Seshika, 2nd from the right, Winner of the Young Engineer of the Year award for 2017 by IET Young Professionals-Sri Lanka
Women in engineering are unicorns (almost) and that's probably why #Ilooklikeanengineer became a thing. But WSO2, with a 30% female representation, tells you a different story. Plus, we consider everyone at WSO2 a handpicked lot. So is Seshika Fernando. She’s a Chevening scholar, a speaker at conferences around the world, backed by both finance (London School of Economics) and computer science. Outside her workspace she’d be playing basketball as if it were rugby or making sure her son Ezra is getting enough sleep.
We caught up with Seshika recently to speak to her about her transition from the WSO2 analytics team to financial solutions, why open banking is taking over the world, and why she encourages more girls to join the IT industry.
1. How have your experiences at WSO2 been so far?
It’s been great! I was originally involved in data analytics while in the Research team. Now I manage the financial solutions initiative at WSO2 where I am able to capitalize on my background in Finance and create specialized solutions on top of WSO2 products, catered towards the specific business requirements of the financial industry.
I’ve had great experiences at WSO2. From being able to speak at atleast half a dozen international conferences a year, to interacting with some of the largest brands in the world, to playing basketball. WSO2 has been a great place to work irrespective of the team I belonged to.
2. How did the idea for building an open banking solution come about?
WSO2 gave me a challenge - “create solutions for the Financial Services industry using WSO2 products.” With a background in Computer Science as well as Finance, I took this up with open arms. At the time we started this initiative, PSD2 was taking over every conversation in the European banking sector.
With many of our existing customers coming to us with the PSD2 requirement, we forged ahead and created WSO2 Open Banking. Now in retrospect, this was the best decision we made. Open banking is taking over the banking world - not only in Europe but globally. And our open banking solution, built on top of the battle hardened WSO2 products, is proving to be very useful in all these markets.
3. This leads us to believe that the market for PSD2 solutions is open to many forms of competition. How did you formulate a technical and sales and marketing strategy to ensure WSO2 stands out?
Yes, there was stiff competition when we started. However, thanks to the vast capabilities of WSO2 products, surviving and thriving within this landscape have been easy.
First of all, even though we entered the race late, we realized that most of the requirements of the PSD2 regulation can be serviced through the existing WSO2 products. Technically, all we had to do was wire everything together, add any missing features, and package an end to end solution which enabled banks to achieve full compliance very quickly.
We had to go for a very aggressive sales and marketing strategy in order to gain traction in a market that was full of different types of competition (not just our usual middleware competition). So we planned different types of campaigns to first create awareness and then engage with banks that were outside our usual customer base. Once we did the first few implementations, word got around and we were getting a large number of requests from both European and non-European banks.
4. Can you tell us about your experiences with customers who are trying to become PSD2 compliant? What are the key challenges they face?
Security is the utmost concern for all banks. Since it is sensitive customer data that is being exposed, banks that engage with us emphasize the importance of the ability to secure data and its access, above all other requirements. The WSO2 Open Banking solution overcomes all security challenges, since it incorporates WSO2’s very strong and proven IAM offering.
Most of our customers are also looking for ways to make their regulatory investment worthwhile, by being able to earn some revenues from their implementation of PSD2. With a digital transformation focused open banking implementation, our open banking customers are easily able to achieve this.
5. It seems obvious that banks will need to think beyond API when planning a technology strategy for compliance. How difficult/easy is to convince them to do so?
When we look beyond the regulation and discuss implementation details with each bank, the need to integrate with existing internal systems, the requirement for comprehensive Identity and Access management, the capability to onboard third party providers, and the necessity to have a strong analytics component to achieve regulatory reporting requirements comes to light. These requirements are usually enough for customers to understand the necessity for an overall technology strategy rather than just an API strategy.
However, we don’t just stop there. We understand that each customer (big or small) is making an investment to extend their technology platforms in order to satisfy these requirements. We help the customer identify ways that they can reuse the technology they are investing in, to further digitize and optimize their existing processes in a way that promotes market expansion and create new revenue streams.
6. What are your thoughts on how open banking will be adopted globally?
Well, all regions are moving towards open banking albeit at different paces. Australia is next in line to implement open banking through regulation and there are many other regions such as New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, etc., that have stated their intentions to mandate open banking through regulation.
In the meantime in all other parts of the world, even without regulatory pressure, individual banks are adopting open banking due to the many benefits they can achieve especially in an environment where they could be the first movers to a new ecosystem. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before open banking becomes a must have for all banks globally. WSO2 is excited and ready to work with each region on their specific open banking journeys.
7. Finally, as a woman playing a leadership role in a technology company, what is your advice to other women in the field on how they can reach the highest pillars of success?
I believe that being female does not have any disadvantages for a career in IT. Since women are the minority in this industry, it provides women a superb opportunity to easily standout within a male dominated workforce. Furthermore, the IT industry’s flexible working arrangements really enable us to balance work life and family life.
I would encourage more and more girls to join the IT industry not just to profit from its various benefits but also to reverse the gender imbalance and contribute towards development of great products that are created by a diversified workforce for a diversified consumer base. In fact, I’ve even written a blog post on the subject for the World Bank.