Krista Griggs is the Head of Banking, Financial Services and Insurance Sector for Fujitsu UK. As her title implies, Griggs’ role comes with big responsibilities; she is charged with leading revenue, profit and the growth of the sector.
Managing executive customer relationships, Griggs sets the vision and strategy for her department, leading a team of industry specialists and account executives and orchestrating from the wider organisation to bring the best of Fujitsu to its customers.
An influential leader in the makeup of Fujitsu’s UK division, it’s no wonder Griggs made FinTech Magazine’s Top 100 Women of 2022.
“Phenomenally proud and honoured to be featured”, Griggs takes inspiration from the women represented working to disrupt “what is still a male-dominated industry”.
As a pioneering woman in the predominantly male fintech industry, how did Krista carve out her own path to leadership?
Krista Griggs: The making of
Admitting she never had a clear ambition to take up a particular role, the position she finds herself at now “is well beyond” a point in her career she imagined after graduating as a software developer in her native Netherlands.
Not that she didn’t have an idea of what she wanted, it’s more that “roles in the technology space have grown and evolved so much” over the years – the professional capabilities she has now exceed what her formative career could ever teach her.
“I started out in financial services; I studied banking and finance,” says Griggs. “So it’s not a surprise I’ve come back to that.”
Griggs has returned to her roots after previously working in identity management, which saw her take up roles in government and defence sectors.
But working in a vast array of industries and sectors has only served to sharpen her skills today. “Working across different sectors has given me a real understanding of what impacts those business domains, what challenges there are and how technology can help to make that better,” Griggs says.
“From software developer to enterprise architect, I’ve always been leading on how you design that change. How does digital transformation actually work and what’s the impact it can have on user journeys across the ecosystem?”
These skills enabled Griggs to make an immediate impact when she joined Fujitsu UK five years ago, becoming Chief Architect for its Financial Services sector.
Frustrated with the constraints working in defence entailed, Griggs “came back into financial services because it is a hugely dynamic domain, where rapid change is the norm.”
Fujitsu was more of an infrastructure-managed services company when Griggs joined, with a mission to become a digital transformation company – something Griggs implemented the strategy for in the finance division.
It was the success of this strategy that saw Griggs become head of the sector just two years after joining Fujitsu. “I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved there,” adds Griggs.
“When I joined Fujitsu we were not progressing in the finance sector. We are now growing rapidly and doing really well. We’ve got a great team now that is connecting with our customers and building partnerships – helping clients to navigate industry change and deliver better outcomes for them.”
It is this success that has seen Griggs fall back in love with the industry she started out in. “I love being able to have a real ambitious vision for the future – to try and break the boundaries of what can be done. That is where the industry is really exciting and Fujitsu is firmly behind that.
“Change is always challenging, though. It has been quite a big culture shift for Fujitsu and our customers, particularly larger banks. There can be real inertia and complications in terms of getting things done when it comes to fintech innovation.
“So keeping pace with the rate of innovation can be a challenge. In many ways, my job isn’t necessarily delivering that change, but rather moving blockers out of the way.”
Fujitsu: A tech giant ready to run
Constantly striving to overcome these challenges, Griggs has helped awaken the sleeping giant of Fujitsu’s Financial Services division and get it to run. But, just as Griggs touches on, Fujitsu is far more than financial technology alone.
Today, Fujitsu’s reach extends to five core technology areas: computing, network, AI, data & security and diverging technologies.
Griggs expands: “Our computing division focuses on quantum and high-performance computing. Today, we have one of the fastest supercomputers in the world with the most intricate networks, so we do a lot of work around 6G and look at what that could bring to society.
“AI is a big part of that too, as is data & security which is a fundamental necessity both in financial services and in our public sector space. Converging technologies is where all of this comes together to deliver new capabilities.”
These core pillars of technological innovation run alongside the company’s ambition to make the world more sustainable by building trust in society through innovation.
Admitting this is a lofty goal, Griggs explains that “fundamentally, this goal comes down to the fact that we (Fujitsu) embed sustainability into everything we do.”
Fujitsu: Building an entrepreneurial culture
The company is in the midst of a transition from an infrastructure-managed services company to a digital transformation company. This transition hasn’t just required a change of strategy, but a change in culture too.
Today, the company is working towards building an entrepreneurial culture to fuel its shift to a digital transformation proposition.
Griggs says: “That’s very much a change we are continuing to go through, focusing on the verticals we serve rather than just on our technology capabilities.
“As an infrastructure-managed service company, culture was built around risk and was focused on the public sector. Now we are pivoting to achieve strategic growth in the private sector, which means we need to be much more entrepreneurial.
“We have to understand the business imperatives that our customers are dealing with. Now it’s very much about co-creation, working with our customers in lockstep to create some of those innovative solutions.”
This culture shift is perhaps most pertinent in Grigg’s division – innovation in financial services.
This is because “financial services is often the early adopter of new technologies and disruptive innovations. The pace of change is really difficult to navigate for financial services providers,” notes Griggs.
“We have to be at the forefront of entrepreneurialism and we are making progress, helping customers solve some of the biggest challenges they face. Overcoming those challenges is paying off for our customers and it’s paying off for our business.”
Fujitsu: Leveraging data, AI & machine learning the right way
Building an entrepreneurial culture is also vital in driving the development of new financial products for the financial services sector. Innovation is ripe – and the ability to implement cloud systems and leverage data pools through AI & machine learning is at the forefront of growth plans for many financial players.
Griggs says: “Ever since the pandemic, we’ve seen rapid acceleration in the adoption of digital services across industries, particularly financial services and insurance.
“There’s cloud services, third-party SaaS services and open data sources, which in financial services are really big drivers for change. Open finance too has come to the fore and all these new technologies are exacerbated by a diverse set of infrastructure in use.
“People connect from home, the office, they are on mobile devices – they can be on the other side of the world – and you still have to maintain those services and manage things correctly.”
Of course, with new technologies comes an increase in the rate of innovation, something Griggs feels complicates service continuity management.
She adds: “Customers expect a personalised, safe and convenient service. The last thing a company wants is to be in the newspapers about a data leak which can damage its reputation.
“Furthermore, transparency is demanded by the regulators especially around sustainability commitments but also around data privacy.
“From the comprehensive datasets you've collated, it's essential to distill actionable insights. So, what's the next step you need to take? What do your customers need? What do your colleagues need? What do the regulators need? It is important to leverage abundant ecosystems to gain insights into making better and faster decisions to deliver desired outcomes?”
One area Griggs feels financial services providers and banks must take caution is in their application of Generative AI, to meet all the above requirements.
While its potential is evident, “a lot of banks have clamped down on it because it’s really difficult to maintain trust in the data if you don’t know where or how it’s being used”.
For Griggs, banks need to put the right controls in place before taking steps toward AI adoption or risk losing client trust.
This is even truer for data because if data quality coming into the fabric of operations is poor, utilising this data with AI & machine learning is bound to be ineffective.
“The key is to embed the right data fabric,” says Griggs. “Make sure that the data is curated in the right way so that you can trust it.
“It is so important to any bank or financial institution so that they can generate those insights to make decisions quickly, allowing business leaders to have confidence in the insights when they prioritise where they spend their resources.”
Fujitsu: Mitigating fraud, promoting decarbonisation
While open data, or third-party data sharing, is reaping many benefits for banks and associated partners in an ecosystem – it has also led to a rise in data breaches and consequently, fraud.
This is something Griggs calls “a real concern for the industry and for governments”.
She adds: “Cyber criminals have access to new technology as well, and we are seeing an increase in fraud and cybercrime in the industry.”
“The key is to make sure that we keep up with that pace of change, that we embrace that technology in a responsible way so that we can counteract those malicious actors.
“Social reach is important here. Having reach through open data allows banks and financial services to see what’s happening with vulnerable customers. It has multiple other benefits, including helping organisations like banks enable the decarbonisation of finance too.
“That’s where we’re seeing partnerships in other industries deliver value to shift financial services from the role of the financier alone, to deliver better outcomes and boost sustainability.”
Fujitsu: Partnerships taking fintech to the next generation
The partnerships Fujitsu strikes also help it boost the offerings it provides to its clients. Just as the industry at large is doing, Fujitsu is embracing the impact and benefits of fintechs by integrating these platforms and services into its broader ecosystem.
Griggs says: “We don't just need collaboration with fintechs, but we also need big tech and other tech vendors. For example, we work with cyber companies like Thales and CrowdStrike to support data management companies.
“To manage data efficiently and effectively, we work with Delphix and Nuix. Even for AI ethics, we work with a company called 2021.AI, which looks at AI governance and how you make sure that you embed that in the way that you work.
“We also work with workplace technology partners like Riverbed, which understands how the services we provide our colleagues can be used to best effect. With Riverbed, we can identify where things aren't working and correct them even before they go wrong sometimes.
“Whilst banks have real technology capability in these areas, as a technology company with multiple partners, Fujitsu has the expertise in all those deep pockets to help with the complex integration of fintech systems at banks and other financial organisations.”
The future of Fujitsu
Armed with a history of innovation and technological insight, a true consultative perspective and strategic partners, Fujitsu is truly primed to complete its shift from an infrastructure-managed services company to a digital transformation company.
This shift is already in full swing, and it's reshaping the company with unstoppable momentum.
Griggs concludes: “I'm very much behind and passionate about the changes that we are making. We need to continue what we are doing to move faster at bringing in the right people and technology to grow the partnerships we have with our customers.
“That represents our path to growth and certainty for me, I’m very happy to grow as my sector grows.
“We must continue to ask ourselves the pertinent questions: How can we be even more data-driven? How can we integrate our systems more? How can we use intelligent solutions in the way that we bring products and services to our market? How can we align the full global force of our business to help our customers achieve their outcomes?
“By constantly striving for more and being entrepreneurial, we will achieve further growth and success in the future. That is our path forward.”