Patrick Murray is the founder of STP Investment Services and leads its activities in his dual role as President and Chief Executive Officer of the firm. It was Patrick’s vision of building a world-class, client-centric, software-driven solutions provider for investment managers’ front, middle, and back-office challenges that led to his creation of STP and then recruiting the balance of the global team. STP has grown tremendously under Patrick’s leadership by expanding the team, capabilities, products and clients at an award-winning pace. Patrick continues to play an extremely active role in the development of the firm’s proprietary software geared toward generating solutions for STP’s clients.
Patrick has led STP to receive numerous industry awards including being six-time winner of Philadelphia Business Journal’s — Best Places to Work in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Inquirer’s Top Work Places, Inc. Magazine’s — Best Workplaces, SmartCEO’s Corporate Culture award, CEO Report’s Velocity 50 for fast growing companies, multiple Soaring 76 and Inc. 5000 growth awards, an E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, and being awarded the prestigious 40 under 40 award by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
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Table of Contents
Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Patrick Murray: I’m Patrick Murray, the founder of STP Investment Services. I lead our firm’s activities in my dual role as President and Chief Executive Officer.
My vision was to build a world-class, client-centric, software-driven solutions provider to meet investment managers’ front, middle and back-office challenges. This led to the creation of STP and then recruiting the balance of what is now our global team. I continue to play an active role in developing STP’s proprietary software and generating new, innovative solutions for our clients.
I’m a proud graduate of Villanova University with a B.S. (magna cum laude) in Management Information Systems and Finance, and from Boston University (first in class) with an M.S. in Computer Information Systems and a Graduate Certificate in IT Project Management.
I also coach youth soccer and basketball, volunteer with various church and community organizations and serve as a Board Member for the Innovative Technology Action Group (ITAG), as an Advisory Board Member for Tech Impact, and as an Affiliate Member of the CFA Society of Philadelphia and the CFA Institute.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Patrick Murray: Originally, I went to college with the intention of becoming a portfolio manager. But after a few internships, my mindset was transformed, and I realized I enjoyed the technology side of the business much more than I anticipated. I liked learning how systems worked and how they could impact the operations of a firm. So, I changed my major and later participated in Merrill Lynch’s Technology Leadership Program. These experiences helped me eventually become a Chief Technology Officer.
After a few years as a Chief Technology Officer, I knew I wanted to create and build something of my own. That’s how STP was born.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Patrick Murray: There’s not one single person I can point out who has been my inspiration. I think what’s most inspirational is having people in your life believe in you. So, whether it’s a basketball coach or your parents or someone in your school life, anyone who is encouraging you and giving you the confidence to keep trying is very important.
To become a success, you need both confidence in your plan and support from the people around you. I attribute that to the numerous people who have been a support system at different stages of my life, who have believed in me as a person and what I’m doing. They’ve given me the confidence to lead and to develop STP into the organization that it is today.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Patrick Murray: My journey began early, delivering newspapers outside of Philadelphia. I have always been a highly motivated individual who wants to be the best at anything I do. So when I got my paper route, I had a goal in mind of buying a new bike. That inspired me to hustle and put in the effort to be the best that I could be. The same held true for playing basketball and in the band, as well as the work I did in school. I was always aiming high.
I am also the type of person who can see opportunities where others might not. I had an SAT prep and tutoring business in college to help put myself through school.
I look at “difficulties” or challenges as lessons that shape future experiences. I have been fortunate not to have had very many over the course of my career. One major moment that underscores my mantra is that you have to believe that you will succeed. I can remember vividly being in our first office with my wife, who was due to have our first son, when we got our first shipment of office supplies and furniture for STP.
We had just signed the lease for the office, so we were locked into the space for a few years. So many things were running through my mind, but there was definitely this “holy cow” moment as I looked at her, helping me get things set up, after we had spent tens of thousands of dollars, that now was certainly not the time to fail. And that’s part of what wills a person to succeed — the belief that things have to and will be successful.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Patrick Murray: STP Investment Services is an award-winning, technology-enabled services company that provides front, middle, and back-office solutions to investment managers, funds, family offices, wealth managers, and plan sponsors, giving them the service, software, expertise, and confidence needed to focus on their core business objectives. STP provides a broad range of services and SaaS offerings for the financial services industry, with capabilities to process all asset classes and meet ever-evolving business requirements.
As STP’s CEO, I am responsible for what I call “steering the ship,” which means not only keeping a pulse on the day-to-day operations and ensuring that we have the staffing that we need to accomplish our goals, but also envisioning where we need to be three to five years out, and planning what needs to be done to get there.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Patrick Murray: The CEO is a unique role. I think it has to be filled by the company’s visionary. You are the person steering the ship, which means you have to be able to see a little further out than everyone else on the boat.
And I’ve noticed as STP has gotten bigger, it’s a slower ship to steer, because there are more moving parts. But as the CEO, I have to navigate the ship in the right direction at all times, because it takes valuable time away to correct course if I veer away.
I also think that it’s important for the CEO to avoid becoming the Chief Everything Officer. You build a leadership team around you for a reason. You have to trust that they will focus on their respective areas to let you be the necessary visionary.
Another key role for the CEO is being the cultural ambassador. I take great pride in the culture we’ve built at STP, and it starts from the top down. I have to reflect the values that I want our staff to show to their teammates and our clients.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Patrick Murray: There are some things you can anticipate when you become a CEO, but of course you can never prepare for everything. I’ve been surprised at how differently our business functions as we’ve grown.
I’ve learned that as your business hits different stages of growth, it requires different allocations of your time and varying skill sets. When we hit our first $1 million at STP, it was very different than it is now at $340 billion. For us, that has meant transitioning to more of a hierarchical structure, with team members who previously might have played a few different roles being strictly dedicated to one or two functions.
And we have also had to decide more clearly what’s worth spending our time on and what processes are most efficient for us. Through this process, I have learned how critical it is to make sure the right people are in the right roles, and that you may need to adjust your organizational flow chart to match your firm’s growth.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Patrick Murray: One of the most important roles a CEO plays is the cultural ambassador of the company. When we decided what kind of culture we wanted to create, we wanted to make sure it was as authentic as possible, not just a mission statement that we took the time to write once and then never revisited. I believe in having a mission behind your culture that is something you can also have fun with.
As a leader, you have to think through the values that are most important to you, especially the behaviors that you want to have your teammates model when it comes to interactions with each other and your clients. And then you need to constantly live, breathe and talk about that culture and those behaviors.
As a CEO or a leader, you also have to know when to get rid of rotten apples, because holding onto toxic people poisons the rest of your culture and detracts from everything you’ve built. From my standpoint, I don’t care if you’re the most brilliant developer on the planet, if your attitude stinks and you treat people poorly, you cannot fit in with the culture we have carefully constructed.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Patrick Murray: As CEO, it feels like you make 9,000 decisions a day. One of the most complex decisions that we make at STP is evaluating whether we want to build our own technology, or whether it makes more sense to integrate with someone or purchase or license their technology and then add our own flair to it.
And that’s a tough decision to make, because your pride wants you to make everything authentically on your own, but at the end of the day, from a cost perspective and even a service perspective, is that really what is best? Would the client be better served if we leveraged someone else’s expertise instead of spending a ton of time and effort grinding away trying to build something better, ultimately making us less available to them? I’ve learned that sometimes it is better to buy than it is to build, and sometimes it is better to build than it is to buy. You have to know the difference and weigh the benefits correctly.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Patrick Murray: The way I look at it, success is about being a great husband and being a great father to my three kids. I think being a good husband is about being a good partner, and I consider being a good father instilling good values in my children. I’m Christian, so being successful in that aspect of my life means practicing the core values of helping people and making a difference in others’ lives as much as I can.
That’s part of the reason STP has embraced a culture of service, and that we have the culture we do here. Everyone we’ve hired has the same belief that it’s important to serve others, which is what the S in STP stands for. We regularly participate in community service events, food drives, etc. But those are just the right things to do. They’re in the fabric of STP’s DNA, not just a means by which we measure success.
From a professional standpoint, I would say becoming an international business and creating more than 300 good quality jobs across two continents can be counted as a success.
For me personally, success has never been about popularity. It’s great to have the microphone and use it for good, but it’s not about how many friends or how many LinkedIn followers I have. I think with success comes a responsibility to make the greatest impact that you can, and give others the opportunity to have their own successful careers.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Patrick Murray: Relating to a lot of different people authentically is innate for me. I meet every new hire for lunch and have almost always been able to relate to them. Other than just recently—we had a new employee talk about anime, which was a new one for me. But because of the many life experiences I’ve had, I can authentically relate to just about anyone. And it’s important that it be authentic. People can tell when you’re being genuine and when you’re putting on a show.
At STP we also have a blame-free culture. We understand that we are all humans and will make mistakes, but we should learn from these opportunities versus pointing fingers, which I think was innate for me as well.
Some of the skills that have taken me a little longer to develop are understanding the true problem at heart. What I mean by that is that it takes time to understand that you don’t go to the first place where the smoke is burning. You have to take a moment to figure out the problem in its enormity and assess what to do first. Sometimes we can be so surface-level: “Here’s the problem, here’s the solution.” No, let’s spend some time understanding, asking the right questions, and looking into whether there are other layers involved.
Another skill that I have cultivated over time is realizing that perfection can be the enemy of the good. Sometimes just taking that first step is more important than making sure that the first step is perfect. If you don’t get moving because you need something to be just so, you’ll never do it. I realized that it’s okay to take the shot, even knowing there’s a chance you’ll miss. Granted, if you know that you only get one chance at taking a shot in a game, you should do your best to make it a good one. But it takes a while to get people comfortable with this notion.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Patrick Murray: Interestingly, myself and our Chief Operating Officer, Keith Bradley, decided months before COVID-19 started that it would be prudent for us to produce a pandemic emergency plan, which we did one summer day over some beers. Little did we know that six months later we would need to dust that off and utilize it. And fortunately for us, we had a good plan in place for both our U.S.-based and our India-based team, as both of those countries were hit hard at different times.
Having that plan in place ahead of time put us light years ahead of other firms who were only just starting to think of what they would need to do when an event that seemed unfathomable happened
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting out on their journey?
Patrick Murray: One piece of advice I would give to a CEO starting out is that while it might be tempting to get butts in seats and hire someone to just fill a role, you have to hire the best person for every role. It’s important for the leadership team, it’s important for the company, and it’s important for the clients that the right person be in the right role, rather than settling for the person that you can find at the time.
Another piece of advice I would give to a CEO is something I wish I had done so much sooner – invest in marketing! We now have a true marketing and public relations team, and it has been transformational to our business. For anyone trying to decide how to go about investing in marketing, make sure that you find the specialized marketing people who understand your niche so that they know who the key players are, who you need to be telling your story to, what your clients care about, etc. You need people on your side who know you and your work.
One thing I would tell aspiring CEOs and future leaders is that you need to understand the importance of your time and really reflect on the saying, “There are only so many hours in a day.” It’s true. And there are many of us who spend too much time working in the business rather than working ON the business. So, I try to do this and I suggest that you do as well – block your calendar so that you can strategize and take initiative.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Patrick Murray: I would like to get better at fishing. One day!
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Patrick Murray: Service, Transparency and Partnership – A Life Well Lived.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Patrick Murray for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Patrick Murray or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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