“We often feel disempowered or overwhelmed when we think about big change; that often prevents people from taking any action at all. So instead, we should focus on changing the things that we do have control over and start there. In my case, I try to be a role model in terms of leadership and encourage and inspire the people around me — our employees. Whatever works for you — try to start with what you can do today. Can you imagine the impact that would have if everyone adopted this approach? I think it would be a very powerful movement!”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Marika Lulay, the CEO of global technology consultancy GFT, where she leads a global team of experts helping financial institutions solve complex business challenges. GFT uses innovative technology advancements to transform both internal and customer-facing information technology infrastructure. . 

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I didn’t have a computer when I was a kid, but I did love reading adventure novels and stories from scientists who changed the world. By the time I went to university in the 1980s I was fascinated by technology and wanted to do something that nobody else was doing. As you might imagine, in those days very few women were studying computer science, much less pursuing careers in the field. But that’s exactly what I did. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a “nerd” — I loved physics in high school, I enjoy coding, and have been fascinated by technology for as long as I can remember. This was always my normal. It only made sense, based on my passion, interests, and training that I would have spent my entire career in IT services. But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!

Can you share what you believe will be the “Top 5 Fintech and Banking Trends Over The Next 3 Years”

1. Industry 4.0 — I strongly believe that there is a paradigm shift in the way IT systems will be built and run in the future. And this paradigm shift is true for all sectors. In the new world of „digital business“, the only way our clients can keep up with the required speed is to adjust their business by using digital platforms. Knowledge is the new ‘gold’, and as such companies should not only bring the knowledge back in house they should also look to engage new partners with software development knowledge as they will need more than simple solution customization. This is one of the main reasons why I see a great window of opportunity to enter the industrial sector by using this paradigm shift.

2. Artificial Intelligence can be seen as one of the hottest topics for financial services these days. It’s been gradually evolving from a potential disruptive technology to a concept that is completely transforming the financial sector’s entire business value chain. AI technology is currently being used to offer consumers new products, improve existing products, increase operational efficiency of business processes and pursue new discoveries that offer innovative business opportunities.

3. Cognitive Banking — as it enables banks to create artificial intelligence solutions based on leveraging big data and fast data. This way, more accurate predictions are possible, which helps to gain improved knowledge of the business and ultimately leads to smarter and more innovative ways of interacting with customers.

4. There’s been much talk about the potential of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. At GFT, we truly believe that blockchain solutions will revolutionize time-consuming, manual processes in the financial services industry and accelerate processing, which will lead to slashed costs and reduced fraud risk. We’ve been testing blockchain solutions for years now and first started it in our blockchain incubator in London in 2015.

5. And lastly, there is no other way to say it: Banking will move to the cloud and industrial companies will need new digital payment solutions for new digital services. At GFT, we are supporting clients in planning and executing their application migrations to the cloud, as well as building innovative native cloud solutions.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I took over as CEO, part of the communications plan was for me to shoot a scripted video entitled “The Journey — Marika Lulay’s first day as new CEO of GFT”. The purpose of the video was to convey, authentically, my high level vision for the future of GFT, the values that would guide us along our new path, as well as expressing our deep commitment to our clients and employees alike — all things I think about regularly; so I thought, “What could be so hard about that?” Oh my, how wrong I was! That may well have been my hardest day on the job so far, haha! I spent 12 hours shooting the footage and countless times repeating the same lines to get it just right for the camera. It’s hard to feel authentic when you’ve said the same phrase so many times that you can barely even pronounce the words anymore. I suspect someone with access to the outtakes reel would be able to blackmail me… lots of embarrassing moments for sure! But in the end I received a lot of positive feedback from the video so it was well worth it. And I finally put any dreams of me being an actor to rest!

What do you think makes your company stand out during these disruptive times? Can you share a story?

GFT has been in existence for 31 years — throughout three decades which have seen massive disruption and technological advances — that fact alone makes us stand out. We’ve proven that we have the ability to withstand disruption because we learn, adapt, and evolve in ways that always brings unmatched expertise and value back to our clients. GFT’s global reach allows us to see a broad array of clients and have a close-up look at the challenges they face; yet our nimbleness affords us the ability to share the knowledge gained and best practices among our global experts — this is a truly powerful combination. There is no financial technology issue we can’t tackle because we’ve seen it all!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

The best advice I can offer to other CEOs or founders to help their employees thrive is to encourage and facilitate what we call work-life-blend. On the surface that sounds cliché but it truly is such a crucial ingredient for bringing out the best in employees and therefore the company. A flexible, results-oriented working environment and significant paid parental leave are a few examples of how we make this happen. The benefits are greater company loyalty, dedication to the work, and increased productivity when you demonstrate your commitment to this idea. We also know we don’t have all the answers so be sure to listen to what employees are saying and keep those lines of communication open. I recently started writing a blog to share my experiences as a CEO with employees. The feedback I receive in the comments section to my posts are really eye-opening and help me keep a direct pulse on what employees think as well as provide an opportunity for them to engage with me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story or example?

Well, this one is easy — my husband, of course! He has been such an amazing source of strength and encouragement for as long as we’ve known each other but especially as I’ve pursued my career. As my professional roles grew more demanding, he would simply step up his support and ensure that our family and home matters were always looked after. He’s always had my back! It’s quite a rare find — a man of my husband’s generation so willing to adopt the non-traditional family roles of the wife as breadwinner and the husband as the “stay at home dad”; this, despite the fact that he could have had a very successful career as a mechanical engineer. In fact, I only stayed at home for three months after our son, who is now 22 years old, was born. But that’s what we did and it worked for us and we’ve been together for almost 25 years — though it wasn’t always easy!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Fail fast, adapt and change.” To me this perfectly sums up the idea that failure is inevitable — it’s simply part of the process. But it’s always better to just “go for it”, accept and learn from what doesn’t work, and improve for the next round. This idea is applicable both personally and professionally: The sooner you learn what doesn’t work, the sooner you’ll find out what does!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, I don’t tend to think in sweeping terms like that. But I would say a movement to encourage people to seek and work towards enacting change in their life and environment with a focus on changing what you can. We often feel disempowered or overwhelmed when we think about big change; that often prevents people from taking any action at all. So instead, we should focus on changing the things that we do have control over and start there. In my case, I try to be a role model in terms of leadership and encourage and inspire the people around me — our employees. Whatever works for you — try to start with what you can do today. Can you imagine the impact that would have if everyone adopted this approach? I think it would be a very powerful movement!

Originally published at medium.com


  • Breana Patel

    Founder and CEO Bonova Advisory- Risk and Regulatory Advisory ?

    Founder of Bonova Advisory that specializes in helping companies navigate complex Regulatory, Risk and Operational Environments. Industry expert in Banking Regulations, Enterprise Risk Management and Technology disruptions via RPA, AI and Blockchain. I write on evolving Financial eco systems in this 4th Industrial Revolution