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Hot Cloud Security Startup Aims to Win Over Banks


Zscaler, a computer security company valued at more than $1 billion, is eyeing banks intently.

The so-called unicorn startup—meaning a private company valued at $1 billion or more—operates in more than 100 data centers around the globe, allowing it to inspect and scrub organizations’ Internet traffic from malware and other digital threats.

The company has named a former banking exec to its board of directors. The appointment, says CEO Jay Chaudhry, is aimed at helping Zscaler win over customers in the financial services sector.

The new board member is Andy Brown, a banking veteran who has held posts at UBS (UBS), Bank of America (BAC), Credit Suisse (CS), and Merrill Lynch, the wealth management firm owned by Bank of America since the 2008 financial crisis. Chaudhry says Brown will be partly responsible for developing “use cases” for the technology to show to customers.

“That perspective, especially being on the bank side, has been very useful for us,” Chaudhry tells Fortune. “With Andy we get three perspectives: the customer perspective, the financial services perspective, and the CTO [chief technology officer] perspective.”

Currently, Brown serves as the CEO and co-founder of Sand Hill East, an early stage venture capital firm, and he sits on the board of the insurance software maker Guidewire (GWRE) as well as the IT operations firm Moogsoft, a company that monitors and detects problems with companies’ infrastructure and applications. He was also the founder and chief technology officer of Desktone, a company that enabled customers to run Microsoft Windows virtually (from inside data centers, rather then from their desktop computers), which he sold to VMware (VMW) in 2013.

Chaudhry and Brown say they met nearly a decade ago during a meeting in which they discussed the reluctance of companies to adopt cloud services. “We agreed that if the future was going to be the cloud, then security and policy management would have to move to the cloud,” Brown tells Fortune. “I’ve been convinced of that since the Salesforce implementation, but there were no vendors around to make that easy.”

Chaudhry often cites business software company Salesforce as inspiration for the cloud-based security model that he’s implementing at Zscaler. Earlier this year, the company, founded in 2008 and based in San Jose, Calif., raised $100 million in a round led by the investment firm TPG Growth.

In terms of the company’s growth strategy, Chaudhry says he is looking to close deals with big banks in the coming months. “Financial services institutions have been slow to adopt cloud security because of the regulations and all,” he says, mentioning the strict rules that banks must comply with to secure their data and that of their customers. “That ball is moving at a faster pace now.”

“I expect that out of the top seven to eight banks in the world, probably half will be our customers in the next 12 to 18 months,” he adds.

Zscaler currently has two large banks as customers—one based in New York, the other in Boston, Mass.—says Chaudhry, though he says does not have permission to name them.

Adding board members with particular industry expertise is a tactic that will likely become more common as cybersecurity startups battle for customers. Earlier this month, for example, the data center security company vArmour, looking to curry favor with IT procurers at health insurance firms, named a top Aetna executive to its board.

Follow Robert Hackett on Twitter at @rhhackett. Read his cybersecurity, technology, and business coverage here. And subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology, where he writes a weekly column.

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