Financial institutions have forgotten their core role of safekeeping for their clients in an era when data is rapidly advancing as the world’s most precious commodity, Acronis CEO and co-founder Serguei Beloussov tells finews.
Serguei Beloussov, between 10 and 20 percent of your clientele is part of the financial services industry. What’s been the emphasis for them during the crisis?
It’s been a combination of client protection, but also increasingly remote offices and keeping everything on many workloads safe.
So how much did Acronis benefit from the crisis?
We have continued to grow, and are slightly above target on new business. We usually distribute through managed service providers, which small- and mid-sized companies use to manage their infrastructure. Because of that our business is highly scalable. We went up during the crisis – but maybe not as dramatically as, say, Zoom.
Speaking of Zoom, some banks have banned its use for security reasons. We’re speaking on a Zoom call now – does that mean it is secure?
The lion’s share of the video-conferencing market is held by Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and Zoom. None of them is secure or private without software like ours added.
What vulnerabilities do you see in the financial services market?
A big one is banks restricting how their employees communicate with customers. Restricting doesn’t make it more secure. People walk around security, because the secure methods are too inconvenient. It’s important for banks to make sure that your employees and your customers are communicating in the most productive way possible. If not, they will find a more productive way – which might be insecure.
What are other weak spots?
Banks are only secure if the customer is secure. So they have to make sure that the customer communicates with them from a secure device. If not, everything they do about security is a bit bogus. Banks have been talking for about 15 years about helping their customers to secure their devices.
Most private banks have secure digital applications.
It’s not just about the application – it’s also about advising your customer on how to secure that mobile phone, or that desktop, to be able to communicate. Security officers at banks tend to think, if somebody hacks into a customer’s device it’s not a problem for the bank. Legally, it’s not – but in practical terms it certainly is. What is the customer suffers a financial loss because of a hack?
What can banks do about this?
People go to banks for transactions or investments, but I think the role of safekeeping is a bit forgotten. Banks can be much more of a security and safety protection advisor to customers. Specialized security companies don’t necessarily understand the nature of this relationship as well as a bank does.
What are your financial targets?
We’re at about $600 million in revenue and our target is to grow by about 50 percent this year.
What kind of mergers or acquisitions are you looking at?
It’s always about cyber protection: either making ours better via a privacy, security, safety company, or a combination of those. We also look at companies that enhance our partner offering.
What about a stock listing?
Our financial investors like Goldman Sachs will be looking for an exit, and we will be too. I think it’s healthy for the company to have liquid shares – it’s easier for mergers and acquisitions or because we need to motivate our people in our business with shares. There is no rush. Not this year or next. Maybe 2022 or 2023 – with the current situation it’s hard to predict.
Serguei Beloussov is CEO and co-founder of Acronis, a Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based cyber protection firm. The fintech firm last year hoovered up $147 million in financing from U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs. Beloussov, who holds Singaporean citizenship, has founded or co-founded several firms including Qwave, a venture capital firm focused on material science investments. The 48-year-old holds a PhD in computer sciences from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.