The Road to Success Begins with Secure Collaboration
When you’re a large, rapidly-expanding international company, it can seem like everything is running smoothly. But behind the scenes lies a challenge: poor communication can hamper even the most successful of businesses.
EFG Hermes is a pioneer in the financial services space across Frontier Emerging Markets (FEM). Offering traditional investment banking as well as a wide suite of non-bank financial products catering to retail, institutional, and corporate clients, we are a leading financial institution across four continents. EFG Hermes started in Egypt and over the years expanded into the GCC, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and North America.
We feel strongly about promoting our brand around the world, but promoting our people from within and hiring at the bottom is equally important. Because of this, our senior leaders have been with the company for a long time. That commitment and the dynamic environment is one of the reasons why I have been here for 15 years. I joined EFG Hermes a few years after graduating from communications engineering, and have worked my way up from an IT Help Desk Engineer to become the Head of Corporate Information & Communication Technology.
Even though we aim to have the greatest market share in every country we enter, that competitive spirit is balanced against a fun, friendly working environment where I get to learn from leading financial experts and other colleagues. EFG Hermes isn’t just my employer; it’s also a business school where I get to learn new things every day.
The Missing Piece
Despite doing many things well, we faced a challenge with virtual collaboration. We tried various teleconferencing systems, but none had a complete vision for their solution. When it came to interactive video, audio, and screen sharing capabilities, it seemed to me that most vendors only offered two of the three. They also weren’t fully integrated with other systems in our company, which led to interoperability issues.
Because we have a physical presence in four continents, collaboration is vital for day-to-day communication. Without it, we could have seen a lack of communication and a disconnection in the ideation process between various teams. And due to the types of financial trades that are a part of our business, we needed a scalable solution with near-zero delay.
A Complete Vision Emerges
Last summer, we finally found one solution that looked like it could do it all: Cisco Webex Board. We went all-in on these three-in-one digital whiteboards, placing one in each of our meeting rooms.
The immediate feedback from users was very positive. The high-resolution touch screens and clear audio and video make you feel like you are meeting face to face, eliminating the typical communication barriers of virtual meetings. Moreover, when the coronavirus pandemic led businesses to close offices and switch to a work from home format, it made perfect sense to deepen our investment in Cisco Webex.
Because Cisco Webex is cloud-based, it integrates well with every one of our systems. That results in a more interactive, secure platform that we know we can trust. As a financial company, information security (InfoSec) compliance always comes first in our list of priorities. We perform InfoSec audits internally, as well as rely on major auditing houses to perform audits externally. There are many cloud services out there, but Cisco Webex provides the most complete InfoSec-compliant environment for collaboration.
Being Well Prepared for the Unexpected
During COVID-19, Webex helped us continue doing business, despite the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in markets where we operate. The beauty of Cisco’s cloud solutions is the ease of deployment, which was especially important since we needed to get up and running immediately. As soon as we realized our employees and clients would be working from home, it only took 24 hours to order the licenses and onboard employees.
Webex’s user-friendly interface meant that both employees and customers adopted the platform quickly. With such easy navigation, there’s no training required, and the learning curve is not steep. Features like recording meetings, sharing files, keeping minutes, and sharing desktops have been crucial to the work-from-home scenario.
Another big success was our Virtual Investor Conference in June, which required Webex adoption by our corporate clients and market leaders. Every spring, we typically hold the largest FEM-focused investor conference where we connect our clients with the biggest companies in the market. Of course, in-person events were off the table this year. Instead, we moved to a virtual format, bringing together the leaders of 72 companies from fourteen countries with more than 480 institutional investors representing 160 institutions managing assets in excess of USD 15 trillion. The result: thousands of high-profile meetings taking place from start to finish.
We used Webex Meetings to host the event. When attendees heard that the first Virtual Investor Conference would be hosted over Webex, they felt very comfortable, because of Cisco’s excellent reputation for secure, reliable solutions. Again, implementation was very easy. It took only two or three days to integrate Webex’s cloud conferencing system with EFG Hermes’ event management platform. That would have been very difficult to achieve with Webex’s competitors.
This year, we also held our first virtual assembly meeting, where the EFG Hermes board of directors meets with our shareholders. The experience was amazing: everyone experienced seamless video and voice quality, and shareholders were able to participate from wherever they were.
Since implementing Webex, we have seen a nearly 85% increase in our day-to-day use of collaboration tools. In the fall of 2019, we had about 50–70 video participants. During the pandemic, we saw that number jump to 109 participants in March, 1,200 participants in June, and 9,362 total participants in September. Looking at another measure, we logged 6,348 video minutes in September 2019, and half a million video minutes during June 2020.
On every metric, we are seeing at least three times the demand for collaboration from the same period last year.
A Model That Scales to Meet Our Needs
After our first Virtual Investor Conference, we received a lot of positive feedback from our corporate clients. Not only that, but we had to scale up our solution so that the people who we couldn’t accommodate would be able to attend the next event.
One of the amazing things about the Cisco cloud service is its pay-as-you-go model, which allows you to scale up in no time. Right-click, and you can expand your number of licenses; later, you can also right-click to downsize your footprint. This helps us reduce costs and rationalize expenses as needed.
We also used this model as we planned for our Second Virtual Investor Conference, a substitute for our The EFG Hermes London MENA & Frontier Conference, which we usually hold in fall of each year. For that, we would not depend on anyone but Cisco.
Webex has made our collaboration faster, easier, and more secure. It’s eased the headaches that other collaboration solutions put on the IT department. It’s also given us more time to innovate, think about our digitization strategy, align our functional strategy with our corporate strategy, and empower our business to achieve our corporate goals. We now have instantaneous communication between our staff and clients, which allows us to better accommodate our clients’ busy schedules. Webex has broken down those geographic barriers that used to exist between each of us in our different locations.
The New Shape of Industry
I don’t think we will never go back to the in-person communication style of the past, even after the pandemic passes. The global adoption of digital collaborative solutions has reshaped how companies think about business all around the world.
Our user experience with Webex during COVID-19 was amazing. I even see some departments being more productive than they were before. We’ve seen a reduction in resources—time and human—because people are more efficient.
Many organizations scrambled to put videoconferencing and collaboration solutions in place in March, and for good reason. But even if you did, or if the collaboration solution you chose isn’t the right one, it’s not too late to change. It is always the right time to reevaluate your needs and pick a solution that best suits your business.
Do not settle for anything less than the full picture when looking for a solution, and avoid wasting time with separate systems. Unify your strategy and look for the most secure tool on the market. We found that with Webex, and you can, too.