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EBRC, 20 years of Digital & Trust, Experience & Lessons Learned - Part 3

2010-2015: IN EUROPE WE TRUST, IN EARTH WE BELIEVE.

Ten years after its creation, and after being named one of the Best Kept Secrets in Europe, EBRC entered its third phase with a brand new corporate identity and a strategy built on its core values: EARTH (Excellence, Agility, Responsibility, Trust and Human). In the third part of this 20th anniversary series, Yves Reding, CEO of EBRC, tells us more about his company’s new corporate identity, its diversification in terms of clients, and discusses the early stage of the creation of a digital Europe.


Starting in 2010, Luxembourg started promoting the country as Europe’s digital fortress and as the preferred spot for security and confidentiality. “Ten years ago, most companies had already started to realize that data was a key information that needed to be protected. The Grand Duchy, thanks to its agility and cybersecurity approach, had also become a great spot when it comes to digital. EBRC, along with government officials, participated in several trade missions abroad, notably to the United States in the Silicon Valley and to the Middle and Far East, to try to attract companies to Luxembourg, by displaying the country’s main advantages. A new wave of euphoria, yet slightly different,” underlines Yves Reding.

 

An inuksuk to reflect values of EBRC and its commitment to the planet

Moreover, to further develop its brand outside of Luxembourg, Yves Reding and his marketing team decided to revamp and modernize EBRC’s corporate identity by focusing on its main values, on its sustainable positioning and by advocating the concept of resilience. “With the support of local branding and marketing experts, we picked a symbol which embodied our main values: the inuksuk. These gigantic structures made of stones are found in northern Canada and Greenland. Inuksuks serve as a reference point (orientation = consulting), but also a hiding place (store = datacenter). They are closely associated with orientation and resilience, two key concepts that are crucial to survive in a world that can be hostile. Their longevity is legendary – with some said to be over 3,000 years old –  and they are highly resistant to the elements. This symbol ties in perfectly with the polar iconography as it embodies resilience, solidarity and orientation. It is a concept which stands out and is coherent with our company and its history,” describes Yves Reding. Traditionally constructed by the Inuit, inuksuks are often intertwined with representations of the North. He adds: “On the one hand, this symbol highlights our commitment to protecting the planet and its resources and materializes the core values of the company EARTH: Excellence, Agility, Responsibility, Trust, Human. On the other hand, in Inuit language, Inuksuk means ‘something which can act like a Human being’ (inuk = Human being and suk = substitute, acting on behalf of)”.

Moreover, EARTH is an anagram of HEART. The blue dot forms the heart of the pictogram, symbolizes a skills center where humans are promoted, with teams which are committed, focused on ensuring clients are satisfied and providing them with real added value. “After introducing our EARTH / HEART values to our staff, we decided to organize multiple team building sessions and workshops so that our employees could really understand what they stood for and how all these values needed to be translated through our services and behaviors. At the same time, we invested a lot in corporate social responsibility and, in 2010, we were one of the first companies in Luxembourg to obtain the newborn CSR label. We accelerated our green shift with a 100% datacenter green energy commitment and continuous reduction of our impact on the environment. On the people aspect, we were awarded four times “Best workplace” through the Great Place to Work program. Investing in our EARTH values and Corporate Social Responsibility was a real booster for our business and our people,” explains Yves Reding.

 

Digital Needs Trusted Services

As you already know by now, EBRC built its offer and value proposition by focusing on quality, security and availability, as the most appropriate ways to deal with and manage sensitive data. A couple of years after the start of the 2008 financial crisis, the banking industry was still key for the ICT company located at the Cloche d’Or. As explained by the CEO, “the financial services industry still accounted for 50% of the turnover, but we entered an important phase of differentiation with several other industries trusting us and our services. In fact, some domains are even more sensitive than finance, notably the health sector. At the same time, we had to constantly innovate and launched our new Trusted Services Europe in 2011. It was an immediate success. In 2011 in Paris, we won an international award with our client IBBL, a renowned biobank. The jury concluded that the case study awarded, based on our Trusted Cloud Europe, proved that cloud is secure even for the most sensitive information in the health sector. In 2014, we were able to answer to the e-health project led in Luxembourg: we provided the Agence e-Santé (e-health agency in Luxembourg) with the patient file in less than nine months”. The first years of this new decade also saw the birth and explosion of the first Fintech companies, such as Limonetik, Flashiz, etc. EBRC notably worked on the Yapital project, which aimed at becoming the European Paypal. “It reminded me of the first years of EBRC: we were still very ambitious and were working on numerous projects… Some met with great success and others disappeared because the market was not ready for such a disruption. During that time, EBRC accelerated once again and clearly entered a new dimension,” comments Yves Reding.

During the 2010-2015 period, EBRC consistently developed and extended its Trusted Services catalogue, with a focus on Europe thanks to an ever-increasing visibility. “The advent of the cloud also saw new pieces of regulation popping up. On our side, we focused on consolidating our knowledge and expertise by hiring experienced and seasoned professionals, notably coming from the banking world. Finally, to reinforce our image and further develop our brand as a trusted, secure and available IT service provider, we decided to enter a deep phase of certification,” highlights the CEO. This demanding certification process had actually started in January 2010, with an American prospect and market leader requesting EBRC to be ISO 27001 certified – dealing with information security. Yves Reding explains: “it was the client’s main condition for us to have a shot at this project. We moved quickly and got certified in just five months on the full scope of EBRC’s activities. We then decided to go on with this certification process – with PCI-DSS (payment security), ISO 20000 (IT service management), and many more – which clearly represents a business enabler and opens new doors. We were therefore equipped to answer to the critical needs of clients in very specific industries, always favoring security and availability. Today, this virtuous circle still allows us to deliver quality services”. Still continuing its organic growth, EBRC opened a new datacenter in 2012, called “European Resilience Centre Luxembourg East” and located in Betzdorf. Reaffirming its European ambitions, and after the inauguration of EBRC’s third Tier IV datacenter, Yves Reding decided to change the meaning of the company’ acronym: EBRC was now standing for “European Business Reliance Centre”.

 

In European values EBRC commits

“Europe was still in the process of figuring out how to best digitize itself, yet the whole movement was accelerating its pace. Remember, at the time there was no notion of free flow of data,” explains the CEO. He continues: “back in early 2012, the European Commission started to work on a new regulation to protect personal data: the GDPR. The goal of this reform was to give the control back to the citizens while smoothing the regulatory environment for companies: it was adopted in April 2016 by the European Parliament to finally be applicable in May 2018”. This new regulation is considered as one of the pillars of the digital Europe governments, institutions, as well as public and private companies are trying to build. “This regulation was a real innovation in the sense that it was the first European extraterritorial legislation. Protection offered by the GDPR travels with the data, outside the EU,” highlights the CEO. The vision was significantly different from what was being done in the United States at that time, notably through the Safe Harbor, which was invalidated in October 2015 by the European Court of Justice and therefore ceased to provide a valid legal basis for EU-US transfers of personal data.

“Moreover, the Snowden revelations shook the world in June 2013 and had a big impact on how people perceived data. It was actually the direct consequence of the surveillance programs launched by the US after 9/11. Those two events – GDPR and Snowden – initiated a change of paradigm in Europe, but it rapidly spread to the entire world: people are now aware of the value of their personal data and the danger they face if shared without their authorization,” comments Yves Reding. According to him, these events acted as wake-up calls, with governments, companies and individuals realizing how important data is, whether it is personal or not. The world, and notably Europe, was now aware that security and confidentiality were essential components in building a robust and strong digital future. “EBRC had already been promoting trusted transparency and auditability at the time, and the certifications obtained recently were once more showing companies and institutions that they could rely on us and trust us with their most sensitive pieces of information. We were ready to prepare for the next phase…,” highlights the CEO.

 

EBRC had its eyes on Europe and its plan to attract major foreign clients to Luxembourg was to become a credible and relevant Trusted Services provider that could also differentiate itself from competitors through a unique value proposition. During this third phase, from 2010 to 2015, EBRC entered an intensive international certification process and also built its third Tier IV datacenter. “Some world renowned experts told us back in the days that Tier IV datacenters were not going to be successful…but we kept the same direction we followed right from the start, betting on an ever-increasing security and quality services. Others followed this trend, and the entire ecosystem in Luxemburg benefited from this uplifting. The country sold itself as an international hub for ICT services and as a digital fortress, leveraging on the former banking secrecy and on the AAAs delivered by rating agencies. Yet, we realized that we needed to be present physically to grow more in Europe and therefore opted for an external growth strategy: we soon initiated our first acquisition…” concluded Yves Reding.

 

Lessons Learned:

• Invest in international development, join official trade missions abroad and strive to attract companies to Luxembourg, by displaying the country’s strong points and differentiators;

• Invest in Corporate Social Responsibility and integrate them in your sustainable long-term development strategy: focus on people, competences, on long-term, sustainable results and stakeholder value creation.

• Revamp and modernize your corporate identity in line with your values, your culture and your business.

• Organize multiple team building sessions and workshops so that employees can really understand what your main values stand for, and how they can be translated through your services and behaviors;

• Draw lessons from crises, avoid over dependence on one single business sector, even if it is highly successful and seems unsinkable and opt for a differentiation strategy. Adapt your services to other industries, including startups to anticipate the future winners;

• Surf on the regulation wave, anticipate new frameworks and consider them as an opportunity and as a long-term trend rather than a threat;

• Enter a process of certification end-to-end, to achieve a continuous quality improvement of processes and services and to become credible, recognized and trusted on the international stage;

• Participate actively on the construction – or consolidation – of your local ecosystem;

• Listen to renowned experts but strongly challenge their advice and make up your mind based on your own convictions, experience and vision.

 

Interview by Alexandre Keilmann