Who were the biggest influences in your early career and what did they teach you?
I was very fortunate at Morgan Stanley to work with some amazing people and there were many people who mentored me very extensively. One of my first mentors was Colm Kelleher, who is now President of Morgan Stanley. I also had a very close mentor in Rob Rooney, who is now Global Head of Technology, and Walid Chammah, former Head of the Securities Division.
I was very fortunate to have worked with some amazing people who went out of their way to help me develop my own career and to invest in me. It was invaluable for me.
What are the most important lessons you have learned over the years about managing people and strategic leadership?
We are a people business and I think people want to be part of a winning company. They want to align themselves with success. We are very focused on being as successful as we possibly can, without compromising our principles. We have a very clearly defined set of values at FinTrU: Partnership; Passion; People, and Professionalism.
These values actually came from our employees and they ultimately inform how everyone in the company conducts themselves. At the end of each year, when we go through the process of rewarding and recognising our people, we look at how they have “lived” these values. It’s very clear that everyone in the organisation identifies where they are going and what they want to achieve.
We held an off-site event last year, which we called “Good to Great”, after the title of the well-known management book by Jim Collins. We came up with a lot of takeaways, many of which were about getting the right people on the bus. The other thing we have, which everyone in the company lives and breathes is a BHAG [Big Hairy Audacious Goal]. Our BHAG is to grow to 1,000 people. Everyone is really proud of that and they are very clearly aligned with where we are going.
We hold town hall meetings at least once every quarter. There is also an informality about the company and how we communicate internally. I know everyone’s first name. I speak to everyone. In this company, no one is just a number. I think it is very important that everyone feels empowered and I try to empower people more and more to ultimately treat this company as their own and behave like owners. That culmination of factors has really led us to where we are.
In terms of personal development and upskilling, how do you stay current in your sector?
If I’m honest, I have historically been a bit sceptical about this. Having said that, I have been nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award this year. As part of that, I spent a week off-site in London and Oxford in May and I found it invaluable. One of the things I hadn’t appreciated was that FinTrU can run perfectly well without me. I don’t need to be here to make every decision. We have now put people in place who can make decisions probably better than I can myself. So, it was great to actually get out of the office and spend a week working on the business, rather than in it.
That was a real lightbulb moment for me. Since then, I have encouraged my management team to spend some time reflecting and thinking strategically. Very often, we can get bogged down and caught up in the day-to-day minutiae. So, I am becoming a newfound convert, but I think it is really about finding the right balance. There are definitely significant benefits in taking the time to consider issues you might not otherwise think about on a day-to-day basis.
When you travel for pleasure, where do you go and why?
We love Italy, as a family so we go there every year. Historically, we have gravitated more towards Tuscany, but we just spent two weeks on the Amalfi Coast and it was spectacular. I love everything about Italy. I love the culture, the language, the food and the wine.
When I holiday in Ireland, I go back to where I came from. We have a place in Inchydoney in West Cork. It brings me peace. I love nothing more than walking the beach and filling my lungs with the beautiful fresh Atlantic air. I don’t even care if it rains. I love just being there, so I try to go down there as regularly as I can.
What’s the last great book you read?
I think the greatest book ever written was War and Peace by Tolstoy. I am currently reading a fantastic book called One Hundred Years of Solitude by the Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.
I also read Andrew Marr’s History of the World while I was on holidays recently and found it fascinating. I studied a BComm International at University College Dublin, half of which was an Arts Degree, so I love literature. Reading is probably one of my greatest passions.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Music is one thing I have spectacularly failed at in my life. I am unfortunately somewhat tone deaf and I won’t tell you how badly I scored on my various piano exams. My music tends to be dominated by my teenage daughters’ Apple Music downloads. I find myself listening to playlists in the car with many obscenities. Given my middle-aged state, I am probably much more in tune with new releases than I should be.