10 Questions: Thomas Kim, Enfusion Systems
Traders Magazine Editor John D’Antona Jr. recently sat down with Thomas Kim, the new Chief Executive Officer of fintech firm Enfusion Systems. The discussion recounts Kim’s experiences, philosophy and vision for the firm.
1. Tell us how your previous experiences have readied you for your current posting as CEO of Enfusion.
I started my role as Enfusion’s CEO in March of 2020. For most, entering a company as CEO is daunting in itself, let alone entering a company as CEO during a global pandemic. Fortunately, my past experiences leading businesses across the buy side, sell side, and fintech prepared me to maneuver through complex challenges. Collectively, my past experience has allowed me to bring more connected perspectives to the firm and ultimately to our clients (from alternative investment managers to traditional asset managers) for whom our software products and managed services are mission critical. Having previously led buy side, sell side, and fintech firms, I have found I am in a position to better understand our clients’ needs, which has become more relevant now as the need to remotely access investment tools and perform middle/back operations remotely (or outsourced entirely).
That said, reflecting on the current affairs across the world with great humility, I am still orienting myself to the “new normal,” which will likely be with us for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, Enfusion is well positioned to assist clients through these unprecedented times and I am excited to take on the challenge.
2. What is your management philosophy as it pertains to Enfusion? Do you have a specific mission or goals to run through? Is there a timetable for this?
My management philosophy, as it pertains to Enfusion or otherwise, is centered around meritocracy and transparency. At my core, I believe it is important to take pride in what you do and the impact you have. By focusing on meritocracy and transparency, if successfully executed, every Enfusion member will clearly understand how she or he can be personally successful and have a positive impact on Enfusion and its clients, leading to great pride and a thriving culture. At Enfusion, we believe it is important to be laser focused on our firm goals. To successfully do so, it is important to keep things simple. This mentality finds its way through to our firm’s core goals, which are: (1) Deliver excellent products and managed services, seamlessly integrated across the front-middle-back office; and, (2) Differentiate by delivering exceptional client experiences . There is no particular timetable, because these goals are not goals with a start-date, nor an end-date. Rather, these are goals that we challenge ourselves to achieve day after day.
3. There have been many talks about rethinking the American dream in this unprecedented situation. With unemployment rates at an all-time high, racial injustice and civil unrest in the U.S, how do you rethink the American Dream? I would be interested to learn more about your journey and thoughts as a first-generation Korean-American.
Like many, I see the devastating social and economic effects Covid-19 has had on the world. Likewise, I have watched with sorrow the racial injustices that have been highlighted recently. Despite how difficult it may be to remain positive in today’s environment, I have used these difficult times to self-reflect and gain a new appreciation for the American Dream. To me, the American Dream is something more than physical possession or monetary means. To me, the American Dream is a mentality; a drive to find happiness and peace in one’s self by persevering through challenges as they are presented. As a Korean-American, I am a recipient of the American Dream through my family. I see the sacrifices my family had made so I can be where I am. In the same light, although I see all of the pain and suffering today, I also see people from all backgrounds coming together in support of one another. This tells me that the American Dream is alive, and I have no doubt, these difficult times will pass, and we will ultimately come together as a stronger and more inclusive nation.
4. The core values of Enfusion include Passion for Excellence and Taking Ownership. What has been the best piece of advice or feedback given to you and how did that leave a lasting impact on your personal and professional development?
When I think of feedback or advice I have received over the years that has had a lasting impact on me, two things immediately come to mind: (1) If you are not making a difference, forcing yourself to face impossible things with high integrity, then you are wasting time and aren’t doing enough, and (2) Keep an open mind and stop being defensive. Strangely, no matter what company I’m leading or what circumstance I find myself in, these two ideas have constantly driven me and shaped my way of being.
5. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
This one is easy. If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to control time. Time is the one thing we never have enough of and being able to control it would be perfect (plus, it would give me the opportunity to go back and unwind all those embarrassing photos that came out of 80’s and 90’s).
6. Who is your role model in life?
I credit much of who I am to the influence my family has had on me. Their impact has given me the fortunate opportunity to have more than one role model: My mother for her strength My father for his calm and wisdom My brothers for their diversity in thinking My wife for her kindness, empathy, and compassion and for always inspiring me to be a better person
7. Building a strong organizational culture is important to enable people to navigate challenging and difficult times in solidarity. What are the main challenges you recognize as a CEO in leading a new culture?
I knew there would be challenges stepping in as a CEO, leading a new culture, but I could not have predicted the global crises that would arise as I started my new role. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like multiple concurrent global crises to stress test a firm’s culture. Fortunately, I came to a company where the importance of putting our clients first, the sense of ownership, the passion to achieve excellence and innovate, and the drive for results, all in a collaborative way, are very much present in our day to day. With that said, I am extremely proud of how Enfusion’s culture is thriving, especially under such challenging circumstances and with new faces stepping into new roles.
8. An event such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica has set about people rethinking how tech giants such as Facebook and Google could be manipulating personal data and information. Enfusion testifies to be built on one single source of truth – a golden data set. With data integrity and privacy regulations being of utmost importance now – what are your thoughts on this?
To us at Enfusion, although not consumer-facing, we believe that data management comes down to trust. Our clients turn to us to help them succeed and in doing so, entrust us with sensitive data. They expect us to treat that data with great respect. We recognize that if we do not treat data with the respect it deserves, we risk far more than losing a client; we lose the trust that has led our success. This is simply, something we are unwilling to risk.
9. You have also been growing your international talent pool and Asia Pacific is a huge focus. Tell us more about your international strategy.
Enfusion continues to see global growth across our PMS, OEMS, and managed services. The international component of our overall strategy is key to our growth story. Asset managers around the world, not just the United States, are looking for integrated, cloud-based solutions from a partner that puts them first vs just another vendor who may have stitched together different clunky systems or just puts wrappers around legacy technology, presenting it as a “cloud based solution.” Our growth globally is a representation of that fact. We will continue to make investments in adding great talent globally to Enfusion.
10. If you could change one thing about the fintech industry, what would it be?
I think the fintech industry as a whole, is on a positive trajectory in terms of innovation leading to positive impactful change. This is good and something that drew me to fintech, so I would not change that. In fact, I feel that, with regard to the overall capital markets industry’s evolution, innovation that delivers business process improvements to financial services and banking are vital and those firms that do not or are unable to innovate, or those that do not look towards third-party providers to help innovate their processes, will be left behind.. Established financial institutions see this and are increasing their focus on internal innovations and many see an opportunity to gain efficiencies and expertise by actively supporting external ones as well. The number of investments in fintech made by private equity and venture capital continues to grow, which in turn, augments or creates new opportunities for innovation. All said, it is important that fintech remains true to itself and its innovative ways, not becoming complacent with the status quo. If that remains true, I have no doubt fintech firms will continue to push the limits of what was once considered impossible, ultimately changing the financial services and banking industries, and even the broader economy, for the better.
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