TechweekCHI Preview: Q&A with Trading Technologies

twchi_session_fintechWith Techweek Chicago’s Fintech Summit approaching tomorrow, we interviewed leaders from Trading Technologies (TT) about their industry, their company, and their advice for others in similar positions. See answers from TT’s CEO Rick Lane, CMO Brian Mehta, CTO Drew Shields and Executive Vice President of HR Katie Burgoon.

BigMarker: Have you been involved much in Techweek previously? How will your role this year compare?

Katie Burgoon: Last year was the first year that TT attended, and we thought there was a really vibrant, energetic and talented crowd in attendance. We were so impressed that we wanted to step up our involvement this year, and we’ll be giving a talk on the main stage during the Fintech Summit tomorrow. We are also attending the Hiring Fair on Friday.

BM: What initially drew you to the fintech industry?

Brian Mehta: I’ve always had a passion for marketing technology, as well as the motivation for working on what’s new and ground-breaking — particularly with regards to the SaaS revolution, technology is giving more and more people access to tools and applications that can help improve their quality of life. I see fintech as the next big thing and really a blank slate in terms of marketing, training and overall communications.

BM: What do you think is the biggest challenge in Fin Tech? Especially for traditional financial companies.

Drew Shields: The biggest challenge is that capital markets firms have generally been slow to adopt new technologies, which means that it’s a delicate balancing act being an innovator in the space: you have to earn the trust of your customers and help them build trust in the technologies you use to innovate. At the same time, major transformations are happening as evidenced by the closing of the CME trading pits. So our users are evolving quickly while technology is evolving at an even faster pace, which creates unique challenges. We have to decide which technologies to use and when to use them, but also when to build for the user’s needs today, versus where you see them being in 2-5 years. Building sustainable solutions is challenging when both users and tools are changing so quickly.

BM: Financial technology can be confusing. What would you say the biggest marketing challenge is for fintech companies?

Brian Mehta: I think the biggest challenge is in effectively simplifying the message. This is a complex industry and you need to distill complex ideas into something easy to understand. But if you make it too vague, you run the risk of leaving people without enough details to fully comprehend the product. For example, we had to be very careful in describing our platform’s hybrid-cloud architecture, because there is still so much anxiety and misconception around the term “cloud.” It makes for a tricky balancing act.

BM: What’s the best advice you could give to a smaller company in the fintech industry?

Rick Lane: My advice would be that before you try to scale, make sure you’ve developed a core audience of passionate and loyal users that cannot live without you. It takes a lot of time and effort to build the relationship, but it’s necessary to have if you ever want to grow the right way. Your users need to have trust in your company to do what’s best for them, and that trust must be earned.

BM: What’s the best advice you received while working in your industry?

Katie Burgoon: Never burn a bridge. That’s true across all industries, but I think it’s particularly true in a niche like fintech. You never know when you might end up needing someone’s assistance in the future. And even if you just burn a bridge with one person, the effects on your reputation can spread well beyond that. The fintech world is huge, yet even smaller ironically. So many people I have previously worked with, hired or had to part ways with in one fashion or another, have re-entered my professional life. The beauty of this industry is that it is home to some of the most innovative and talented minds around. Those networks are critical.

BM: What’s the most rewarding part about working at TT?

Rick Lane: We have a diverse company with smart people that debate in a healthy and team-oriented manner.

Drew Shields: So much is at stake with our software, that having a hand in building a world-class product is rewarding.

Brian Mehta: Can’t beat the free beer! Just added ‘bartender’ to my resume. But in all seriousness, being part of a company that is genuinely disrupting an established industry is exhilarating.

Katie Burgoon: We give people the opportunity to take ownership over certain parts of the business, and new ways of doing things are welcomed. We work hard to eliminate the fear of failure. We are okay with making mistakes and we learn from them. We want all of our employees to feel empowered, tapped in, vested and to have fun, all while solving challenging problems.