The Finnovate Show
The Finnovate Show

Episode · 1 year ago

Stuart Marks: Surpassing Your Clients’ Expectations

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Stuart Marks, Head of Business Development at FinTrU discusses the investment banking industry on both sides of the Atlantic. The need to innovate and solve big problems with fewer resources hasn’t changed and technology can only do so much to help. He talks about better and faster ways to address business issues. Surpass your clients’ expectations. Learn how FinTrU's secret sauce can build and grow your business.

...as a leader of your company, you must stay up to date with your strategies and execution or risk obsolescence. Welcome to the fin of eight show, financial services innovators bringing you the future today and now here's your host, jerry Purcell. It's The innovate show brought to you by Innovation 3 60 group. I'm jerry Purcell. Get ready to think about your biggest challenges and capitalize on your biggest opportunities. After this. Executives depend on external consultants to fill knowledge and experience gaps or to have an experienced mine audit their thinking. The Innovation 3 60 group brings together a wide range of proven thought leadership from around the globe and cost effectively makes it available to you, get the insights advice and systems. You need to succeed, learn more at www dot innovation 3 60 dot com. Today's Episode is that one in a series focused on Northern Ireland's fintech sector. I want to thank Michael Barton invest Northern Ireland's Canadian regional director for his support in bringing the best of Northern Ireland to the innovate show, invest. Northern Ireland is the Economic Development Agency of Northern Ireland is responsible for promoting trade and investment opportunities for potential and existing investors. It helps them to flourish and connects trading partners with suppliers across many sectors. Our guest today is Stuart marks head of business development at Vin. True, thin, True focuses on the investment banking industry, with clients on both sides of the atlantic in Northern Ireland, the fintech sector is exploding and as one of its fastest growing industries. Bell fastest, currently the world's number one location for fintech investment With almost 40,000 employees in fintech and professional services. That's fully one in five who are working in FS and Tech in Northern Ireland who are working on Fintech and it's the highest rate in all across the UK. So, Stuart, welcome to the show. Thanks very good to be here. So perhaps we should start with you to tell me a little bit about yourself and find true Yeah, of course. So my name Mr Marks, I am head of business development at an organization called for entry um Finn True is a company that is based in northern Ireland, albeit I am actually based in new york. Fin tree itself is an award winning Wreg tech company and focusing on the financial services sector. So clients such as investment banks and large scale security companies and we work with all our clients to design and implement solutions to help them make their regulatory obligations in areas...

...such as legal risk and compliance, being our largest areas and our clients are based globally and we have a large pool of clients in EMEA in Asia and of course in North America. Hence why I am based in new york and my focus specifically is on north America. I relocated during the pandemic in November of last year, which was obviously an interesting time to, to move from Ireland to the US. but around 50 of our clients are based in North America across Toronto and New York and so it makes a lot of sense to have a more permanent footprint in North America my background, um it's a bit of a hybrid. I originally started out as a legal professional, I studied in law school and then moved into financial services, worked at some of the largest investment banks in the world, moves across to London and then actually moved back to northern Ireland and then subsequently moved across to new york. So it's been a bit of a bit of a journey for myself, but it's been a lot of fun, I've learned a lot and yet it's great to be based in north America and really getting close to to our clients over here. How's the move to new york going so far? Uh, so far so good. Obviously a strange time to be in new york, but look, new york is one of the greatest cities on the planet and even in the middle of a pandemic, it's still very vibrant and, and look, the weather is a lot better than it is back home, so I'm not going to, you know, I'm not against that at all. But yeah, look, it's, it's been an interesting time personally, I think professionally, um it's been challenging. Um you know, everyone is remote working, everyone is working from home. Um, so you know what, a lot of what I was doing pre pandemic, you know, coming across the new york or London meeting clients face to face getting alongside them is now done over virtual video calls and and that's fine. I think everyone is in the same boat, but I think we're all craving some of that person to person contact. So hopefully as, as the pandemic subsides and the vaccine rollout continues to be successful, um, we'll get back to something like that. But yeah, look, it's, it's great to be here. I think actually that's a really good segue, talking a little bit about Finn True and and in our previous conversation we've talked about it being kind of a unique place. So tell us, tell us what's so unique about Finn True, what is unique about the country? That is a good question. I think first and foremost it's our people jerry and you know, we put such an emphasis on how great the individuals that work for us. Our um we also put a lot of emphasis on culture. Culture is really at the forefront of what we do and, and so we we try and maintain that as best as possible. You know, everyone that...

...works at Finn True is a full time employee and that's very, very intentional. We understand that there are other organizations out there that, you know, higher FTS, but also hire contractors and and tempts. And that's something actually that we've we've stayed away from simply because we want to protect the culture that we've developed as an organization. Um, I think as well being, being based in in Northern Ireland, there's a real social aspect that comes with that were very sociable nation. And so when we're dealing with our clients, the feedback that we get is that that is often something that differentiates ourselves from them. You know, people like here in the accent on the other phone. You know, we're always up to, you know, crack a joke or you know, have a trivial conversation before jumping into the thick of the work. And I think that is something that really helps us stand apart. And I think as well, we bo talk a lot about our, our secret sauce at Coventry. Now, what's that? Secret sauce is, who knows? But it's definitely there. I think it probably is. Yeah. But I think something else that we talk a lot about is our client intimacy. And we spend an awful lot of time focusing on how to get closer to our clients and really honing in on what specifically they need from us. And I'm doing it in a very thorough, you know, considered manner. We, we don't want to Walton and say, hey, we're going to push the really hard seal if you want this, great if you don't, we're still going to try and push it on to you. So yeah, I think we were just cultivated, uh, an organization where I think everyone from the very senior people right down to the newest recruits at a junior level, They feel a real sense of ownership. We talk a lot about everyone being their own many business owner and their own entrepreneur. And that really is true whether you are, you know, an analyst embarking on your, your financial services career and we clearly believe that those individuals can make a big difference to our clients and, and they can grow their own teams. They can come up with solutions. And so I think it's that aspect of, yes, you're there to do a job, but actually there's a whole other piece to your rule. You're not just a legal professional or a k I see analyst or or a tech person. You're actually there to service our clients and be really creative in the solutions that we're developing and we very much entertain that as well. We we give people a lot of time, a lot of space and a lot of financial investment as well to really pursue those more creative sides of things to help us create our solutions for our clients. Mhm. Yeah. I just recall from our conversations as well that you talked about long term relationships, you know, versus a transaction. Yeah. Which I think really really landed with me. Yeah, absolutely. Look, don't get me wrong if a client wants us to come in and parachute in and solve a big problem for them. Um You know, we're in the business of doing business. We...

...don't like to say no to to help our clients, but what we're really looking for with our clients is to establish those long lasting partnerships and to see past the traditional bank vendor relationship. We, we want to be seen as an extension of their team. And for the most part our teams are just considered an extension of of our client teams. I think when we previously spoke, I shared a story about how a client called one of our people and country expecting that they could go and grab a coffee in London. And we had to explain to actually, you know, we're based in Belfast. So that's how plugged in we are that people actually think we're maybe only a couple of floors away in in the same building. But again, we invest a lot of time and a lot of effort just ensuring that those client relationships are being cultivated. And again, that's, you know, we have a lot of senior oversight to make sure that clients feel that it is a partnership, that it's not just a, you know, there's been true take it or leave it. That it's a, there's been true they're part of, of the bank now and they're really helping us along our regulatory journey. Um We've been in existence for nearly eight years now. And yeah, we haven't lost any business. We've got the same clients from, from day one thankfully we've we've got more clients. If we didn't, I would be out of a job, but it's really, we want we want that road map to be much longer than three months, much longer than six months. We want, you know these these multi year relationships where we can get in there and really help and support our clients. So when you, when you quote, sit down at the table with your clients, some sometimes virtually. Nowadays. What kinds of issues and pain points do they cite in their business today? Um I think the problems and and the issues that they say haven't haven't changed dramatically. Um obviously, you know, as you mentioned, we're dealing with our clients in a different way. We're dealing with them virtually. But the same pain points exist. You know, if, I think back to 2019, A large focus for our bank clients was the regulatory pipeline, whether that was new, legal regulations being implemented or, you know, ongoing KYC. implementation needing needing conducted. And so the challenges that were around in 2019 where cost pressures, resource issues and I'm probably real estate constraints. I think those three things still still exist today. And all banks are are still under massive cost pressures. Yes. Okay. The pandemic kind of through the world, open a lot of banks performed very, very well, But internally they're still under the exact same cost pressures that they were back in 2019 2020. So we're still hearing that from our clients. They need to solve these big problems. But the purse strings are being tightened a lot and look as the northern irish based company, that's, that's where we can really play that part because we...

...are a lot more cost effective in terms of resource pressures. You know, the banks don't have this open book to say, okay, we need to scale up a team of 50 to handle this large scale remediation. Let's go find 50 people and bring them on site in London, toronto new york, wherever that is. They just, they don't have the space. Um A lot of the banks, obviously based in new york are having conversations around their location strategies, where are they going to end up, are they going to, you know, move down to florida for the sun and the, and the tax breaks, are they going to stay in new york, are they going to go to another cheaper state? And so those pressures are still there. So I think the conversations are still the same from a, you know, an organization like Finn Tree, we welcome to have a regulatory pipeline and I know that's not a popular view on things for our our clients, but obviously that feeds a lot of the work we do and a lot of the support that we can provide. Um I think as well there's there's a real competitiveness that's always been around with investment banks but is really coming to the fore, I guess, with more technology being implemented and and clients looking for a lot more efficiencies in their processes, things need to be done faster. Things need to be done better. And whilst technology can play a large part in that, a lot of kind of the back end work or what goes on behind the scenes is still very much of people be a solution. So that striving towards doing things faster and better is, is still their clients want their customers to have the best experience that they can and that goes for every bank across the street. So their considerations of, of how to get over those pain points are okay, well, how do we make this better for our customers? How will our customer choose us versus the bank across the street? And what do we need to do to, to put that into place? And I think the last thing I would say is the expertise as well are, are a challenge. Um it's not as easy to go into the market and and find contractors or, you know, find contractors at the right price. And I think that again lends itself well to our business model, you know, banks again with Ir 35 things like that, what you're putting constraints on the contracting business in general, um it's not as easy to go out and get those, those expertise in the market anymore, and if they can get those expertise, it's generally very expensive as well. Um So yeah, look in summary, I think the challenges are the same. I don't think anything over the last 12 months has dramatically changed. I think obviously the atmosphere and the environment within which we work has has changed dramatically, and I'm sure we'll touch on what that looks like, you know, for a vendor sitting in Northern Ireland versus you know, someone sitting on site in London or new york. So I came across a really interesting stat the other day and basically what it said was once a client has had a positive experience in...

...the digital world and across any industry, really, they use that as their standard for the expectations in any industry. So in effect, they go to the social media environment and now they're going to bring that back to the bank and say, okay, well they could do this in a minute, why can't you, you're seeing any of that with? Uh Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um so what we heard our our chief technology officer at the very start of this year, and I've had many conversations with with her to date, and then a really interesting conversation was, was around the user experience and, you know, I'm not a tacky by any stretch of the imagination, but the example that she used was you know, obviously during the pandemic, amazon is you know the be all and end all for everyone rarely does a day go by whenever you're not on amazon. So we talked a lot about user experience and about how well amazon does that you open your phone, you click on the app and within two or three clicks you have bought something and it's going to be delivered in a day. And we started to go down the rabbit hole in that conversation and say well you know maybe that's what banking needs to look like, Maybe it needs to be that's straight forward or or that user friendly for customers. So I think that that's one thing that we've talked a lot about internally, really breaking it down and making it simple. Obviously investment banking is a very, very complex industry. But I think another interesting thing about customer experiences um that single touch point, whether it's a vendor or whether it's at the investment bank and I think this is something that that some of our clients do really well and some of the big banks on the street do really, really well. Um interestingly I read an article yesterday about Goldman Sachs and they have the one Goldman approach which is they want a customer to have one single interaction irrespective of whether they do fX business rates, business commodities, business. They want that holistic approach for those cross divisional customers. And I think that to your point jerry around customer experience and you know, once they experience what really good is they'll want that with with every client or every every investment bank they deal with. I think there has to be such an emphasis. Long gone are the days where as a customer of an investment bank you have 15 different touch points depending on what department you're dealing with or what trade you're placing customers are now looking for. Okay I know that you know Stuart Marks is the person that I speak to that client and they will handle all those issues for me. And so I think I think it's right that the industry is very much focusing on that customer centric way of of thinking because it plays such a massive part and I guess as an organization like ourselves. We we also we view it exactly the same. We want to make sure that our clients that we are dealing with feel as though they're getting the best customer...

...service that they have that one single person that they can speak to and escalate things to if if needed. And I think it's just, you know, a happy client makes for for you know, a prosperous business. Um and so we we have people whose sole focus our dedicated on relationship management to make sure that our clients are are happy yesterday today is going on in the background, but that that customer experience and making sure that their I guess their interactions with us from start to finish our exactly what they're expecting. In fact, even better the world Is moving fast. It's difficult to keep up your executive team routinely needs new ideas to keep them ahead of the competition. Imagine having a plan in place in 30 days to focus your innovation efforts, improve customer experience, accelerate your move to digitization or increase speed to market. Our guide to accelerating your innovation agenda provides you with insights and time saving resources to plan your path forward, contact jerry to book a quick call or for your complimentary copy at www dot linkedin dot com backslash in backslash jerry Purcell g E R R Y P U R c E L L. Or email jerry at jerry dot Purcell at innovation 3 60 group dot com. Yeah. One of things I find interesting about the way that you talk about your business and being a fintech. Often conversations with within techs are very I. T centric, it's all about this new thing. This new due dad, you know whatever it's gonna do this or that when you guys talk about your business, you talk about the customer experience and the relationship and the long term and then the I. T. Is sort of in Behind and enabler and it's not I don't know that your business is different than other business but just kind of intriguing how you how you talk about it. Yeah. So look I guess Fin Tree is is very much and it's you know infancy in terms of its its tech journey. Um But in typical country style were very quickly accelerating that. But but you're right there. I think we look at it slightly different. You know we've been around for a number of years now and we very much been a people-based solution for for our clients. But the beauty of that is we've been with these clients on a very long journey for the last 678 years. We understand the problems that they have. We're not second guessing where the inefficiencies are. We're not second guessing where the gaps are and what we're now doing is we're saying okay we understand those gaps, we know the client very very well. We've built up a long standing stable relationship with...

...them. Let's take that to the next level where we say, OK, we've noticed efficiencies, A, B and C. And actually we think that we have some form of technology that can alleviate the strain or we can help you on that journey. And so look, it's it's a look at the timeline is a lot longer. You know, it's not a case of we've built this thing in the background and now we're just going to go sell, sell sell. It's a much more considered approach to say, well, what does the client need from us? And at that stage then we start to work alongside them and say, here are the efficiencies that we think that we can bring to you. And so it's there's two ways of looking at technology, it's from the, I guess the technologists perspective of we have this tool, we think it's great and we will sell it to our clients and sometimes that sticks and that's wonderful. I think one thing that seems to lack in those scenarios is often there's no people's side to that either. It's the here's the technology and well now cut you loose and there's there's nothing really in the background. The approach that we've been taken is we have the people they've now been with you for 1234 years, however many years we know what you need, we will build that for you and we will still have the people there. They know exactly what those pain points are. And we will be with you on that journey to work with the technology that we implement. And I think that that's worked really well for some of our clients and it's really stuck with them because we aren't we are selling them something that they don't want by the time that we are on that technology journey with him, we know exactly what it is that they want. And I think the benefit of an organization like ours is you know, we have 15 investment bank clients as of today. So we we know the commonalities, we know exactly what each of those banks are struggling with. And not surprisingly they have the same issues. Okay. Some have it on a large scale, some have it on every client is different, aren't they? Absolutely every every client is different but they all have the same similar issues but on a slightly different scale. You know, some have a massive issue and that they need help with and and some have a much smaller scale issue. But we have the benefit of saying, okay, well there's a lot of common themes here. What can we build or what can we develop or create in the background that will help alleviate that. And a lot of what we do with our clients and a lot of what they seek from us is, you know, what is going on in the market. You know, we don't share trade secrets, we don't share who we work with. But there are no surprises when we tell our clients, Yeah. You know, you'd be surprised. A lot of the people in the market have these same issues. And so it's it's taking that longer view. And as they say, look, it sometimes takes a little bit longer to get to that place where you land on exactly what you need. And look, we all know technology is a lot of trial and error rarely do you make something to build something that...

...is a, you know, a hit straightaway. But taking that longer approaching, getting going back to that client and the missing piece. Getting alongside the client and those individuals and understanding what exactly they need. And then going along that journey with them has, has really stood us in good stead. So, um, so you have a client base that has north american clients and it already, but you've recently moved into the north american market physically. What, what sort of challenges and learnings have you experienced? What sorts of uh, sort of observations would you make about entering a new market? Um, yeah, very good question. I think the first thing I would say is, yeah, there's a big question around whether or not it is a new market and the reason I say that is financial services, investment banking is a global market by its nature. So we have clients in Toronto in new york, we have them in the media, we have them in ASia and the same issues are the same problems that they have, that they need help with our geography agnostic. You know, if I'm working into a bank in London, they will have the same struggles, the same challenges as a client based in new york. And so from a financial perspective, that's been good for us. We aren't, we are embarking on anything new. We already know where those pain points are with our clients. With that said, we have a really good grasp on the competitive market in the UK, in Ireland in the media because we've been there and that's where our, I guess our central hub is. Um the competitive market in north America is different. You know, there's lots of other vendors over here compared to back home. Yes, we knew who we were in competition with back in the UK, but now we're over here. So you know, who are the other runners and riders that we need to be aware of? Um I think as well one of the challenges and again this is a this is a global challenge, but we've alluded to it earlier. The pandemic has thrown up a lot of challenge, you know, as a, as a business development person, as a salesperson, that face to face interaction, that getting into an office with someone, The handshake, the fact that you've got them locked in the room for 30 minutes and you've got their attention goes a long way. And I think that's something that that has been been challenging. But I think from our perspective, around 50 of our clients were already based in in North America, so we had a good grasp of what what the clients wanted, um but one of the key challenges that we've seen and this is as we look to further expand. So, you know, I'm currently based in new york, but we want to grow the business, so we're here and we want to expand and we want to open things like our delivery centers, almost a replication of of what it's like back home in northern Ireland. I think something that that we are fast realizing is North America is a lot more like europe than we first thought. And by that, I mean, you know, if you...

...want to do business in europe, if you want to do business in France and Germany in spain, there's lots of different regulations, there's lots of different employment laws, there's lots of considerations that you have to take into account. America. Canada. North America in general is very, very similar. If I take the U. S. As an example, the U. S. Is one big country, but there's many different states. Each state has its different employment laws, each state has its own regulations. And so there's so many different considerations when you're thinking like a startup company, which essentially, we are in North America, you know, we're looking to grow and expand. Those considerations are are so much at the forefront of our mind now, you know, do we want to open an office in a lower cost state? Okay, well, how do we employ people in that state? Because it's radically different than what it is in new york. And so it's challenging. It's exciting, um, but it's definitely challenging for an organization like ours to say, okay, you know, Yes, it's one big country, but actually it's many, it's almost like it's many, many different small countries and those are the considerations that we have to take. So yeah, look, it's, there are its differences and its challenges, I think interestingly from a cultural perspective and I spent some time in London, um, it is very similar to London, albeit what I have found is, you know, decisions tend to get made a lot quicker in, in north America. So when you get to that position where you're speaking with people in North America very quickly, you find that decisions can get made, whether it's a phone call back to London or whether it's a decision there. And then I think there's almost an acceleration of how quickly they want to do business over here, which look again from my perspective, as a, as a sales guy is great and that's music to my ears that, you know, our clients want to do business and and they'll be quick to do business as well. Yeah, it's almost like be careful what you ask for. Exactly, exactly, so, so yeah, so just just to sort of close off our conversation, what advice would you give? Both sort of banks and and uh you know, ventak organization and stuff around your experience of moving from europe to here or the other way around, or just to sort of the industry as a whole, like what sort of advice and and sort of pearls of wisdom would you want to impart, talk with them? I think the thing that jumps to mind and I've already mentioned a couple of times would be that that client intimacy peace and that's more for, you know, the vendor side or the Fintech side never underestimate how important those relationships are. And I know as an industry, you know, relationships are keen and it's the, you know, the interactions over a coffee or a beer that often, you know, will stand you in that much more good stead with the...

...client, But there has to be a real focus on client intimacy and getting alongside clients and understanding what it is specifically that they need or that they are looking for. Um I think as well adaptability I think, and this goes for both banks and for finn text and and other organizations, you know, the last 12 months, if nothing else have taught us that we need to be incredibly adaptable if I think of our own organization, we were a 100% work from the office organization until mid March last year and the pandemic hit and we very quickly moved to 100% working from home or working remotely organization, um you know, that wasn't even a consideration in february of last year, But by the end of March we had our 750 people of our organization working from home. And so it's about being adaptable. Um I'm being able to react to those things that pop up that we never, you know, imagine would pop up and that goes for a lot of things. It's about being adaptable in the solutions that we're providing for clients and and other Fintech start providing for clients. There's not a one size fits all. And you know, as I mentioned earlier, very rarely does someone creates something that is an instant hit. It's about being adaptable and having that agile mindset that you can change at the drop of a hat. Um And I think it's just about, you know, seeing the positivity and seeing the opportunities and whatever situations that you find yourself ourselves as an organization. You know, 2020 with all its challenges was a really good year for us. We signed up new clients, we did a lot of new business, we hired a lot of people again, rewind to two february and I think we were all scratching our heads wondering how it was all going to play out. But I think that the last piece of advice is, you know, just move with the times and see the opportunities wherever they are. We could have sat on our hands last year and and batten down the hatches and said 2020 is what it is. Let's regroup in 2021. Okay, I'm glad we didn't do that because 2021 looks very similar to to 2020. But you know, we just very quickly said, okay, let's let's go after the opportunities were now working remote. The benefit of that is as an organization based in northern Ireland. Where previous challenges where, you know, we need someone in London or new york or Toronto sitting two desks away from us. All of a sudden that was completely blown apart. Everyone was in the same scenario. So no longer did that person bank a want that person or need that person two seats away. So again, we looked at that and said, Ok, well, our business model is coming to the fore here. We have people based in Northern Ireland and that really works for our clients. So yeah, I think it's it's the client intimacy, peace being adaptable, being agile and just, you know, utilizing the...

...opportunities whenever they present themselves. Excellent. Excellent. It's really, really insightful. So that wraps up our episode and as always, I look forward to hearing thoughts from you, our listeners about today's show. Please keep the conversation going and if you like the show, tell your friends and please take a minute to radar show or post a comment. Go to Innovation 3 60 dot com or your favorite podcast site. To find out more and to listen to more shows. Thank you very much Stuart for chatting with me today. No problem. Thanks, jerry. Stay safe and see you next week. You've been listening to The fine of eight show with jerry Purcell. If you like the show, share it on your network and subscribe on itunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. And you can go to www dot innovation 3 60 dot com. To listen to more shows, download the transcription from today's show or to contact today's guest. This is the innovate show, Financial services innovators bringing you the future today. Yeah.

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