Microsoft exec: Amazon's expansion is our opportunity

  • Amazon's financial services customers include the Carlyle Group and Ellie Mae.
  • Amazon offers business lending and payment services.
  • Microsoft, however, sees an opening to steal cloud business away from the retail giant.
Jeff Bezos speaking at the new New York Economic Club luncheon in New York on Oct. 27, 2016.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Jeff Bezos speaking at the new New York Economic Club luncheon in New York on Oct. 27, 2016.

Microsoft views Amazon's entry into new business areas as a great opportunity to steal cloud customers.

During an appearance at Citi's Global Technology Conference in New York on Thursday, Judson Althoff, the executive vice president heading up Microsoft's worldwide commercial business group, pointed to trust as one reason that Microsoft's public cloud is growing faster than Amazon's.

"Amazon is frankly attacking a lot of industries right now, and they're pretty bold and open about it," Althoff said. "I mean, Jeff will say, 'Look, your margin is my opportunity,' and there's evidence of that, huge evidence of that, huge evidence of that in retail, of course, but also financial services and health care."

Amazon's interest in retail is well understood following its acquisition of Whole Foods and the introduction of Amazon Go convenience stores. That expansion is already started to help Microsoft. In July Microsoft announced a five-year deal involving cloud with Walmart. Other Microsoft cloud customers include Costco and Kroger.

To be sure, AWS does have its own retail customers, including Brooks Brothers and Under Armour.

The company's interest in financial services is a lot less pronounced. Amazon has introduced some financial services products in the past, including Amazon Cash, Amazon Lending and Amazon Pay. But it looks like the company will not establish a full-blown banking service, Goldman Sachs analysts said earlier this year.

If Amazon did move further into the finance business, Microsoft could peel some big cloud customers there as well. JPMorgan Chase is an AWS customer, as are financial services organizations like the Carlyle Group, Coinbase, Ellie Mae and Robinhood. The customer list for Microsoft's Azure cloud includes the likes of Bank of America, HSBC, MetLife and UBS. TD Bank uses cloud resources from both Amazon and Microsoft.

Within health care, Amazon's plans are not as well known, although CNBC has reported on a number of areas being explored, including building its own health clinics for employees and making Alexa suitable for use in health care facilities. The company bought online pharmacy PillPack in June, and is working with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase on a health care initiative.

AWS customers in the health sector include health systems like the Cleveland Clinic and pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene and Merck.

Retail, financial services, and health care are three of the six industries Microsoft's salespeople are particularly going after following a major reorganization that was instituted in mid-2017.

"I think our enterprise customers come to us, going, 'Hey, look, we want to go to the cloud. We're not interested in going to the cloud with somebody who's interested in taking our business. Microsoft, you've known our business for decades.' So there's that enterprise trust factor," Althoff said.

After this article was published, an AWS spokesman provided a statement.

"It's always hard to comment on Azure growth since they've been unwilling to break out their revenue numbers, but if you look at absolute dollar growth, AWS is growing much faster than anybody," the spokesman said. "It's typical to see comments like these from chasing competitors when they don't have the functionality and customer base to compete on their own merits."