ION CEOs Mark Tirschwell of TriplePoint, Steve Hughes of Aspect and Richard Grossi of Openlink explain ION’s multi-brand vision for its 4 ETRM / CTRM solutions in an exclusive video interview with Energy Risk’s Stella Farrington.
Stella: Hello I’m Stella Farrington with Energy Risk and today we’re looking at the world of energy and commodity trading and risk management software and asking what’s next. ION Group is now the owner of three commodities trading software firms globally. In 2013 it purchased TriplePoint, which was followed last year with the acquisition of the rapidly expanding Aspect and then earlier this year with the addition of CTRM heavyweight Openlink. So here to address their vision for the future are the CEOs of the three companies. We have Mark Tirschwell of TriplePoint, Steve Hughes of Aspect and Richard Grossi of Openlink. Steve, it seems that there’s a fair amount of overlap between the four commodities solutions that the firm now has on offer, could you tell me how that’s going to work?
Steve: ION pursues a multi brand strategy and that’s no different to Fiat owning many different brands of car. Maserati, Jeep even Ferrari, all of those things are cars just like everything we offer is a CTRM or an ETRM solution. Multi-brand strategy means that those things stay as they are and they continue as they are. Obviously, we have to work on positioning those products correctly so buyers can make an informed decision. ION has a customer for life philosophy and that’s very appealing to Aspect. We’ve built a reputation in outstanding customer services and keeping older customers so that was very important. The other thing is we have a guy at the top of our company, Andrea, who is a true visionary and what he’s trying to do right now is really really exciting.
Stella: Mark, as the firm that’s been with ION the longest I’d like to put this question to you first please and I think it’s fair to say that there was some fallout after the purchase of TriplePoint by ION. TriplePoint went very quiet for a while and I’d just like to ask are you back now?
Mark: So, we invested in changing the way the company does software development, we moved to an agile methodology, which is the ION standard. We embarked on a program to introduce structured analysis, scoping, design and project implementations. We also looked at the organizational structure itself to make sure that the organization was aligned to be able to deliver to customers’ needs and collaborate with our customers going into the future.
Stella: Can you give me some examples of any projects that you’ve started together?
Richard: On the product and the technology side I mentioned pricing models and risk engines, workflows and Openlink has a little bit of a history with this technology because we’ve moved and migrated some of the feature sets from our Endur product into our Rightangle product and our vision would be to do the same within TriplePoint and within Aspect. In addition to all that, we also have a really robust cloud solution. So Steve mentioned Aspect was born in the cloud, ION has been in the cloud for decades now.
Mark: We’ve been in the cloud for 20 years. The words have changed to describe what cloud is over the years, the technology’s changed, the way you deliver today over the internet and other various ways have fundamentally changed, but we as a group have kept up with all of those changes. We offer SaaS solutions, hybrid cloud solutions and various on-premise solutions for those complex environments where it needs to be on premise.
Stella: And are your customers now ION customers or are they still Aspect customers, TriplePoint customers, Openlink customers?
Steve: Our customers still see Aspect as Aspect. It’s a bit going back to the car analogy if you were lucky enough to own a Ferrari you’re a Ferrari owner and not a Fiat owner although Fiat owns them, so, but I think that will change over time and now that will be a deliberate thing that we will encourage that people think of ION first and the brand second but if you’ve just spent ten years using a product called Endur from Openlink then in the immediate term you’re going to be thinking about Openlink but that will change over time.
Mark: When TriplePoint was acquired by ION in 2013 we laid out, in the first month, a vision for the company and the products. It revolved around the customer’s needs, really focused on the customer, evolving the product, evolving the technology and the things we talked about earlier around delivery and things like that. We have a hundred percent delivered on that five years later and our clients have seen, touched all of that and they know that the same principles will apply to Aspect and Openlink.
Stella: And Rich, Openlink customers, what’s been their reaction?
Richard: I think as Steve said there’s always going to be some apprehension when you’re going through an acquisition like this. Openlink has been through acquisition before so our customers I think at this point are starting to see some of the great value and the potential and I believe that that value will be shown as we progress through our integration phases. At the end of the day it’s all about as Steve and Mark said keeping our customers for life but also innovating for them and I think with the three solution sets together we can do both.
Stella: So ION Group owns not only you three but other trading software solutions, might they be able to be available to your customers?
Richard: Absolutely yeah, so the mindset of taking the best from each of the product solutions doesn’t only pertain to the energy and the commodity space, it moves much further past what we’re doing here and into financial services and treasury.
Mark: So I mentioned before we’ve integrated treasury, commodities management. We’ve also taken ION technology and products and integrated those, so ION has a technology called Ark, we’ve layered it on top of TriplePoint’s called commodity Ark, okay, but it will be extended into the broader family and it allows in-memory data analysis, web-based dashboards and a completely new reporting solution that scales from a phone to a tablet to a desktop so it’s contemporary technology, the ability to do anything from anywhere.
Stella: And Rich, is finally, what would you like the market to know?
Richard: Well I think it’s quite unprecedented as you started today that we’re all sitting in the same room together I’d like the market to really understand though that this is a very collaborative set of different portfolio companies coming together. We have a fantastic relationship, we sit in the same office we all sit on the ION commodities board and we all meet each week and together we’re trying to push the boundaries of what we can offer to our customers so it really does all focus around the customer’s need and the value that we as an ION group can bring to them.
Stella: So thank you for joining us and thank you for watching and for more information please visit the risk.net website.