Data house of the year: ZE PowerGroup

Energy Risk Awards 2019: Strong focus on client needs, customer support and partnerships underpin geographic expansion and revenue growth

Aiman El‑Ramly, ZE PowerGroup
Aiman El-Ramly, ZE PowerGroup

As data and analytics take centre stage at energy trading firms, the role played by data management companies is increasingly key and ever-more demanding. Not only do data firms need to offer a vast array of different data streams and analytics tools, they need to deliver each data set in a format that will facilitate the particular analytics being carried out.

“The analysis and business processes that firms want to undertake are becoming more complex and, increasingly, this requires significantly more staging of the data for it to be viable,” says Aiman El-Ramly, chief operations officer. “As companies demand more advanced and predictive analytics capability from their data providers, we need to understand exactly what business outcomes the client wants to achieve using their data. Depending on this, we will transform or position the underlying data accordingly.”

ZE PowerGroup, which has built up its offering over 24 years in the market, now offers more than 1,000 data feeds and adds, on average, four new feeds every week. They also offer advanced analytics and modelling tools, including inline-R functionality, allowing users to perform a wide variety of complex statistical and graphical modelling, as well as supporting various data structures, such as matrices and arrays.

But in addition to building scale, ZE works hard to ensure it is agile enough to respond to customer needs quickly. It can usually supply new data streams within four weeks of a request, El-Ramly says.

The firm’s customer-centric approach certainly paid off last year as it entered the Latin American energy market and the newly deregulated power market of Ireland for the first time, as well as acquiring new clients in Switzerland. Revenue for fiscal year 2018 grew 5%.

One of its most important developments last year was the creation of a team to help clients use their resources more efficiently, as the demands of data analytics grow. The role of customer service business analyst (CSBA) is designed to provide specialised, technical service to clients beyond standard application support. It requires understanding a client’s data and requirements comprehensively.

“We’ve always had good support for our clients but as more move to the cloud and we provide them a platform as a service, we felt it was necessary to have dedicated one-on-one resources,” says El-Ramly. “This gives clients someone who is always there, monitoring the health of their implementation and automated business processes.”

For example, if there was a problem building a curve, the CSBA would diagnose exactly why it didn’t build, El-Ramly says. “The CSBA would look to see whether the underlying data was received or not and if it wasn’t, would try to ascertain why. It could be because of an error at the publisher’s end, or a system interruption somewhere, or an internet problem. CSBAs will work on these issues automatically without the client needing to make a phone call.”

We’ve always had good support for our clients but as more move to the cloud and we provide them a platform as a service, we felt it was necessary to have dedicated one-on-one resources

Aiman El-Ramly, ZE PowerGroup

Another new development in 2018 was the establishment of a customer advisory board. Comprising 14 key ZE clients, the Cab meets every two months to provide ZE with advice, feedback and insight on the product, the strategy and the company direction.

“This grants ZE the ability to view and analyse customer ‘real world’ experiences while simultaneously understanding how client organisations are progressing and how we are assisting them to meet their goals,” El-Ramly says.

The meetings offer an ongoing opportunity for customers to present honest and unfiltered insight on ZE product offerings and share ideas on best practices around product use. Participants are usually chief information officers, chief risk officers, front-office executives and senior business analysts. “Participants get an advanced view of what we intend to build next and can comment on it. It’s a way to integrate our customers in our product life-cycle,” says El-Ramly.

In the meetings, ZE subject matter experts also provide insights into topics such as complex data modelling, machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, allowing CAB members to be ahead of technology industry trends.

As well as client relations, ZE continues to foster strong relationships with technology partners, which now include Tableau, Spotfire, Power BI, IBM, Oracle and Tibco. ZE is also proud of its education programme, where it donates software and services to universities.

With its data partners – which include S&P Platts, Argus Media, ICIS, IIR Energy, NGI intelligence, Amerex and Radiant Solutions, among others – ZE carries out regular joint events and webinars to educate the industry on best practices around data management and analytics.

“Just as we value our clients, we believe the relationship we have with the data publishers, the trade and risk systems, the integrators and the whole ecosystem is so important,” El-Ramly says. “We do everything we can to make the life of our partners easier and we take great pride in these relationships.” 

Despite being an organisation that has grown to 230 people, ZE is proud to still be a family-run business. “We value the relationship we have with every single client. If they have a problem, it’s our problem and we adopt it fully,” El-Ramly says.

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