Applied Systems' Alan Matthews talks job opportunities and business growth

  • Sync NI spoke with Alan Matthews, the VP of European Development at global tech firm, Applied Systems.

    In 2018, the company set up a base in Belfast with the promise of creating 50 jobs by 2021.

    Alan discusses how this has been going, as well as the firm’s future plans, with Applied Systems currently hiring new roles in its Belfast office.

    Hi Alan. For those that don’t know, could you explain exactly what Applied Systems is?

    We’re the leading and largest global provider of cloud-based insurance software and that’s really software for brokerages – those selling insurance to the end consumer. It won’t be an insurer selling insurance on TV ads; it’s insurance brokers Applied deals with, those selling those insurance brands policies. 

    Applied is the largest provider of software to those brokers in the US, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and the UK. In Ireland we’re market leader and in the UK we’re the third biggest, and our growth strategy for the organisation at the moment is to really invest and grow in the market over in the UK to become the market leader there while maintaining our position in Ireland.

    How does a firm like Applied Systems manage to become the largest provider of such software in huge nations?

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    Applied’s growth strategy has been a solid mix of both organic and acquisitive growth. With its beginnings in the US more than 35 years ago, Applied has always been at the forefront of insurance technology, and as the insurance marketplace has evolved, we have been there with new innovation to provide the productivity our customers need and enable the customer experiences they need for their own customers.

    So through new product innovation, we have naturally grown our customer bases over the years. To further our expansion and meet the increasingly global needs of insurance, the company expanded into Canada, then the UK, and most recently Ireland almost five years ago.

    Alan Matthews

    With each acquisition, Applied has been very focused on entering the market with one of the top providers to gain a strong customer base, but also access to technology that could be more broadly applicable across its other operating regions. By doing so, we support our evolving customer needs while giving our own team’s the unique opportunity to work on global challenges while maintaining a local identity.

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    Applied Systems is currently hiring – what are the skills and qualities you would look for in a new recruit?

    We are keenly focused on bringing in top technical talent. As part of our ongoing product evolution, we continue to modernize the development tools that we use, like C# and SQL, plus HTML/CSS for our web-focused tools. 

    Applied is a place that developers can problem solve and get creative. We give them the outline of a problem that needs to be fixed, and then give them poetic license so that they can be creative and create their own unique solutions. Some of the other development organisations I’ve witnessed not only in Belfast but in lots of places, the spec they got almost gives them the code they need to write. We don’t go to that level because we want to encourage the type of innovation that breeds from creativity.

    We really have focused in recent years in bringing on graduates and growing them through the organisation. All of our team leads and managers started as junior developers within the company. Some have chosen to stay at senior technical level and some have gone into management. If they’ve got the aptitude that is our preference; to really recruit within and give people the opportunity to grow through the business.

    What are the future plans completely post-lockdown for the business?

    We’re going to move to our new Belfast office by the end of the year. We’ve currently got 120 Belfast employees and are still growing because over lockdown, we’ve taken on around 10 developers in the city remotely.

    The new office will let us have over 200 staff and we certainly have aggressive growth plans. We’re investing strongly in our people, whether that’s in development, QA or Product.

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    Of course, we are not rushing our people back into the office, as we recognise that remote working may well have a role to play in our future for our people and the situation as it stands is changing daily. Applied is using a very cautious, people-first approach to returning to the office, and of course that involves talking to our people and establishing future work routines around their needs, with their long term safety at the core.

    Despite the current situation, our customers are continuing to make requests from us and have been getting new business our way. The reason we’re recruiting is because we have more work to deal with - so certainly no slowdown in lockdown - which is why we’re investing in our people, because our customers are investing in us.

    Find all of Applied Systems’ current career opportunities on Sync NI’s Jobs page.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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