading position in reconciliations processing and has been growing organically and through strategic business acquisitions, and today deploys solutions for the middle- and back-office of financial institutions. SmartStream has a strong and enduring relationship with many of the largest and most demanding financial institutions in the world. They consistently rely on our products and services in the face of fierce competition from our rivals. I would say we are definitely delivering on our mission.
How is your organization best place to work? Cite with instances.
With employees in 25 offices across the globe, we have a rich and diverse talent pool, which in turn inspires a great deal of creativity. Many of our employees work in global teams which require and foster a strong sense of connection and ongoing conversation between colleagues. Employees are often given the opportunity to travel for work to meet both clients and colleagues. We actively encourage this connection through other initiatives such as the quarterly global employee newsletter, which promotes global collaboration across the offices and teams with ongoing projects and organizational news.
We adopt a model of standardizing where it makes sense and adopting local practice where that is more appropriate. Becoming the best place to work is not about one single initiative, delivered in one single way. It is about doing lots of things very well in different places, sometimes in different ways but always respecting local practices and cultures. For instance, our operation in India, consisting of a 600+ strong team deployed across offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Jaipur are inspirational in how teams can work together to services a diverse client base–which is shaping our global business and social agenda.
Do you agree that creating a strong culture of engaged employees is essential for attracting and retaining talent and also enhancing productivity?
I would totally agree with that statement. A measure of our success in engaging our employees is the success of our employee referral scheme. Our employees get a financial incentive when people they recommend join us as employees and pass their probationary period. This is a major source of new recruits for us. It is comforting to know that in our employees survey, 87% of our staff are happy to recommend friends and family-members to join us. This is the sincerest form of feedback.
We are always looking for new ways to engage our employees and enhance the employee experience. We regularly review our performance management process and we have recently implemented a global recruitment system to improve recruitment, the candidate journey and streamline onboarding.
Do you believe that a healthy workplace will strive to give its employees meaningful work?
In our industry you must constantly innovate to ensure that our products remain market-leading. Our employees are engaged in new innovative technologies every working day. The challenge and stimulation we provide explains why we have so many long-serving employees.
What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?
The main reason for our reputation as a market-leader is the way in which we consistently strive to deliver quality solutions and services for our customers. We build relationships with our customers and have become trusted partners rather than mere vendors. We have been working with some customers for more than 20 years and they continue to innovate and improve their operational processes with us.
‘When people are having fun, they work together better and they produce better work.’ How do you interpret this saying?
People like what they are good at, and are good at what they like. We endeavor to make our working environment engaging and sociable. We host annual employee fun days in many of our major locations. In addition, we make use of initiatives like pair coding where two employees work on the same code at the same time, thereby making it a both more sociable and more productive. We also make extensive use of agile methodology.
Are you open to challenges and risks? Because great workplaces always welcome complications to excel.
At the moment we, along with much of the technology sector, are working on Blockchain and artificial intelligence projects. These new technologies have the potential to revolutionize how the world operates, and in our day to day lives we are already active participants, sometimes unknowingly. It is challenging to be a pioneer in these areas but they do present the opportunity to embrace fresh-thinking and new ways of working which in turn give the opportunity to excel. As a company we embrace these technologies and are investing heavily in these projects.
Haytham Kaddoura has been the CEO of SmartStream Technologies Group since May 2016 after serving as a member of its Board of Directors since 2007. Mr. Kaddoura brings over 20 years of experience in investment advisory, asset management, corporate restructuring, strategy formulation and execution for boards of some of the most prominent corporations across the GCC and the greater Middle East and North Africa region.
He started his career working with leading management consulting firms, including; Accenture, Booz Allen and Hamilton, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BearingPoint; advising corporations such as; American Express, the Abu Dhabi Offsets Group, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Dubai Aluminum, and Qatar Foundation.
Mr. Kaddoura holds a Masters Degree in Finance and International Business and a Bachelors Degree in Computer Sciences.
"In our employees survey, 87% of our staff are happy to recommend friends and family-members to join us"