Meet the ADEPT Decisions Management Team
The entire ADEPT Decisions team has always strived to provide the ‘personal touch’ to our clients; whether it means going the extra mile on a project, accommodating short-notice changes, or just acting as a sounding board to the credit risk team.
We believe that this flexible, ‘can do’ attitude is one of the aspects of ADEPT Decisions which sets us apart from larger and less accommodating corporate vendors.
With this in mind, we decided it was a suitable time to shine a light on the unique personalities behind the ADEPT Decisions software. This is a management team which prides itself on delivering above and beyond the call of duty!
Stephen John Leonard
Describe your role at ADEPT Decisions.
I am the founder of ADEPT Decisions, which is an elaborate title for ‘jack of all trades.’ The software industry is a very specialist one and we have a lot of personnel who are very good within their niches. My role is to support them, so that they can focus their valuable time on what they are good at. I run the day-to-day sales and marketing functions and also manage the liaison with our administration office in Guernsey, Channel Islands. Important decisions of a strategic nature tend to be made by the management team as a group, as I am a great believer in five heads are better than one!
How long have you been with the company?
The company started operations on an informal basis in October 2015 and was incorporated in January 2016. That makes 2023 our official seventh birthday, which in the software world makes us middle aged!
What led you to start ADEPT Decisions?
I had worked with legacy, on premises decision engines for 20+ years prior to ADEPT Decisions and so was very familiar with their shortcomings. The core management team and I identified an opportunity for a cloud-native decision engine which could be provided to lenders as Software as a Service and thus provide access to advanced decisioning to clients of any size and in any geographical location.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
People normally say that the first 3 years of a business are the hardest. We were very lucky as we signed up pilot clients within just a few months of our launch. The biggest challenge we have faced was the 2020-2022 Covid period, when most new business initiatives were put on hold and clients’ budgets were slashed. The upside is that we are expecting 2023 to be a much better year as lenders play catch-up and require better decisioning to manage the ever more complex products that they are launching.
What is your background?
I completed my high school education in the UK and was lucky enough to win scholarships to study at universities in the USA and Canada. After graduation, I worked in banks for 7 years in New York, until making the leap to the vendor side, joining the start-up of an American risk management software company in the UK. After almost 7 years there I moved to South Africa, which was going through a post-apartheid boom and co-founded a risk management consulting company in Cape Town. In latter years I moved to Dubai, due to the better flight connections around the EMEA region. In summary, my entire adult working life has been in the risk industry, ranging from banks, to vendors, to FinTechs. I met all of the ADEPT Decisions management team along the way, and we have been a close-knit crew ever since.
How did you start in the industry?
After graduating from the University of Toronto and then subsequently moving to New York City, I had no idea as to what I wanted to do. What I did realise was that biggest skyscrapers seemed to be banks and insurance companies, so they must be the most successful companies right? I mailed hundreds of CVs out to banks and insurance companies, but with little success, so out of desperation I decided to take the direct approach and visit the companies themselves. This took a lot of courage, trying to by-pass security guards and human resources, to reach the hiring managers. After about the thirtieth company (I was thrown out of quite a few!), I managed to bump into the head of a bank’s management training programme, which was starting the next week and had just had one person drop out! I spent the rest of the day taking tests and by the end of the day was hired for an 18-month management training programme, providing rotations around all of the bank’s operations and departments. This is where I first became exposed to credit risk management, and I have never left it!
Ever since that occurred, I have always been a believer of the quote by Ernest Hemingway: “You make your own luck.”
What changes have you seen over the years?
The change in credit risk management over the past 30+ years mirrors what has happened in societies and economies worldwide. Scoring has now become the standard, as well as automated decisioning and the use of credit bureaux. Automation has made the process faster, cheaper and fairer and consumers are now a lot more educated about the importance of maintaining their credit status. Within decisioning, the acceptance of the cloud and software as a service has been a game changer, enabling smaller lenders access to the ‘big boys’ toys.’
What advice would you give to new starters in the industry?
Try and find a mentor, as credit risk management is a cyclical business, with many ups and downs. If you can learn from somebody who has been through a number of the ‘peaks and troughs,’ you will be better prepared and know what to expect.
Do not be scared to test ideas. A/B testing makes our business very special, so test, test, test.
Be patient. Do not accelerate the roll out of a strategy based on just a few months of testing. “One swallow does not a summer make.” Aristotle.
Avoid an over-reliance on scoring and ML models. Yes, they are very important, but no there should be a lot more components to a good strategy than just scores.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend a lot of time travelling for business and so in my spare time, I prefer to stay in one place. In the winters I like to work on our family tree and in summer months I like to walk, take train rides and visit historical sites.
What’s your favourite quote?
“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill.
What’s a little-known fact about you?
I have been asked why do I always write my name in full and isn’t that a bit pretentious? There is a back story to this! In the 1990s my mother in the UK asked me to stop sending her credit card applications through the post. Intrigued, I asked her to keep the next one that she received and lo and behold a month later there was my name at the bottom of a bankcard solicitation letter. About a year later, I met the other Stephen Leonard at an industry conference, and we had a good laugh over this, as he was the marketing manager of a big UK bank. We did agree that it would make sense to try and differentiate ourselves, as it is a small industry and confusion is never a good thing. As he was my senior in age, he kept the two names and I agreed to add my middle name. Over the years, even though I have worked in numerous other countries, I have kept the habit!
About the Author
Stephen John Leonard is the founder of ADEPT Decisions and has held a wide range of roles in the banking and risk industry since 1985.
About ADEPT Decisions
We disrupt the status quo in the lending industry by providing FinTechs with decisioning software and analytics to level the playing field, promote financial inclusion and support a new generation of financial products.
To avoid missing any of our blogs and articles, make sure to follow us on LinkedIn.