You would have previously read in Q2's edition of Connection my interview with Richard Tailby, Synaptic's Head of Sales. Now, continuing that series of interviews, we find out what makes Tiina Stephens, our new COO, tick. Tiina has spent 15 years in financial services. Let's find out more.
Software development is all about understanding user needs and figuring out what are the value creators and pain removers for the user, for the firm, for the industry – that's what we are focusing on going forwards.
What are your short and long-term goals for Synaptic?
Short term is to focus the business on core capabilities and simplify what we do for the benefit of our customers. Long-term objectives for Synaptic is to deepen our product expertise in our chosen sectors, focus on user needs and design thinking.
What have you learned so far that you will take into the next year?
The focus of advice has been shifting for a long time. The pace of the change whilst continuous is ever more relentless and our users and partners all feel this. Technology drives the adoption of change and we (as industry suppliers and software providers) have noticed the opening of the closely guarded secrets of our partners' and customers' technology stacks and most people are ready to adopt more collaboration and partnering. I see this as a great opportunity for our industry to unlock the value within the advice chain. More of it in 2020, please!
How do you keep your staff keen and motivated?
Interesting question and they should probably answer this one rather than me! At Synaptic we have been working on creating a happy culture for a while now. The pace of change impacts not just our clients, but also everyone who works at Synaptic and every leader needs to make it clear why each colleague is significant, why their work matters, creating a belonging to the organisation and making people feel refreshed even after a rough day; I want people to know what they have achieved. We have changed a lot of things based on one simple question; how happy do you feel coming to work? We are not finished as it is a continuous learning cycle and everyone as an individual is motivated differently, but we are continuously progressing and moving forward.
How do you foresee software having to change with an everchanging financial services industry?
We have a very strong view on how we improve our customers' experience as a whole, and enable advisers to become more efficient and grow their business with the help of our software.
I think now it is all about the retail technology experience – everyone expects software to look fantastic, provide fantastic results, drive value and benefit the user by being intuitive, innovative and free. Can't do everything, right? Software development is all about understanding user needs and figuring out what are the value creators and pain removers for the user, for the firm, for the industry – that's what we are focusing on going forwards.
What's the biggest risk you've ever taken?
Overall my risk profile is moderately cautious, however any increased risk needs to be weighted by the goal, potential returns and time horizon. I have set myself different goals over time with variant levels of risk, but perhaps the biggest risks have been related to where I have chosen to live. I studied in Russia for a while, travelled around the world for a year on a very limited budget and moved to the UK 18 years ago, all of which, in hindsight, have paid off. Risk taking also needs to be balanced with 'what if' scenarios – hence the reason I took out a bigger life insurance policy the day before I gave birth to my son! It felt too risky a thing to go through without having sufficient cover in place.
Who is your role model, and why?
This has to be my grandmother; she taught me to be an individual and think for myself. She was also blazing the trail for women in 1950's Finland by working as the sole woman on a sawmill amongst 1000's of male colleagues. All because she had a choice to do so and she never thought it wasn't her place. Her philosophy was very gender neutral, we're all just people with different capabilities and levels of experience.
Richard Tailby mentioned 'talented people' in his interview in the last edition of Connection. What do you see as the obvious ways to nurture talent in your business?
I think to nurture talent is to take everyone as an individual and do your utmost to create opportunities for them to grow, if they have the drive or the opportunity to do so. It is an environment that you need to create where people are willing and able to take chances and try things and not be afraid to fail.
If you could make one change to a piece of Synaptic Software right now, what would it be?
We have a very strong view on how we improve our customers' experience as a whole and enable advisers to become more efficient and grow their business with the help of our software. To pick one thing would be to speed up our go to market plans around Modeller Risk Explorer app, which will be really exciting to launch as well as our MiFID compliant reporting capabilities – these innovations create more engaging interactions between the adviser and the client, as well as driving efficiencies at practice level. We are solely focused on improving the tools to aide advisers, whether within the protection and investment or retirement advice, engagement and user experience with technology as well as enabling them to focus more of their time to build great relationships with their clients.