The founder of WorldPay, Nick Ogden, has launched a project called ClearBank, the UK's first purpose-built clearing bank to open in 250 years.
ClearBank, which will allow the clearing of cheques for customers regardless of which bank they originate from, is one of only five of its type in the UK, compared to 16 in 1960. It is hoping for a slice of the £82tn currently cleared by UK banks every year.
V3 attended the launch of ClearBank, where Odgen explained why the bank decided chose Microsoft's Azure to run this new attempt at "open competition and transparency" in UK banking.
Odgen explained how "ageing technology that sits at the heart of the UK banking industry" has held it back, adding that that ClearBank's Azure environment will be "free from the constraints of years of legacy IT infrastructure".
Operating via a closed circuit with Azure on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), payments then go through dedicated connections to payment services at either BT or Colt, to payment services such as Faster Payments, Swift, Visa or Mastercard.
Ogden told explained that Microsoft's security credentials, core to the running of a banking system, fueled ClearBank's decision to go with Azure.
"Cybersecurity is an increasingly massive problem for everybody in this room, and everybody we can see looking out of these windows," he continued, gesturing out of the 40th-floor window over London.
"Microsoft is investing $1.5bn every 12 weeks in their Azure network for cybersecurity, and all the rest of it. As far as I know - and I'm not a Microsoft salesman - that's the most investment that's going on in a secure network, a cybersecurity platform, on this planet.
"It's why the Ministry of Defence sit next to us in the Microsoft datacentre in the UK. And so it was that security [that persuaded us to go with Microsoft]."
Giving more details on how the service works, Ogden told us that ClearBank "uses Azure in the public cloud".
"We also use Azure across our private data centres. So our use of the product is hybrid. What it means is our data centres are divorced from access to the internet."
Ogden also believes ClearBank's current 'soft launch' status with no actual customers gives it an advantage to keep working on its security proposition.
"We still have the ability - as we have no customers yet - of being able to finish tweaking, tuning and developing this whole core without customer clutter. And I mean that in the nicest possible sense, because it means we can tweak and tune everything in the setup to make use of the best technological services possible, and then set it on the customers. So that's why we chose Microsoft."
Economic secretary to the Treasury, Simon Kirby, was also present at ClearBank's launch, saying he could sum up ClearBank's advantage in one word: "Competition".
"It's fundamental that we want constant and continuous innovation if we want businesses to keep getting better and better, and the best possible deal for customers, then you want competition in the marketplace," Kirkby said.
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