Well into her second tour of duty as CEO of the company she founded in 1983, Advent's (booth 2019) Stephanie DiMarco has the firm refocused on the needs of its diverse customer base. "To be in business during the whole Internet bubble was a confusing time, and I think that, like a lot of others, we made some strategic missteps," says DiMarco, who stepped down from her CEO role at the end of 1999 only to return to right the ship in June 2003.
Righting the ship entailed mothballing "anything that doesn't have a customer attached to it," DiMarco says. "So we spent a lot of time talking to customers and prospects, making sure we were building exactly what they wanted, listening to their pains."
After listening, the company got to work, revamping its main products, including its Moxy trade order management solution and Geneva high-end portfolio accounting software, while releasing the next-generation of its Axys portfolio management offering, called APX. That product was launched in September 2005 and currently has around 30 customers. There's plenty of room for growth, however, as Axys boasts 4,500 users.
DiMarco says she expects that eventually "a large share" of those 4,500 Axys users will switch over to the new system. Adoption most likely will follow the usual pattern, she predicts, which sees large institutions making the move first, followed by midtier organizations and, finally, smaller shops.
"Axys is a great product and has served the industry well, but it is old architecture, flat files. It is very, very fast, but it is old technology," says DiMarco. "APX is SQL technology - relational, .NET architecture with a Web-based front end and a modern user interface."
Looking forward, DiMarco sees the derivatives market as a place Advent can find significant growth opportunities. That market, she notes, has grown exponentially over the last few years and is in particular need of sophisticated technology to match the intricacy of the instruments traded there. "Those are complex instruments to deal with from an accounting and trading and risk management point of view," she says.
But Advent, DiMarco adds, is used to solving complex problems for its customers. The company's strength lies in its "intellectual DNA" and its ability to resolve difficulties over a long period of time, she contends. "People tend to think of products as snapshots, but we think of them as a movie," DiMarco says. To help solve clients' problems and stay on the cutting edge of technology and functionality, Advent will invest $30 million in research and development this year.
So is DiMarco heading back into retirement after putting the house she built in order? Not quite.
"Doing this - which is putting one foot in front of the other, building great products, building a great service organization and taking good care of customers over a long period of time - is actually really fun," she says. "This is something I like to do and something I'm good at, so I've signed up for another indefinite tour."