Colonial First State

Seizing the opportunity: How Colonial First State built an innovative data solution as it became a standalone business 

Seizing the opportunity: How Colonial First State built an innovative data solution 

When Colonial First State (CFS) became a standalone business, their technology team seized the opportunity to build a modern, agile data platform and establish a fresh approach for implementing future business, product and user experience improvements. 

Jeroen Buwalda, CFS Chief Operating Officer said: “We were able to take a greenfields approach which you don’t get to do very often. We asked ourselves what would we put in if we were to build a data platform ecosystem that can expand over time. 

“We wanted to build something that we could transition to quickly, but we also wanted our approach to transform the way CFS manages data and make more of our products digitally enabled,” he said.

A partnership approach 

CFS had successfully worked with Versent before and engaged their data and Modern Run teams to help accelerate the process. 

Buwalda said: “One of Versent’s differentiators is that they’re very good in a transformative space and bringing new concepts and capabilities into organisations.  

“We wanted to partner with an organisation who is not afraid to state their position and is there to help us build something quickly that can scale and accommodate the various elements that we need to land in it.  

Versent’s Senior Principal Consultant, Data & Digital, Sean Preusse, said: “Usually when we go in and there are competing timelines things can be quite chaotic, but the culture at CFS was really collaborative.  

“There was a friendly and approachable attitude, and a clear understanding of roles that meant we all played a part in contributing to the data platform’s success. 

“Another key part of the process was conducting a comprehensive assessment of CFS’s requirements, initiatives, and future vision which enabled us to develop a roadmap that would facilitate a smooth data transition, but that was also strategic.  

“Working hand in hand with CFS we engaged key stakeholders in the Azure and Databricks solution we proposed and tested out a range of scenarios to ensure it was fit for purpose. Once delivered, our Modern Run team were able to support the environment across AWS & Azure, as well as digital assets, identity and data platforms, with a simple engagement model to continually optimise. 

“That way, we were able to put in rightsized infrastructure and technology solutions specific to CFS’s needs. 

Meeting short and long-term-needs 

Jeroen Buwalda described the solution as both practical and novel. 

“The entire notion of a lake house is a relatively new concept in data. We get to sidestep big data warehouses and avoid mistakes that other organisations have made. 

“It meant we could go straight to a strategic end state that’s becoming mainstream, and we are now able to benefit from progressive updates and improvements from the Azure and Databricks technology stack that we selected.  

“Ultimately, Versent has provided the thought leadership and guidance to develop a technical solution which has augmented our internal capability,” Buwalda said.  

What the new Azure + Databricks stack achieved  

  • Immediate uplift: The platform setup enabled simplification and significant consolidation of business reporting which delivered tangible and rapid benefit to the organisation. 
  • Accelerated business reporting: The enterprise data platform was established in record time, introducing new data sources and delivering reporting that will enhance business intelligence capabilities over time. 
  • Enabled data team productivity: Reusable components within the platform reduce technical debt and save the data team time and effort when developing future data solutions, helping foster continuous improvement and innovation. 
  • Enhanced data governance, security and compliance: End-to-end data governance, using Microsoft Purview, allows CFS to easily manage the full lifecycle of data assets, maintain data integrity, and confidently meet regulatory obligations while safeguarding sensitive information. 


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