Terry Flynn Of Fenergo On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Enhance the client experience: The ideal state is an omnichannel experience where clients have consistent capabilities and access on their terms. This leads to the client receiving a highly tailored experience, increased responsiveness from their provider and ultimately increases the revenue opportunity with that client.

Digital transformation has become a crucial component for businesses striving to stay competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology continues to shape industries and redefine business models, companies must adapt and leverage digital tools and strategies to unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. In this interview series, we aim to explore various aspects of digital transformation, including best practices, challenges, success stories, and expert insights. We are talking to thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, technology innovators, and executives who have firsthand experience in driving digital transformation initiatives within their organizations. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Flynn.

Terry Flynn is the Managing Director Asset Management and Insurance at Fenergo, the industry-defining provider of client and investor lifecycle management platform, encompassing KYC, AML and CFT prevention, risk assessment, client onboarding, maintenance and product activation. Terry is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of experience as both an individual contributor and manager in fintech. He has a proven track record of building and driving teams to source, negotiate and close complex on-premises software, SaaS and consulting services deals across global organizations.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My first job in financial services out of UC Berkeley was answering phones at one of the original online brokerages. I was thrown in the deep end and learned as I went. I passed my Series 7 exam and then moved onto a technology investment bank, first on the funds side and then to a role in account management for the clearing division, which got me deep exposure to the operations side of the business. My understanding of the workflows and systems got me involved in product demonstrations for prospective clients which opened the door to the world of tech sales. For the past two decades I have been both an individual contributor as well as run sales teams for trading, accounting and portfolio management software providers for both buy-side and sell-side institutions. Currently, I head up the Asset Management and Insurance vertical for Fenergo, the industry-defining provider of client and investor lifecycle management platform, encompassing KYC, AML and CFT prevention, risk assessment, client onboarding, maintenance and product activation.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

While I was working at the investment bank side, I was a registered securities principal for the funds, meaning I had my Series 24 license and was responsible for replying to all written client correspondence. At that time (late 1990s) there was some question in the industry on how to treat inbound email as it was still relatively new. Erring on the side of caution, we treated it like formal written correspondence requiring an official response which was then printed out and saved for three years in cold storage for compliance purposes. We would receive 10–20 emails per week, many of which served to point out how our funds were underperforming relative to whichever fund was spotlighted by CNBC that week. I had access to the portfolio managers who provided talking points around investment discipline, long term investment horizon, currency and political risks so I had a standard set of comments to use as a template for my responses. On return from a short vacation the following Monday, it was brought to my attention that I had been directly quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Given the nature and volume of emails that I received and replied to over the year, it was not impossible that I provided a less than ideal response at some point so until I was able to see the article I was more than a bit anxious. As it turned out, a journalist sent emails to ten fund complexes and our response was deemed to be the most thorough and informative. So, while this particular email was not a mistake it certainly could have been. I had always heard the old adage, do not write anything down that you would not want to see in the Wall Street Journal and this was a prime example that I have taken with me throughout my career.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve taken some valuable insights from former managers, such as my first sales manager, who taught me the power of empathy and active listening in the sales process. But I would say that some of the best business wisdom I got was from my father. He was not in finance, but his advice was not industry specific. First, he said “always know what you bring the table” which means that self-awareness is crucial. Know your strengths and weaknesses and always be mindful of both. Secondly, he always said “if you hoot with the owls, you must also soar with the eagles” which was a translation of a quote attributed to President Humbert Humphrey. It is another version of the idea that a good percentage of success is showing up, but specifically it meant that in business, especially for client facing roles like sales, there will be travel, long days and some late nights. But travel challenges or those late nights are no excuse for not being sharp and ready to go for your next meeting or presentation. It is something I have never failed to follow and something I have always drilled into my teams. Being committed and dependable makes you invaluable to your team and your clients.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“After the Trade is Made” by David Weiss. The yellow cover is nothing fancy and it is very dense, but it is the bible for all securities processing. My first day at that technology investment bank, the book was waiting for me at my desk. While it is not the most exciting read, there is no better source for understanding the intricacies of the securities business. It is a crash course in asset types, securities workflows and the roles of banks, custodians and transfer agents in the process. The knowledge contained in those 700 pages would take years to learn by experience alone and was integral in my early career development. My understanding and background in operations built the foundation of my sales career. My ability to articulate a true understanding of the workflows and indeed empathize with the “in the trenches” users at my clients gave me credibility…they knew I had been there and that I knew the challenges they experienced firsthand.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Just a few years ago, data was the hottest topic in financial services. There are still entire conferences dedicated to the challenges presented by the explosion of data volume and sources and best practices for data management. Artificial intelligence is clearly the hottest topic in the financial services industry right now. At Fenergo, we see these two as being inextricably linked, with AI being a powerful tool for managing that previously unmanageable pool of data. Fenergo continues to enhance our offering with AI tools, the latest of which is Intelligent Document Processing (IDP). Our new IDP solution leverages AI and OCR capabilities to automate the document management process, increasing operational efficiencies while reducing operating costs. It enables quick uploading, analysis and management of complex document requirements, reducing the burden of repetitive actions and lowers the risk of human error for employees.

Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. Digital transformation can mean many things to many people, from your perspective, how do you define digital transformation in your industry?

We look at this from two viewpoints — from the client and from the financial institution. For the customer, digital transformation means optimizing the user experience, enabling frictionless transactions and transparency. Whether the client uses a web portal or app, they should have a consistent, simple, effective experience. If they cannot get that from their current provider, they will go elsewhere. For financial institutions it is all about operational efficiency: automating manual processes, eliminating reliance on email and shared files and merging multiple disparate data sources to create a single, accessible data model. This yields scale, minimizes operational and regulatory risk and ultimately enables firms to deliver that ideal customer experience. One cannot happen without the other.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

The easy answer is all companies benefit from digital engagement, but specifically, the more antiquated the process, the greater the benefits of digitization. In the asset management industry for example, the investor onboarding and maintenance process has long been neglected and is ripe for improvement. The investor experience is very manual, inconsistent, and fraught with errors and duplicative requests. This leads to slower time to revenue, operational inefficiencies, regulatory risks and the potential for investor churn.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

It is very challenging to make the digital transformation leap. Change is scary, but not evolving means slowly (or in some cases, quickly) becoming obsolete. It also requires self-reflection which is not always in the corporate DNA. When firms embark on transformational journeys, they must examine current state processes and ask themselves “why do we do it like that?”. The worst answer is “because that’s how we have always done it” and far too often that is the only reason to be found. I have seen many cases where firms tried to replicate legacy processes in a “digital” model and it inevitably fails. I always stress that to my clients as they prepare for implementations. It is critical to resist the urge to maintain bad processes for the sake of comfort. A few years ago, I worked with a large insurance asset manager on a massive transformation process and to avoid that problem we set up an internal review board to approve any deviation from the standard deployment. If a group wanted a customization, they had to present a case to that review board to defend it. Turned out that very few business units ended up feeling strongly enough about those “must-have” customizations to put pen to paper and present that case resulting in a much more streamlined project delivery.

Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”?

  • Enhance the client experience: The ideal state is an omnichannel experience where clients have consistent capabilities and access on their terms. This leads to the client receiving a highly tailored experience, increased responsiveness from their provider and ultimately increases the revenue opportunity with that client.
  • Data Management & Orchestration: The goal here is to orchestrate data from any third-party system, match and merge it into a single entity profile, and create a data model that’s easy to interpret and map into downstream and upstream systems. The advent of AI will dramatically improve how data is managed in firms and which will have a direct impact on growth and the client experience.
  • Scalability: When you move from an analog, manual engagement to a digitized process you remove a key processing bottleneck to scaling. As automated equity trading took hold in the late 1990s, trading volumes exploded, democratizing liquidity access and lowering transaction costs. Vastly more shares are traded each day today, with far fewer humans directly involved than 20 years ago.
  • Force Projection: A smaller firm with a strong digital presence can level the playing field against larger players. I have worked with smaller asset managers that have made themselves seem much bigger and able to compete directly with the largest players in the industry because they created a cutting-edge web presence and a simple, intuitive user experience.
  • Telemetry & Insights: Digitization enables data visualization and real-time, direct feedback on all manner of key performance indicators. This allows firms to immediately track their clients and their business efficiency to enable faster, data-driven decisions.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

The key is to never be satisfied…there is no end zone or goal line, it is a constant process to be innovative. It is also important to be intellectually curious, do not be afraid to ask questions and look for ways to improve. Every company does some things well, but also has things they can improve. No company should ever be lulled into the sense that they have everything right. When a company brings in new talent, they should embrace the new perspectives that come along with that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

He who sweats more in training bleeds less in battle” — George S. Patton Jr. There are variants of this quote, but it boils down to preparation being the key to success. In the sales world this translates to doing dry runs of presentations, creating a pre-call planner with defined roles and aligning on the agenda with the client ahead of time so there are no surprises. If there is a risk in a sales case or implementation project, raise it early, don’t wait until it is too late to adequately address it. You cannot control every variable but for the ones you can, make sure you do. Outside of work, I coach youth basketball and lacrosse and it is a fundamental part of my coaching strategy. I use Tiger Woods and Steph Curry as examples that the kids can relate to…it takes thousands of swings on the driving ranges and thousands of free throws to get to their level. There is no such thing as too much preparation.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Happy to connect with colleagues on LinkedIn here.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.