Henry Duncombe's Journey as Managing Director of Lanware: 30 Years of Financial Services Innovation
In this exclusive edition of our Top 100 Most Influential interview series, we are delighted to present our conversation with Henry Duncombe, Managing Director of Lanware, a company that is revolutionising the IT managed services sector for the financial industry. Henry shares his experiences, challenges and insights into how Lanware has disrupted the market with its innovative solutions and customer-focused approach. As we continue to shine a light on the key players and thought leaders within the alternative investment industry, we hope this conversation provides valuable insights and a deeper understanding of the evolving landscape.
Can you provide an overview of your company's history and how it has evolved over the years?
Lanware will be 30 years on 6th May! The company was founded in 1993 by Conor Cassidy who identified an opportunity to start a London IT support provider, based in Bermondsey, just as the Internet started to revolutionise business. For the first 10 years Conor and a small team provided traditional IT support to small businesses in various markets.
When I joined Lanware in 2004, it was quite typical for some clients to have their servers hosted in a cupboard in their office with the backup tapes going home in the PAs handbag…. if he/she remembered!
The Financial Services clients however demanded a more robust solution and bought into Lanware’s secure and fully managed service approach to IT. On a bit of a whim, we made a pitch to a couple of Investment Management clients, to take their servers out of their office and create a fully hosted managed service or “private cloud infrastructure” (as it’s now known), which would be available to their users anywhere in the world. We didn’t expect them to say yes, but they all did, becoming our first “cloud” clients. In response to this, we then decided to go all in and “marry” financial services as our niche! I’m very proud to say that all the clients who were the “early adopters” in 2005 are still clients today.
Here we are 18 years later, we have grown significantly, 100% of our clients are FCA regulated firms, and our Flagship Managed IT service “Finance Forward 365”, which is now all delivered from the Microsoft Cloud, can still be traced back to that very first hosted service in 2005!
Sadly, Conor passed away from cancer in 2014 so never got to see everything Lanware has since achieved.
Looking to the future, what do you see as the future of managed services for hedge funds, private equity firms, and family offices?
The future view is that IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) will turn into Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) to keep up with the exponential increase in cyber threats.
In addition, as the technology we use has been increasingly commoditised and delivered from the Cloud, MSPs must evolve and become industry specific advisers to their clients. They need to really understand what their clients do, how they make their money, how they create value for their customers and figure out the link between that and the value they can create for them. From a technology perspective this means MSPs are “moving up the stack”, out of just infrastructure and focusing on areas such as cyber security, data, automation and artificial intelligence.
What drew you to this industry and what keeps you motivated in this field?
Independent Investment Managers need secure technology delivered to the highest standards. However, it would be very expensive and risky to do it all themselves and they also don't want the distraction from their core business. They all expect the excellence of a “Butler” level IT service and are willing to pay for it. What initially drew me to this industry was the opportunity to create a level of solution and service uniquely tailored to the needs of Investment Managers which lets them focus on what they do best, managing money. What keeps me motivated, to this day is the quality of our service, and the fact that a multi-billion fund is confident enough to entrust all its mission critical IT to Lanware, a bit like that conversation we had in 2005 when we asked to take all their servers out of the office!
What do you enjoy most about your job, and what are some of the biggest rewards?
As the managing director of a medium size firm, I love the variety of the work, whether that’s helping to uncover new opportunities, developing new services, attending client project meetings, digital marketing, all the way down to spending a few days working on the service desk closing some tickets with the team at Christmas! There’s always “something going on”, technology is always changing and it can be very unpredictable and you have to react quickly. This is a sort of weird mix of excitement and stress which is quite addictive!
I think some of the biggest rewards are also simply seeing a member of the team grow, develop and progress within Lanware, and even if they leave the organisation at some point, I always feel super proud to see them go onto further success.
Can you discuss a time when you had to make a difficult decision for the company and how you approached it?
Our founder Conor had terminal cancer, he was giving 18 months to live and didn’t want anyone in the business to know. We held a party for Lanware turning 20 years old, he was having chemo and losing hair, I asked him how could we hide this from the staff?
He said turn it into a 70s night and I’ll wear a wig - that is not a joke!
Can you describe a "day in the life" of your role as a CEO or COO of a managed service provider for the alternative investment sector?
It depends , I try and standardise each day of the working week! Sorry if this sounds a little dull, but for me it’s all about routine & consistency to get results.
- Monday = Working on the business goals, leadership team meeting and getting the business productive
- Tuesday = In the office, 121 with key staff (e.g. CTO) attend key project meetings
- Wednesday = Focused time working “on the business” (if I get the chance!), supporting sales opportunities
- Thursday = In the office, meetings with prospect clients/staff/partners, networking after work
- Friday = Business development & finance – I try and finish the week on the laptop in my local village pub!
If you could give a TED Talk on the topic of managed services for the alternative investment sector, what would be the key message that you would want to share with the audience?
How to “never waste a good crisis” there is always an opportunity lurking at the end!