It is 3 am on a summer Monday in northern Ohio. Dennis Cassidy is just getting up to catch his weekly commuter flight to Manhattan where he is chairman and CEO of Quodd Financial, a provider of information services to Wall Street traders, hedge-fund managers and professional retail brokers. During winters, he commutes from his Florida home. In total, he has been making the aerial commutes for the past eight years.
Cassidy has been a financial services industry senior executive for more than 28 years. He was the CIO of Tucker Anthony Sutro Securities whose office was in the World Financial Center when two planes hit the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. That experience reshaped how he thinks about many aspects of his life, including family, giving back and — disaster recovery.
We asked Cassidy a few questions about his business and thoughts on financial services industry trends.
Tell us about Quodd
We’ve built a platform that allows investment professionals to instantly access information and research that can help them make better decisions, faster. This includes news, analytics, options data and more. Customers can use this information at their desk or via a mobile device.
About two years ago, we added a ticker plant that brought us into the data feeds business. That product is really starting to take off for us. More recently, we have been exploring partnerships that allow for the integration of third-party tools into our platform. Similarly, companies are looking to license some of our products, such as our entitlement system, into their offerings.
Describe your work day on 9/11
I was a block and a half from the North Tower when it collapsed. I was running down West Street. As I was getting away from the building, the first thing in my mind was I have to make sure my company would get up and running since power was out. I knew everyone would be scrambling for data center space. Much of it was first come, first serve. I was also trying to get ahold of my team. All of New York was going to Hell in a handbasket.
It gives you a different perspective on things — lets you know what is really important. We were a national company, and I couldn’t let one location bring the entire company down.
On Disaster Recovery and Uptime
I have always been a strong disaster recovery supporter because of the importance of uptime — especially in our business. Fortunes are made and lost instantaneously in our customers’ world. If you aren’t highly available, customers will find someone who is.
Our office was down for five weeks during Hurricane Sandy. We had a good business continuity plan and executed it well. Not having good options when disaster hits, can put you out of business easily.
We have enjoyed a good relationship with TierPoint (Xand) over the past decade. Quodd has grown tenfold since the beginning of those days. TierPoint stepped up to the plate when we were small with a small budget. Now we have TierPoint managing everything for us 24/7. In ten years, we experienced one outage, and it was a minor one that happened at night — it was fixed before trading started in the morning.
Top Issues in Financial Services IT
Cost is a huge concern. Companies that continue to build their own IT staffs and data centers, I don’t see how they keep up with those costs, quite frankly; especially when you compare it to hosting those services elsewhere. For instance in New York City the cost of resources continues to be sky high. I think if you can offload some of that while getting out of the real estate business, as I like to say, you have a chance to stick around. If you want to continue to do it yourself, it is likely going to be a costly problem for you.
I’d also put regulation compliance among the top IT challenges facing financial services. As an information provider, we are not impacted by regulations as much as our customers are. But we see their stress because regulations are taking such a big toll on their staffs’ productivity.
The other big one is security. We invest lots of energy and funds in security, though we have to find the right balance of what is practical from a customer perspective. Service providers can be a big help here because products like firewalls have to be updated regularly or they become useless. It is not always cost effective for you to do it yourself. I would rather be focusing my time on improving our products and delivering great service to my customers.
That’s the great thing about cloud service providers. They continually invest in the technology and resources to make sure their customers’ data is secure; they help track compliance with regulatory mandates like PCI DSS; and they can help reduce costs significantly. I see people saving millions of dollars by hosting their major applications at some cloud facility. For us, cloud and managed services reduces my staff and infrastructure costs while still getting me 100 percent throughput. And in a hybrid environment, I feel like I am getting the best of both worlds.
Cloud infrastructure is here to stay. And that’s a good thing for the financial services market.
We’re very excited about the future. We’re growing and hungry, and we want to continue to grow our relationship with TierPoint to give us the flexibility to expand our portfolio of offerings while making sure our data is protected and available when we need it.
My team is very important to me. My CTO has been with me since 1986, and we are fortunate to have many loyal employees. They stuck by us in the lean times. I think it is payback for these people. While profit is almost always the main objective of any business, I really want to take care of my employees. Two of my biggest goals are to keep them happy and provide a great work environment.