When you think of a CEO of a global software company, what comes to mind? A visionary mastermind? A motivational leader? An individual who is decisive yet approachable? SimCorp has not only nabbed themselves someone who fits this bill, but goes above and beyond the standard blueprint.
Christian Kromann joined SimCorp three years ago, taking over as CEO in September 2021. He spoke to us about some of the measures he’s taking to continue pushing the company to keep with the current times. Given that the last few years have not exactly been usual or predictable, this has presented its own challenges, although Christian seems to always be able to view it from a positive angle.
When we spoke to him, Christian told us he believes that SimCorp has positioned itself well over the years and this is what is allowing it to continue with its success. “In many ways, SimCorp is one of the few companies in our small industry that has done it right over the years and not bought competing solutions and tried to integrate them, but continued to invest in a front to back vision.”
So how has he gone about making his own mark on SimCorp and at the same time differentiate himself from the other CEOs out there?
A key change Christian has made since taking on his role as CEO is to mix up the management team and this shuffle is something of which Christian is particularly proud and which he feels has led to a more common goal across the company. Whilst he admits that his strategy is not vastly different from that of his predecessors, he describes it as an acceleration of the old strategy: a boost to the direction in which SimCorp is heading and one that he plans to execute swiftly.
Around the time of Christian’s promotion last year, the market was seeing a significant adjustment to the way that it saw the future of Software as a Service (SaaS). He explains that back when he started at SimCorp in 2019 he observed that clients did not place SaaS high on their agenda, but the change in attitude since then has been huge and now everyone wants to go through the transformation to SaaS – something which Christian was excited to advocate when he became CEO. Although unsure whether this can be put down to Covid or the maturity of the Cloud itself, Christian highlights the fact that this has resulted in the largest shift in SimCorp’s corporate direction in his mind.
But in order for SaaS to grow, a large investment will be needed as well as more automation than ever before, resulting in the decision to merge professional services with the SimCorp SaaS team and leading Christian to question how far they need to take Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) if SaaS does manage to take off in the way he predicts. This is where SimCorp points out that they provide more than just BPaaS but rather Technology Enabled Business Services such as the Investment Account Service (see our review of this service here). He sees this new focus of gaining as many new clients as possible in SaaS, as well as moving current clients over to SaaS, as a key opportunity for SimCorp’s continued success in this new “post Covid” era. “The big question at the end of the day is: how does SimCorp believe it can make money out of SaaS and Technology Enabled Business Services? By that, I mean how much can we automate, how much can we scale, how much can we use Azure and how much can we standardize? How can this arsenal of tools be used effectively and attractively for SimCorp? That is what I spend most of my time on”.
The SaaS transformation is a real passion for Christian who confesses he loves “the nerdiness of the business”. In particular what he found unique about SimCorp when he originally joined was that all clients were generally on the same version of the software without long historical versions that need to be maintained. This he recognized would be particularly notable for SimCorp’s future, along with the fact that SimCorp hadn’t opened up the code to clients to build whatever they want which “inherently makes it impossible to implement a cloud transformation without asking the clients to re-implement their solution”. Here is where Christian identified that SimCorp was on the front foot in comparison to their competitors and this was an opportunity not to be missed.
But whilst he appreciates the intricacies of product development, it is his approach to this transformation that sets him apart from his peers. He explained to us he hoped he had placed a better understanding of how clients functionally operate their business at the core center of the operations instead of technology for technology’s sake. When he first joined SimCorp, Christian explained that he would witness employees, specifically those in product development rather than in the market units, who were unable to articulate what they were doing in the context of a client, and he immediately identified this as a problem. Regardless of the fact these particular employees need not meet with clients directly, Christian’s customer-focused mentality identifies that “it is important that you are not just motivated but also understand the background and purpose”. This is something that he holds close to his vision as a CEO – that you should stand in the customer’s shoes in order to deliver the best overall service and that functionality alone is not enough.
This unique, strong focus on the customer within a tech company and along with the rise in SaaS has meant Christian has decided to continue pursuing a decentralised, market unit concept whilst still maintaining the strengths of a global company. Something that Christian has championed is that “in order to become a SaaS company you have to use the entire muscle, all 2,000 employees”. This is different to the past, he believes, where it may be just a few select individuals who could “do it all”. Today, Christian feels that a company philosophy of transparency is of utmost importance to keep relationships running smoothly. Whilst he recognises the need to work as a global unit too, he feels the way forward is to have these direct ties with the client, putting people at the forefront of the company ethos.
Software That Rocks
So what’s Christian’s secret? Could his distinctive, people-led approach to business perhaps be in part due to his somewhat surprising hobby? Christian is an avid drummer and a rock music fanatic…not the typical pastimes you might associate with a corporate CEO who might be rather pictured mid swing at The Belfry or sipping champagne at the Four Seasons.
He tells us he has always liked rock music, despite his parents favouring classical, and whilst he yearned to play the guitar to emulate his idols he admits it was quite tricky and instead found himself beginning to tap at the table with a paintbrush and some board books. And the rest is history, so it seems. Christian joined a band in high school and, just like his dedication to his business roles in later years, kept at it for 15 years improving all the time.
Today, he continues to play on his drum kit undisturbed in his sound proof basement–a present from his wife for his 50th birthday. He has two sons too that also play and the family find it a great way to relax, along with going to live concerts as much as possible, particularly making up for it since the revival of the music scene following the various lockdowns of the last few years. This creative side to Christian may just well be the distinctive ingredient to his success in the modern business world.
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