"End users have always shaped the development of our platform": Q&A with MackeyRMS' Chris Mackey and Hoony Youn May 2019
In response to client demand for their research product, founders Chris Mackey and Hoony Youn recently visited Australia. They talk to Industry Moves about the initial frustration that led to the founding of the company and how the product has evolved over the past eight years as it seeks to make investment professionals' days more productive. They also share a little about what makes them tick - such as who their biggest career influences are, and what working for themselves means to them.
- Is your expansion to AsiaPacific in response to client demand?
Chris (pictured left):
Absolutely. We have double-digit deployments in the region and a near-term pipeline showing a ton of APAC activity. We are excited about the recent addition of Sydney-based Nathan Walker to our team and are serious about our investment in building a significant presence in Asia Pacific. We are here to stay.
- How did your past experience lead you to set up Mackey RMS?
Chris: I previously worked as a research analyst with a technology focused long/short equity hedge fund. Prior to my time on the buyside, I was a member of the TMT (technology, media and telecom) group with a provider of primary research services to the investment management industry. I had been familiar with legacy RMS providers for quite some time, and conceptually agreed with what they were trying to accomplish. Based on my own experience, however, I felt their numerous requirements around process change were totally unrealistic
Hoony: I started out my career in Enterprise Software delivery as a technical team leader for large deployments of Sales Force Automation systems for Fortune 500 companies. I have also served in leadership roles in Product Management, Program Management, and Engineering servicing global clients. When meeting Chris, and learning about the business and the market, my immediate thought was that I knew what would be involved to make this business a success.
- How would you describe the main technical differences between MackeyRMS and other legacy providers?
Chris: Mackey differentiates via automation, mobility and usability. We have a powerful auto-tagging engine that separates us from the pack, a straightforward 2-way API and seasoned data migration team that allows our users to combine historical data with new feeds of their choice on a go-forward basis, and dozens of integrations with leading productivity tools. Our platform is fully mobile, as each core and custom feature we build is available on our native iPhone, iPad, and Android Apps. Finally, we have a modern user interface that feels intuitive to even novice users. We like to say we work the way the modern analyst works!
"We like to say we work the way the modern analyst works!"
- Existing systems can also be expensive, how is Mackey RMS cost effective?
Chris: Our clients typically recognise significant savings from both a cost and time standpoint. Our platform is significantly less expensive than maintaining an internal system or contracting with a data provider. Furthermore, studies have shown that research analysts can spend up to 40% of their day searching for information they already have. So long as a research management platform has a complete and real-time data set, which Mackey is able to provide thanks to our obsession with automation and mobility, the time savings can be massive!
- Is it difficult to shift from a legacy system to Mackey RMS? How do you address potential client concerns around this?
Chris: We have a data migration team with experience on-boarding users in over 30 countries. Whether you’re shifting from a legacy provider or an internal system, our experienced team guarantees you will hit the ground running in Mackey with your historical data fully imported.
Hoony: Change management is always a concern for new clients especially the larger ones. Given the simplistic design of the system, and the ease of use, our new customers have been able to easily adapt this change without any issues.
- How has the product evolved since the launch in 2011?
Hoony: Our main goal has always been to minimise the amount of time that a financial professional spends searching for content. Our initial version focused around the most efficient way that we could apply structure to otherwise unstructured information. We did this by designing our data model and flow around how a research analyst works and thinks. In this version, the financial enterprise had a clear lens into their data set and was provided a new tool to browse and search for research.
In the next phase we focused on usability, configurability and customisations. We gave the system a UI facelift which improved the usability greatly. On the mobile side, we added full offline synchronisation which was a huge leap forward for the RMS industry. Additionally, we modified our system to allow custom templates for every customer, but done in a way where the customer would still be able to leverage the latest software updates. Having a highly customisable, configurable and usable system, we not only improved our footing in the industry, but positioned ourselves to be attractive for the larger organisations.
"...studies have shown that research analysts can spend up to 40% of their day searching for information they already have."
Today the product has made even greater strides in all of the above areas with a particular focus of further automating in our operational tasks as well as our software stack, which has made our solution particularly attractive to the large Asset Managers and the Super Funds of the world. Our template customisation technology has evolved into a system that can create source code which greatly reduces our implementation time. Our DevOps process has been streamlined to support rapid one-button push deployments
We have also expanded our API support to allow our customer development teams to push and pull data into our systems with the language and platform of their choice. All of these advancements have enabled us to allow larger organisations to adopt our solution while reducing the risk resulting in a win-win partnership with all of our customers.
- With your product being integrated with many different applicatons, how have you addressed the problems of data security
Hoony: All system API’s are protected by a proprietary authentication security layer. By design, ours integrates with only one common library, greatly reducing our exposure to vulnerabilities. It is a very focused module that does one thing very well: securing the system. Our authentication security layer is not only involved with the initial request from a client, but every request, constantly monitoring who’s asking for what and denying any requests that have not been properly authenticated or authorised. Ever since our move to this approach from using a common web framework authentication security layer, we are no longer subject to the constant barrage of hacks, attacks and vulnerabilities which require constant attention.
- What problem do you think the product solved?
Hoony: We knew that the typical research analyst was spending too much time searching for information (at times up to 40% of their day). Our goal was to first cut the time down in half and then in half again.
Our solution was designed from the start to organise, catalog and index the highly valuable research in a manner so that it can be easily recalled, reviewed and analysed quickly to enable financial professionals to make the critical decisions for the success of their company.
- Have you any new developments coming up that you are particularly excited about?
Chris: We are constantly shipping new features to our clients! We have a number of substantial improvements to our data analytics and mobile notification engines in the works, and we are also excited about the work we’re doing on improving the configurability of tasks and other workflows specific to our Asia Pacific customer base.
- How are asset owners’ research requirements shifting, and how has that shaped the development of your product?
Chris: We live in a world where the most talented investment professionals consider mobility and usability more of a right than a privilege. Leading asset owners have come to the realisation that they must either provide their teams with modern tools to manage and access their most valuable content, or they will run the risk of their intellectual property finding its way to unauthorised consumer applications that are outside of their control. Our approach maintains a razor focus on the wants and needs of the investment front office, and our end users have always shaped the development of our platform.
- The company is still 100% employee owned, eight years after launch. How did you manage to grow without outside funding?
Chris: We founded our business at a time when the investment enterprise was finally ready to make the overdue shift to web-based solutions, compliance officers were reassessing the tools in place to monitor and take ownership of their firms’ research intellectual property, and fund managers were in need of tools that would allow them to demonstrate their process for investors demanding improved transparency. The marketplace responded favorably to our innovative solution, and we’ve been able to maintain profitability that has sustained our growth ever since.
Hoony: We were fortunate to build the company by hiring the right people from the start. The product vision from Chris was always clear and we were given the proper environment to execute swiftly to deliver the right product for the market. Also, let's not forget the last factor: good ole fashioned hard work!
- What are you most looking forward to for your upcoming trip to Australia?
Chris: Every market is different. First and foremost, I’m making this trip so I can hear firsthand from the local investment communities about the issues they’re trying to solve for with RMS.
Hoony: Having grown up in Asia, I have never been to Australia. I am extremely excited to go Australia to meet the CTO’s of Australia’s asset community, and to learn about how we can best provide our best in breed solution to asset owners and managers.
...And a little about you Chris
- What do you love about working for yourself?
I get that question a lot, but I’ve never felt like I work for myself. I have a tremendous responsibility to the clients who have put their trust in us and also to my coworkers who have blessed our organisation with their considerable talents. I work for them!
- What qualities do you feel are essential for a successful entrepreneur?
Successful entrepreneurs must possess an elite ability to ignore the noise. The media and many industries have a tendency to focus on, and reward, metrics that don’t matter. Too many of our supposed competitors have been celebrated for raising capital or marketing an idea they have not yet solved for. We ignore that noise, and we listen to our customers.
- Who has been the biggest influence in your life/career?
My father, Joe Mackey – the most honorable and fiercely loyal person I have ever met. I believe he would be proud of the manner in which my colleagues and I have built our business
...And a little about you Hoony
- What led you to your career in the high tech industry?
As I was finishing my undergraduate work at MIT, I still was unsure as to what career path I wanted to pursue. The trend amongst my classmates was to pursue careers in investment banking and management consulting, I still had a deep interest in technology and wanted to pursue a career that could expose me to the business world while allowing me to leverage the tools and problem solving techniques that I acquired during my undergraduate studies. I did what most people do when they can’t decide what to do - stayed in school. While pursuing a Masters degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, I was fortunate enough to work as a research assistant under Stuart Madnick, the John Norris Maguire Professor of Information Technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management. While working under Professor Madnick, helping implement an executive IT Education program, I soon realised the path that I needed to pursue a career that kept me close to technology. The rest is history.
- What is the best piece of business advice that you have received?
Just because something has been done one way for a long time don’t assume that it is the right way and that it cannot be done better.
- What do you most like about working in your own business?
I like the ability to make decisions and execute quickly.