JP Morgan creates executive role to lead cloud services

The largest US bank by assets named an executive who is tasked with running the bank’s cloud services, creating a position to oversee the technology, according to a Wednesday internal bank memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Harish Grama joins the bank next week as chief information officer for cloud services. He previously worked at IBM, where he spent the last 20 years in different technology software development roles, including most recently head of software development for IBM’s cloud unit, according to the memo.

“The successful adoption of cloud technology is essential,” wrote JP Morgan chief information officer Dana Deasy. Deasy added that the bank’s “evolving hybrid cloud model” will help its technologists grow innovation, standardisation and productivity in a secure and stable environment, plus have more efficiencies through shared platforms.”

And it could help cut costs in a lower-for-longer interest rate environment, potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars if it moves toward the cloud, people familiar with the matter have said.

In February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon.com’s cloud computing service pitched its service to big banks including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

JP Morgan has been exploring some uses of the public cloud to trim expenses and for flexibility in storage space, the bank’s chief operating officer, Matt Zames, said at the time. For example, banks might need extra computing power when credit card use surges on Black Friday that they can do without for the rest of the year.

JP Morgan began evaluating the public cloud opportunities in 2015. It had an initial pilot plan to understand the potential for further boosting developer efficiency and lowering technology cost, Zames said, adding that the bank is hypersensitive to security challenges.

The bank found some initial possible use cases: infrequently accessed long-term storage and so-called burst workloads, such as running big algorithms at certain times when the bank would need to use more storage space.

Before fully moving forward, JP Morgan has a list of “key controls” to be addressed, including controls on access, encryption, and legal and compliance issues, Zames said at the time.

Zames added that the bank uses an internal private cloud to offer similar benefits of the public cloud, namely elasticity, speed of provisioning and lower cost.

JP Morgan’s private cloud is called “Gaia.” The bank’s plans to use public cloud providers, and work toward developing applications in the cloud has made it “vital that we have a dedicated Cloud leader in place going forward,” Deasy wrote in the memo.

JP Morgan has talked to Alphabet’s Google in addition to Amazon Web Services unit and other cloud providers, people familiar with the matter said in February. Those discussions have progressed, a person close to the situation said.

The cloud opportunities also came up during JP Morgan’s annual investor presentation in late February, where some executives mentioned “leveraging the cloud” for “higher-performance computing”.

In an April interview, Deasy said the bank could use technologies like the cloud and blockchain, which underpins the digital currency bitcoin, to cut costs, redundancy and time.

“I remember cloud seven or eight years ago being hyped,” he said. “It’s just now you’re starting to hear about it” being seriously real.

Write to Emily Glazer at emily.glazer@wsj.com This article was first published by The Wall Street Journal

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