Toby Young is the CTO of Ebury, a fintech providing foreign exchange services for businesses.

Founded in 2009 off the back of the financial crisis by Juan Lobato and Salvador García, Ebury supports SMEs with financial services and specialises in international payments and foreign exchange activities. Its transaction volumes now surpass $21bn annually. It has raised $123.5m in funding and in 2020 Spanish banking giant Santander acquired a 50.1% stake in Ebury for £350m.

In this Q&A, the 52nd in our weekly series of CTO Talks, Young recalls hacking his BBC microcomputer at school, explains why financial services will need a mixture of cloud and on prem, and why it’s best to think in terms of verticals when it comes to disruptive technology.

Rob Scammell: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?

Toby Young: I joined a fixed income broker as a junior developer a long time ago. I knew a lot about heat equations from my engineering background which turned out to be very similar to bond maths.

That started a journey of 25 years working with all kinds of financial assets and I just so happened to be around as trading increasingly moved from voice to electronic trading, which was quite a fun wave to ride.

Where did your interest in tech come from?

At school, we had a BBC microcomputer “Econet”. I hacked the admin program.

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I got caught when disk space ran out taking a memory snapshot of the password store to ‘my’ folder. We were the first year to take a national computer ‘AS’ exam… I got a C… no marks for hacking!

Which emerging technology do you think holds the most promise once it matures?

Technology that blurs the line between cloud and on-prem, like AWS Outpost or Google Anthos, is going to be important because in the finance space regulators are getting increasingly concerned about concentration risk in cloud providers and these play into that really well.

How do you separate hype from genuine innovation?

Typically, by looking at the hype and trying to match this to a genuine practical application that is better than incumbent technology, or has the potential to really reinvent an industry vertical.

For example, where something has been successful in one vertical and the hype is in its use for a new vertical.

What one piece of advice would you offer to other CTOs?

If you don’t delegate and empower you can’t scale, if you can’t scale you fail.

What’s the most surprising thing about your job?

Just the sheer breadth of things you end up getting involved in.

What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?

Fusion, clean power and then, because as over time all energy degrades to heat, working out how we get rid of it.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for fun?

I quite like hoovering… I know?!

What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?

Fintech has moved strongly to being all about leveraging collaborations.

In another life you’d be?

A ghillie.