by Divina Paredes

CIO50 2019 #20:Richard Wyke, Figured

Mar 28, 2019
APIsBig DataBusiness Continuity

Figured was built on the idea of connecting farmers and their advisors on a common cloud financial platform to enable better collaboration across each member of the farming team, says its chief technology officer Richard Wyke.

Figured has grown over the past five years, and Wyke and his team have built a product which supports close to 15,000 farmers. With this growth, Figured has built up a data lake with over one billion financial transaction records in it.

Wyke has led significant innovation projects which has enabled Figured to unlock the power of that data and begin to realise the potential of Figured as a connected, cloud-based system.

One of these is a joint project with Bank of New Zealand. Figured used real-time actual and forecast data for farms across New Zealand to provide impact assessment of various scenarios related to the M.Bovis outbreak in New Zealand.

This enabled BNZ to model the impact of the M.Bovis outbreak and determine how to best support their clients through one of the biggest threats to New Zealand’s agriculture industry.

Another project was the development of the first realtime agri-financial benchmarking product.

This product, launched in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, draws on the millions of financial data points in the Figured database to enable their accounting partners to create their own live benchmarking pools for their clients.

Extending this, Figured is integrated with third party business intelligence tools like Agrigate to enable further analysis.

This approach to data has provided Figured with extreme growth in the past two years, both in New Zealand and abroad as partnerships have been formed across all markets, says Wyke.

This focus on data comes with significant responsibility when operating as a global business, “We must also ensure that Figured complies with its obligations under GDPR and doesn’t compromise the security and integrity of the data which Figured is custodians of,” he points out.

Rapid growth means that structurally Figured needed to attract and onboard staff rapidly, and ensure that new members of the team are provided an environment in which to do their best work.

“We must also ensure that Figured complies with its obligations under GDPR and doesn’t compromise the security and integrity of the data which Figured is custodians of,” he points out.

He says the technology team achieves this using a powerful and modern technology stack. The latter remains simple enough for the team to work with easily, he says.

He explains these two innovations began with a vision to provide farmers, their advisors and stakeholders (the farming team) unrivalled access to financial information.

“In its simplest form, this means building Figured on a platform which enables collaboration between users.”

From the outset, “we had this unwavering belief in disrupting the traditional model of siloed data sources in agriculture, and leading change in the industry to encourage collaboration and partnership between those in the financial services industry,” he says.

This was demonstrated in their work with BNZ in response to the M.Bovis outbreak.

The technology team ensured that the data Figured has access to is able to be combined with third party data sources to generate new insights. This is enabled by the use of Amazon Web Services and the host of analytics tools available through AWS.

This would not have been possible without the strong partnership model we had with BNZ, he says.

Figured benefits from having a dataset which is completely unique in the agri industry, says Wyke.

While traditional systems have been desktop based, or built as highly complex enterprise style systems, Figured’s approach to data enables it to create a platform which connects multiple data sources from across financial and production systems into a standard format.

This approach to data has enabled Figured to build tools such as the Figured Benchmarking product, and expand our product offering, while also offering value back to our partners in the form of the BNZ M.Bovis project, says Wyke.

He notes the upside of being a CTO in a technology and product-led company.

“We do not have to fight to ensure that product innovation and effective use of technology remains a priority,” he states.

The leadership team looks to the CTO on how Figure can stretch its capabilities and open up new opportunities by using an innovative approach to product growth.

This guidance has opened up new sales and marketing opportunities through the development of products like Figured Benchmarking, scenario planning and their work with BNZ on the response to M.Bovis.

Wyke is actively involved in the go to market aspects of Figured. He works closely with the marketing and brand teams, and provides inputs into the communication strategy to ensure their message to the market is linked with the long-term vision of the business.

He was involved in Figured’s launch in to the UK, while also directing his teams on product and technology requirements for growth locally, and in Australia and the United States.

Wyke also formed a tech advisory board of business technology leaders from across sectors in New Zealand.

“This has helped bring an independent influence to major decisions both at board and partnership levels,’ he states.

Working in a global firm also brings with it the challenge of managing multiple teams across different time zones.

He says it is important to instill in the team the importance of communication over assumed understanding. The team holds monthly virtual all hands meetings using Zoom. A network of collaborative tools keep everyone connected including the Atlassian suite of development and collaboration tools, he says.

Wyke tries to be as flexible as possible with his communication style to ensure that ideation and planning is done in the open. And while important discussions are always held via official channels, Snapchat occasionally comes in to use for spur of the moment ideas.

“I’ve learned that the greatest successes come when opportunities are framed not so much by solutions, but instead by challenges,” he says, on his leadership style.

“My greatest learning has been the importance of being clear on vision, and enabling great people to do great work,” he says.

“When we go looking for challenges, we find ourselves creating products which are truly groundbreaking, while the incumbents which we have disrupted have created solutions to known problems.

“We also learned early on that it is critical that product aspirations and technology platforms are tightly coupled. As a software company, the platforms we build on can be the life or death of our product.”