Break the buying behavior. We are inundated every day with ads and media promotions to buy things we don’t need. Break away from the need to buy and possess and create a life that promotes a sense of worth through investing and building. For example, instead of saving less for your 401K this year for the cruise trip to the Caribbean, consider raising funds by reselling the brand-name purses and dresses you bought three years ago and cooking at least four times at home a week to reach the financial goals for the trip.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Ding, Director of Strategic Marketing, Laserfiche.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the banking/finance field?
I started my career in the software industry, exploring how technology could help people get their job done faster and more efficiently. And it didn’t take long before I realized that Laserfiche could have a greater impact in the banking and finance industry than any other industry because of the “silver tsunami”. In the wealth management sector alone, there are more advisors over 80 years old than those who are in their 30s. At the same time, the adoption of new technologies like smartphones and e-delivery options like Amazon have fundamentally changed consumer expectations for service delivery. It presents an extremely exciting opportunity for us in the fintech field to make a difference. That’s how I got into the field and where we will continue to evolve.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?
As a spokesperson for Laserfiche, I travel extensively, presenting on digital transformation and technology innovation at various industry events. One time, I was scheduled to present at two separate industry conferences in the same city on the same day. The morning session was for wealth management, and the afternoon session was for higher education. So as soon as I finished my morning session for independent financial advisors, I hopped in a taxi and traveled to the other side of the town for my session for higher ed IT leaders. I spent the 20-minute commute mentally preparing myself for a completely different subject matter and a different clientele. Yet, when I walked into my afternoon session, the demographics of the second audience was nearly identical to the first — mostly male, mostly white, and most with 15–25 years of industry experience. On top of that, the business challenges the two groups faced were nearly identical — both were in dire need of operational efficiency and effective ways in servicing their clients; both suffered from an aging workforce, technology advancement, and shifting client expectations. I ended up using many of the same technology best practices and change management advice for both sessions, and received great feedback. The experience drove home the point that although specific products and services may be different between industries, the underlying discipline in running the business is similar.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are bringing robots to the financial industry! The basic idea is to let smart automation tools carry out mundane and manual tasks such as data entry and sorting documents, freeing financial professionals to focus on client interactions. For example, during the M&A process, one of the challenges is to consolidate the seller and buyer’s client data, and do so quickly and securely. So instead of expending a lot of overtime needed for repapering accounts, firms can take advantage of robotic process automation tools to automate the copying-and-pasting work, and focus on integrating the culture and realizing the synergy of the merger.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Laserfiche was founded by Nien-Ling Wacker, a female physicist, based on a laser-focused idea — creating software that people love to use. Since then, the software has been adopted in over 80 countries, empowering over 36,000 organizations to achieve excellence. And the company has never lost its focus in its 32 years of innovation. From the agile software development methodology, customer-centric design thinking to over 50 customer events and trainings each year, the company continues to propel social movements through its refined vision — inspiring people to reimagine how technology can transform their lives. This vision separates Laserfiche apart, and continues to enable us to attract high caliber clients and talent.
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
The gender inequality in Wall Street was always a known factor. But the #METOO movement finally made society start caring about the issue and addressing the problem. In addition, the need to have more female professionals in the financial industry is accelerated by the big transfer of wealth in recent years from male boomers to their widowers who in general live longer than their husbands, and to their offspring who are more embracive of the modern belief in workplace equality and diversity. So many financial firms now realize that refusing to reflect their clientele’s beliefs about workplace policies is the quickest way of losing those clients.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report [cnbc.com]in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?
To achieve parity, society must discard the antiquated division of roles and responsibilities based on gender. Today’s women are just as equally educated and cognitively capable as their male counterparts. They also meet, or in some cases, exceed them in terms of social power.
Second, women must also better understand the power we possess. We can learn from strong female role-models like Katharine Graham who positioned the Washington Post into one of the most well-known and respected news outlets; or Queen Elizabeth II who became “a rock of stability in a world of constant change” and reigned over 12 prime ministers. To achieve parity, all women must recognize we are equally strong.
Lastly, companies overall need to realize the power of a diversified workforce and create strategies to attract talent with diverse experiences, perspectives, and networks. For example, Laserfiche is an active member of STEM Advantage, a California-based organization that supports and inspires women and under-represented minorities in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through mentorships, internships and scholarships. Laserfiche executives provide guidance in career mapping, resume fine-tuning and interview coaching. They also facilitate paid internships that often lead to jobs after graduation. The collaboration with these corporations, academic institutions, and underserved communities is a perfect model for diversifying the workplace and attracting qualified talent.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Become good at mental math. It’s hard to manage savings and investing if you are not comfortable with numbers. There is a strong correlation between bad financial decisions and poor math skills. Mental math allows you to have a great sense of numbers, which improves the ability to understand the relationships between quantities and the logic of ratios; all of these are critically important for smart everyday money choices.
- Get organized. I consider this as a critical step for an effective financial life. Getting organized includes sorting your belongings as well as prioritizing your life goals. It helps clarify what is an investment vs. what is an expense. As a starter, I’d recommend the KonMari method. It brings order to your life, and helps you make better financial decisions about debt management and investing.
- Break the buying behavior. We are inundated every day with ads and media promotions to buy things we don’t need. Break away from the need to buy and possess and create a life that promotes a sense of worth through investing and building. For example, instead of saving less for your 401K this year for the cruise trip to the Caribbean, consider raising funds by reselling the brand-name purses and dresses you bought three years ago and cooking at least four times at home a week to reach the financial goals for the trip.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people in my life that I’m grateful for helping me grow as a person and as a professional. The most significant among them is the late founder of Laserfiche, Nien-Ling Wacker, whose mentorship and confidence in me cemented the foundation for my career today. When I joined Laserfiche as an associate, Nien-Ling took a special interest in me and often stayed late to coach me on the technology business and strategies. She drilled me on my very first business plan. I had at least a dozen rejections from her until one all-hands business meeting, where she threw a series of questions towards me on detailed market data, competitive analysis, projected business value and growth rates, and demanded a rationale for my business recommendations. Though I was intimidated by the various executive-level members in the room, thanks to her “strict training,” I kept my focus and responded quickly and efficiently to her rapid-fire questions. At the end of it, she smiled and said, “Okay, I’m ready to sign off on your business plan.” I couldn’t believe my ears at first until people started to give me high fives and to congratulate me. That was a moment I will cherish forever. Nien-Ling taught me what it took to become a subject matter expert and the discipline of deep thinking.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there will be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” Don’t be afraid to act on your ideas, even if you don’t have complete control over how they will unfold. Believing in this philosophy has allowed me to constantly acquire new skills, meet new friends and champion new ideas. It has encouraged me to experiment without fear of failure and remain strong in the face of adversity.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I want to create a YES movement. In life, it’s a lot easier to say NO than to say YES. Saying YES means that we assume the responsibilities, commitment, resources, and more importantly, the trust in being able to deliver what we have promised. Social change needs these commitments. If we want to make gender irrelevant when considering a career as an investment banker or a police officer, we need to learn to say YES by default to all ideas.
Thank you for all of these great insights!