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EBRC, 20 Years of Digital & Trust, Experience & Lessons Learned - Part 2

2005-2010: “EBRC, THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN EUROPE” (according to a London Award Jury member).After a first period of 5 years where EBRC was able to successfully navigate through the storm to rapidly become a well-known and recognized ICT services provider, the company started 2006 on a positive note with the launch of one of the first worldwide Tier IV datacenters, and a new “Managed Services” portfolio and clients. In this second part of the 20th anniversary series, Yves Reding focuses on how, with its team, he strived to develop EBRC as a recognized innovative digital enabler in Luxembourg…and in Europe.

“The signing of Dexia Group at the end 2005 allowed us to give life to one of our biggest projects to date: our first own Tier IV datacenter. With the group, we started the construction at the end of January 2006 and gave birth to it nine months after. Our early years as a startup with its numerous challenges were behind us, and we now had to prove that our success was justified, by continuing to develop and deliver our services to clients while anticipating their future needs,” explains the CEO of EBRC, which was now officially standing for “e-Business & Resilience Centre”. The company had entered a new dimension, and the first awards soon arrived directly from London in 2008: “Best Data Center Operator Europe”. EBRC was named one of the “Best Kept Secrets” in Europe.  “Inevitably, and due to our growth and newly acquired visibility – thanks to our brand new and top-notch datacenter –, we invested in acquiring new competences and our team grew significantly,” highlights Yves Reding.


Putting Luxembourg on the global digital map

Through its success on the European scene, EBRC participated actively in shedding light on Luxembourg, and competitors soon realized they had to move and innovate on their own, allowing the creation of a stronger ecosystem benefiting all players. “At the beginning of this 2005-2010 time lapse, the country of Luxembourg was still very much focusing on itself, but it rapidly decided to launch promotion programs to attract foreign investors and companies, notably from the United States,” comments Yves Reding. He explains that at an early stage, in 2004 and 2005, “EBRC was already in contact with global US e-commerce players already based in Ireland. Our objective was also to offer a key differentiator to attract them to Luxembourg”. EBRC had anticipated such a globalization, and building a robust and reliable Tier IV datacenter with a full stack of Managed Services on top was a necessary part in starting and enabling this internationalization process. “Anticipation is key and companies should all try to build in advance to seize opportunities when they appear and are related to their core business. In the corporate world, it is more than necessary to take risks and have a wide and large vision. If you only focus on a single activity and rest on your laurels, business opportunities will pass by right in front of you,” recommends the CEO.

Well aware of its central position in Europe, also leveraging on its historical values such as confidentiality and privacy, the country of Luxembourg started to look past its borders and the Greater Region. EBRC, now more visible than ever thanks to its Tier IV datacenter, combined with its IT Managed Services, and as an important player taking an active part in the local ecosystem, actually contributed to this acceleration of awareness. “Our main shareholder, POST Group, notably deployed its Teralink network destined to international companies and aiming at attracting global players to the Grand Duchy, back in 2006. In a short period of time, many investments were made to connect Luxembourg to the main European cities, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and others,” highlights Yves Reding. The entire ecosystem was now looking ahead and Luxembourg was considered a credible spot for companies in the financial services industry due to the long history of the country and its financial center, but also for e-commerce and digital companies to set up their European headquarters. As explained by the CEO, “the country’s high SLA – Service Level Agreement – was the key to attract them. And remember, security, availability, confidentiality and obviously quality had already been the main drivers of EBRC at that time and had been advocated since the very beginning of our activity”. Luxembourg officially entered into this era of promoting itself – something that was relatively new for the country at that time – and focused on its know-how and expertise. During the same period, the State of Luxembourg invested in LuxConnect, as sole shareholder. The initial objectives of LuxConnect were to build and operate “a primary internet access center” and develop “fiber optic networks linking Luxembourg to primary Internet access centers outside Luxembourg borders”. LuxConnect deployed its dark fiber network connected to major internet access outside Luxembourg in 2009. At the same time, it also launched its own datacenter and became a wholesale operator enabling all ICT companies in Luxembourg to host their ICT services, without taking investments risks.


Navigating through the financial crisis of 2008: a 4th datacenter and new innovative services

During the 2005-2008 period, EBRC enjoyed a 400% growth in three years, and rose from a 7 million euros turnover in 2005 to nearly a 30 million euros turnover in 2008. But a new storm was about to sweep on the world: on Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, the 164-year old firm and the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank crashed into bankruptcy. This biggest corporate failure in history sent the world’s financial system close to collapse.

The 2008 subprime mortgage crisis hit hard as some companies were only starting to recover from 9/11 and its numerous implications. “EBRC built its offer to answer to the needs of the financial services industry, which suffered the most from this new crisis. Fortunately, a diversification strategy had also been led and our portfolio was composed of actors across all industries and even European institutions. We therefore slid through the 2008 crisis and none of our clients reported failures,” comments the CEO of EBRC. He also explains that the crisis naturally increased the need to diversify even more which led to a deeper strategy and new investments. “A stressful period, obviously, but in such an uncertain world, we still believed in our sustainable strategy and long-term vision. The concept of resilience became all the more important: quick decisions needed to be made and companies therefore had to be resilient. It was clear to me that more threats and waves would hit and that the only way for companies to resist was to anticipate and absorb such uncertainties, but also to survive and bounce back,” adds Yves Reding.

In these uncertain times, EBRC had begun the project of its second Tier IV datacenter: “international prospects in the financial sector and major e-business players had been identified before the crisis, requesting new risk-taking and new investments on a second high availability site. Even though, during the crisis, most of these projects had to be put on hold, the group went on with the construction in 2008 of a new datacenter, also Tier IV certified, called the Resilience Centre Luxembourg South. It was inaugurated in June 2010, for our 10th anniversary. Launching such projects during one of the worst global financial crises in history was a difficult choice. But investing in a time of crisis is often a real opportunity if you have a long-term strategy, a crisis-resistant business model and client portfolio.” explains Yves Reding. He adds: “in 2008, EBRC was exposed at 70% to the banking and financial sector. But we went through the crisis like a submarine in a raging sea. Our client base was strong with renowned players from various nationalities and we diversified our portfolio very quickly in unsinkable sectors”.

On the other side, during this crisis, EBRC invested in the development of new managed services and expertise, and challenged its IT maturity against international benchmarks. Amongst others, EBRC won a large Managed Services project for the European Institutions. In the same period, the company won two new international awards, once again in London: EBRC was named “Best Managed Services Provider” and “Best Risk Mitigation Service Provider”. “Finally, this crisis was a real opportunity for us to emerge stronger. It enabled us to prepare ourselves for the next decade and be able to handle complex international Managed Services projects,” concludes Yves Reding.


In this second period, from 2005 to 2010, naturally, and despite the financial crisis, business accelerated significantly thanks to a newly acquired cross-border recognition, which led to signing key contracts with international clients. Internally, and to support the growth of the company, the team of experts grew and more than 80 ICT professionals were now working on developing and delivering quality services, from datacenters and managed services to consultancy. At the end of the first decade, a new era was about to start, with a new EARTH and a vibrant HEART to be announced at the center of the strategy of EBRC, en route to becoming a Trusted Center…


Lessons Learned:

• Do not rest on your laurels and keep on constantly developing and delivering quality services to clients while anticipating their future needs;

• Target international recognitions but you will need a real key differentiator, a unique-unique selling point;

• Participate actively in the local ecosystem development and invest in international business development in order to put your country (Luxembourg in this case) and your company on the map;

• Investing in a time of crisis is often a real opportunity if you have a long-term strategy, a crisis resistant business model and client portfolio;

• Think resilience and worst case and prepare yourself to face the next crises : build a strong and diversified portfolio of services focused on quality, and a portfolio of robust, renowned and unsinkable clients;

• A crisis is a real opportunity to emerge stronger and to prepare yourself for future challenges;

• Benchmark continuously your maturity against the best international standards.


Alexandre Keilmann