A Walk Down Memory Lane... A Story About Relationships

Rowan-door.jpgI don’t often look back and contemplate how I might have done things differently, for better or worse.  I try my best to be a forward-thinking person, and focus on the days, weeks and months that are ahead of me, rather than reflect on what I’ve experienced.  This is especially true in a business context.  However, lately I’ve taken stock of a few things and even gotten downright nostalgic in a few areas as it relates to my career and all things Citisoft.  Maybe it’s the season; maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older; maybe it’s the fact that our Director of Marketing and Communications, Alissa Doherty, recently asked me “so Tom, what’s the story behind Citisoft?” which resulted in my contemplation on how we’ve gotten from Point A to Point B.  Regardless, as I discussed the origins of the company with Alissa, I started thinking more specifically on what’s driven the growth of the company over the past 15+ years. 

At the risk of giving away any big “reveals” in this blog piece, our growth can be explained rather simply – it’s all about RELATIONSHIPS!  So, if you would please indulge me, I’m going to take a walk down memory lane.  The Citisoft story, at least on the North American side of things, began more than 20 years ago at Thomson Financial.  It was at Thomson that the relationships which served as the foundation of Citisoft (née The Rowan Group) were built.  At Thomson, a few colleagues and I began envisioning what it might look like to go out into the investment management marketplace and do our own thing – i.e., start a consulting company.  The relationships that I had built with those colleagues were formed through countless hours of working, thinking, traveling, talking, laughing and exploring what made us all tick.  We were different in many ways (most noticeably in height), but we were aligned where it mattered most – we all had an unflinching desire and corresponding work ethic to do what it took to build a sustainable company.  It was a company that would be built on RELATIONSHIPS.

In 2001, after countless hours spent charting our path, meeting with advisors, revising business plans and ensuring that we were “all in,” we broke free and launched The Rowan Group (the former front door is pictured above).  Our plan was to grow the company, but for obvious reasons, we needed to take a measured approach to achieving that goal.  In the days before LinkedIn was indispensable, we knew the only way to grow the company was through our RELATIONSHIPS.  By my estimation, it was at least 3-4 years before we felt the need to go out of our network to recruit additional talent into our company. Nothing was ever easy, but I can honestly say that the risk of making the wrong hire in consulting is mitigated by strong pre-existing relationships.  To this day, Citisoft has always had the best results with our referrals from staff.  It’s not rocket science nor is it a revelation – but it’s true, and the data backs it up.

At the risk of confusing the timeline (this isn’t a review of Westworld), The Rowan Group was only in existence for a few years before we merged with Citisoft at a fairly early stage in our evolution.  Citisoft, founded in London in 1986, had a similar story; they were a consulting firm devoted to a niche, founded by three consultants and built on relationships.  It was those relationships that led The Rowan Group and Citisoft to each other by a matchmaker who knew that it would be a partnership that would thrive. 

Once the merger was complete, we focused on building our global brand, and leveraging the contacts that had been nurtured over the years by our new colleagues out of the UK.  We have always had a relentless focus and laser vision on the buy-side asset management marketplace, and we have always cultivated the core RELATIONSHIPS in our space.  We hire people that have grown up in this industry and have the battle scars to prove it.  There have been no shortcuts to creating a company that has been able to deliver transformation for our clients over the past 15 years and counting.  Citisoft has been built one RELATIONSHIP at a time. 

We’ve all heard the adage that “it’s a small world”.  Well, if you’ve spent enough time in the asset management space, chances are you’ve also heard that “it’s a small industry.”  It is absolutely true, and understanding the interplay between the asset managers, software vendors, service providers and consulting firms that make up this business is integral to success. Technology will continue to evolve, as will the business and operating models that adapt to a rapidly changing industry.  The multitude of trends will come and go, but RELATIONSHIPS stand the test of time.  From our clients to our prospects to our staff, it always was and always will be about RELATIONSHIPS.