Leading in Enterprise Financial Software: Trintech CEO Teresa Mackintosh

In this episode, we chat with Teresa Mackintosh, the CEO of Trintech, which is the leading enterprise software company for finance professionals. Trintech has over 3,500 clients across the globe including the majority of the Fortune 100. The company is backed by Summit Partners and Vista Equity.

Teresa shares with us her background and career experience as well as her insights into Trintech’s solutions and future expansion plans. We hope you enjoy the show.

(Hear the full conversation on iTunes or Listen Notes.)

RJ: Teresa, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, really appreciate it.  Maybe we could kick off with a little bit of background on yourself as well as Trintech.

Teresa: Great, thanks, RJ; it’s a pleasure to be your guest today.  I grew up really in a very middle class family in mid Michigan.  My dad was actually the County Sheriff, so it was a unique experience growing up.  I learned a lot of my leadership philosophy really following in his footsteps, he was a very authentic, direct guy and very much balanced in his approach to leadership.  And that’s really shaped a lot of how I go about things today.  Kind of your classic overachiever, high school valedictorian and went on to University of Michigan, both grad and undergrad.  Really aspired to lead a company one day, my dad always said those who can, should.  And so that really was my desire to be more in the private sectors, my attempt at service really is becoming a CEO and maybe leading a company.  So after school I went into public accounting, worked for Price Waterhouse back when it was Price Waterhouse, and became a CPA.  And really that was to understand how businesses worked.  I don’t think I ever expected to be a CPA my entire career.  But it really ended up shaping a lot of what I have ended up pursuing as my professional goals.  So I left Price Waterhouse, spent the next 16 years at Thomson Reuters in all kinds of functional areas, and I’d say I very much grew up at Thomson Reuters, ending with P&L responsibility for multiple lines of business.  And then moved from there to Wolters Kluwer, leading one of their largest business units, again, serving the accounting, and tax and finance professionals, so it’s been a tremendous journey.

You certainly have a remarkable track record, it sounds like beginning from childhood and you hit on something in your background that I’d like to explore a little bit more.  You mentioned you aspired to have a leadership position as a CEO of a company.  That’s not such an easy thing to accomplish, but you’ve managed to do it and do it well.  Are there one or two key things that you kept in mind as you climbed towards that leadership position?

Certainly there was a rarity of women CEOs, especially in technology that I could look to as role models, back when I was in school and kind of deciding what I wanted to do.  But leadership had always come fairly natural to me and I just felt that I was as capable as other people.  And I think sometimes people have a tendency to assume that people in those roles have some magic skill set or that they see the world in a fundamentally different way.  And I think in most cases that’s not true, we’re very normal people with normal upbringings and kind of similar backgrounds as a lot of people have.  And so, I’ve just never been afraid to fail, I always that I was equipped with the fundamentals necessary to be able to succeed in a role.  I’ve always tried to balance things that I am comfortable with and that I know with an area of my life that I could take a risk.  And so as I was moving roles or companies, I always had one thing at least that I was very comfortable with, and something that was stretching my skill set.  And so as you kind of leapfrog from role to role, over time, you build a collection of experience that makes becoming a CEO actually fairly simple.  I mean I hate to say it that way, but probably the most challenging part of being a CEO is frankly making sure that you have the right team around you.

I noticed that most of your team is comprised of male executives.  And you mentioned the rarity of female CEOs, and I think it truly is tremendous to be in the position that you’re in and it sounds like it was a fairly smooth process for you.  I think for many who aspire to that role, seemingly it may not be as intuitive.  Were there role models that you looked to and said, “I want to be like that person?”

There was a ton of role models along the way and I have truly been blessed to work with people that, in the role they were, were also very helpful in mentoring to me during my entire career really.  When I think back to especially the years at Thomson Reuters, I was allowed to experiment in different functional areas.  And that’s really where that you can spend that many years in a company and still get very different sets of experience.  I vividly remember my boss at the time was a gentleman named Jack LaRue, and he was Head of Marketing and was promoting me sort of into his right hand role.  And the job was, they handed me these blank business cards and a pencil and said, “You’re title has changed so many times, why don’t you just, you know, use blank cards and write it in as necessary.”  Because really I was just allowed to apply my curiosity across the business and it was just a wonderful experience.

And now, switching to the company, can we go into the different lines of business that you’re in?

What Trintech does is we actually we’re a fast cloud based enterprise software company.  We are backed by two large technology PE firms, Summit Partners is our majority investor and Vista Equity is actually our minority investor.  And we actually help CFOs streamline the financial accounting closed process.  We do that with two different lines of solutions, one, and our kind of flagship, what we’re known for is large enterprise, so that is our Cadency product.  And then we have more recently gotten into mid market for companies with revenues under a billion dollars, with our Adra solution that we have brought to market about a year ago.

And you seem to have a very strong presence across the market and internationally.  Presumably that’s attributed to a very strong sales force.  How do you plan on continuing your expansion over the coming years?

We have over 3500 clients around the globe, our headquarters is in Dallas, but you’re correct, we have offices in London and across the Nordics, also in Australia, Japan, so we have a footprint really that mirrors where our customers need us to be.  We have the fortune of having a large number of enterprise customers, the majority of the Fortune 100 are actually our customers.  So we have great support from companies like Albertsons, GSK, Dallas Cowboys, in fact, Siemens.  So, we’re able to expand not just with those customers, because they have ongoing needs as they take automation across their businesses, but that also helps us translate that into new customers across the globe.  We work very closely with a lot of system integrators as well as big four accounting firms that are doing digital transformation projects.  And we also are the solution of choice of several large BPO providers like Capgemini.

How do you see the next three to five years going, do you plan to do some acquisitions or is it predominantly organic growth and internal initiatives that’ll drive the company forward?

I think the next three to five years will be interesting.  And I think most of us in the enterprise software space probably feel similarly.  Covid has sort of changed the timeframe, it has, I think, very much impressed upon the market, the need for solutions such as ours, you know, there’s never been a time I think where we all have a vast appreciation for our finance professionals.  And their role in the company, I think over time has definitely evolved to where they are the strategic advisor to the business.  But the tools that they’ve been using historically are fairly limited, you know, there is not an area that has received a tremendous amount of investment typically.  And so we’ve seen that really come to a breaking point at a lot of companies over this Covid era.  And so when we look at how we’re going to grow, I think a lot of our growth will come from new customers, as people start getting back to business, you know, whether it be the summer of 2020 or, you know, going into the fall, I think there’s a lot of speculation as to when ‘normal’, you know, starts to return.

But also expansion into existing customers will continue to be an area of focus for us.  The mid market is still a very wide open landscape that we will continue to invest in and drive our solutions across the broader needs that we’re seeing in mid market companies.  And, yeah, certainly, inorganic and growth acquisitions is something that we always look at.  There are not a tremendous number of customers or client companies, sorry, that you could do a fold up strategy with, like some PE firms might do.  There’s not a lot of acquisitions that you can do that with in our space, but certainly as they come along, that’s an option.  But I think we will also continue to invest in expanding our international presence.  So as much as we have, you know, key offices in London, the Nordics, Germany, you know, there are other countries like France where we don’t have a footprint yet, as well as a couple of others in continental Europe that I think are, you know, good candidates for that expansion.  A lot of that timing will probably depend on how we see the Eurozone recover from the recession that we will undoubtedly be in for a while here.

And with all the opportunity ahead of you, both geographically and in different segments of the market, what do you pay most attention to as you’re scaling, is it finding the right people to put in certain roles?  Is it paying close attention to customer feedback – what do you think about day in, day out?

What I’m really thinking about now is, if we flash forward in our minds to 18 months from now, what are we going to wish we had done today?  What are those investments that could really set the tone for expanding growth and footprint in 18 months, where we start to see those results?  I think a lot of us are in a kind of a zone here where certainly 2020 and even the hangover impact to some extent in 2021, just because of recurring revenue and how those cycles work with bookings and revenue recognition, it will be lower growth than what we are accustomed to.  We’re very fortunate that it will still be growth, but it will be lower growth than what we otherwise would have wanted.  So as we’re getting out of that period, what are those investments now?

And so when I think about that, it’s going to be key technologies, that the needs have been sort of magnified during this period, in areas where maybe integrations could be tighter or key partners that we can build with to make sure that there’s end-to-end solutions for the customers.  As well as getting the right people onboard, so, people have always been, I would say, probably the most important investment as we look to expand.  The labor market’s going to be fundamentally different now than it has been, because it’s such a low unemployment rate.  And so I think it is a chance to bring in some talent to the organization that we may not have otherwise been able to attract.

Given the current environment, and how Covid has impacted the way people work, how has your organization adapted to the current environment?

Our organization, we conducted fairly regular BCT exercises prior to this.  And so, us going virtual was actually incredibly easy, it was conducted basically overnight.  I think the thing that we were probably most sensitive to is our customers were doing the same thing at the same time.  And for many of them that wasn’t quite as graceful.  And so we were very cognizant of being sort of available around the clock and making sure that datacenters and things like that, that they would be accessing in a different way, that they were supported and that we had as much attention to those as necessary.  And for us, we are still working in a remote way, I would say it’s been going very smoothly, productivity remains very high, I think our morale also remains high, and we will take it one step at a time.  You know, there’s no reason for us to hurry back to the office and so I think that’s a moderate way to make sure that we’re kind of doing our part, to keep risk levels of a second wave down.  And, you know, hopefully we’ll start to get back to the office here over the course of the next couple of months.

Multinational companies such as yourself have probably had a look into, how different geographies are, managing going back to the new normal.  Have you had to adjust based on your locations?

Quite a bit actually because I have an office in Stockholm, so Sweden’s approach to a stay at home or not staying at home as the case may be, was very different than for the other European countries.  So with Stockholm, and with Oslo in Norway, London is our biggest.  So if you just take those three as sort of a microcosm, London is very much still in the throes of sort of figuring out how to get back, because mass transit is such a key element for our employees there.  We have over 60% of our employees that rely on mass transit, and there’s really no great alternative.  Many of them don’t own cars or it’s just not even feasible as I’m sure you know if you’ve been to London.  Whereas Norway and Sweden actually feel fairly normal, and Sweden stayed kind of that way, that office, we really didn’t have a lot of people that needed to work from home, although we certainly opened it up to them.  No, we did, but then came back fairly quickly, and so they’re pretty much back to normal already.

We’re excited about the recent movements that have been happening over the last few years in terms of women leadership and more women in top positions.  Could you share some advice you can give to women who are career focused and would like to achieve the kinds of things that you’ve achieved?

There’s two things there, one is I think I now understand my responsibility and I’ve spent a lot of time on really looking at STEM programs that encourage girls.  And I’ll say girls, because I do mean at that age, studies show that by age eight, a child of either gender, they have sort of formed their ideas of what they believe their careers can be, and that saying, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.  And so we need to make sure that people are exposed, that girls are exposed to their options very front and center, very early on.  I would have guessed it was much later, but in fact it’s by age eight and a lot of those ideals are formed.  So I’ve been spending a lot of time with STEM programs.  The Girl Scouts actually have a fantastic STEM Center in Dallas that we volunteer at and give time to, because it impacts so many different girls in Northwest Texas and my engineers love to give back to that as well.

The second is making sure that we have an organization that nurtures and supports all of our employees, but women as well and comes from the demands that have changed people’s careers over time.  And a lot of that is flexibility and being able to balance professional and personal lives.  Covid, frankly, is going to change the game on that, it actually could be a fantastic boost for women that need that flexibility, because I think most organizations have found that this work from home thing, if you’re in an office environment, it can work, it can be productive over time.  And so I think that that will really encourage us to be a lot more flexible.  And then my advice specifically is to take risks, to think of areas that you’re comfortable and areas that you’re not comfortable and always make sure that you have both.  Because if you just live in an area of comfort your whole time you just won’t gain the necessary skills to keep moving forward.

That’s fantastic.  In terms of risk, that’s within your profession, to maybe seek more opportunity or is it also venturing out and doing something entrepreneurial?

It can be any of those things, but there should be an element to your job that you are downright uncomfortable with, that you don’t know if you know how to do it, right, that forces you to go learn and forces you to figure it out, and forces that personal growth.  And so, you know, for me it was leaving the safety of large companies and going into, you know, a PE backed company.  But what I was comfortable with there was the space, and I know financing, accounting and tax professionals.  But I had no idea how to work for a company backed by a PE.  And so that’s been a tremendous learning and very much a difference.  But there’s always something in my job that is new, and that I’m, you know, a student of.  And I think that that’s really a good rule to apply as you’re progressing through your career.

Teresa, thank you so much for your time; you’ve been very generous spending it with us, so thank you.  This is going to be very insightful for our audience.

Thanks so much, RJ.

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