The Download: Jack Thompson, Head of U.S. Financial Services, SAS

Jack Thompson is the Head of U.S. Financial Services at Cary-based SAS and leads the charge in delivering cutting-edge analytics and artificial intelligence solutions to clients in banking, insurance, and financial technology.

With a proven track record of success, Jack oversees a top-performing team of sales and technical talent with a common goal to transform the financial services industry by providing analytics to make enterprise decisions at scale. Jack partners with industry leaders to create dynamic solutions for complex areas such as risk management, fraud and security intelligence, customer intelligence, and enterprise decisioning.

Jack graduated with a degree in Financial Management from NC State.

1. What is in your pockets?

I have one of these Secrid wallets, which is a little bit more efficient and modern than your traditional wallet. I’ve got Samsung earbuds that I keep on me 24/7 because I have to take so many calls. And then a phone and some keys, and that’s it.

 2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

Jim Goodnight said it best when he said we (SAS) are the future and founder of analytics. We are the industry leader when it comes to enterprise analytics. I cover the Financial Services portion of our business, which is about 44% of SAS’s revenue globally, and what’s exciting for me right now is a lot of the trends that I saw coming over the past few years have really come to fruition in 2023.

For example, the banking crisis that we have been in. To me, it’s really been a culmination of a lot of things that we’ve been focusing on for a very long time. The fundamentals of enterprise risk management is something that we’ve always centered ourselves around in the financial services space, and we’ve been investing over the past few years in asset liability management as well. So, when the banking fall happened, a lot of the groundwork that we’ve been doing with financial institutions around gaps in their governance structure and the automation and the decisioning that they’re making within their risk management departments really came into play.  It’s not exciting to see the world going into a financially unstable place, but it’s exciting for our business because finally, the solutions and the platforms that we have developed can really help to ensure that these businesses are less risky.

The second thing, obviously, that everyone’s talking about is AI. Right now, the AI side is more about the promise and possibility of the future. So, we’ve got the risk management side, which is the blocking and tackling, and then there’s the AI side, where everybody thinks the art of the possible. It’s exciting for us because what people would consider AI now, are things that we’ve been concentrating on since the ’70s. And we’re right where the puck is going because we just got named as the No. 1 vendor in the initial AI enterprise decisioning space by Gartner, which was a huge recognition.

SAS is in a great position. We’ve made the right investments and finally people are going to come around to seeing how much we can really help in these emerging areas, getting back to the fundamentals of risk management and really governing and ensuring that we’re being safe and intelligent with our artificial intelligence strategies.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

I’d say Jubala in North Hills. It is very accessible for me.

4. What keeps you up at night?

What keeps me up at night is based around the customers and partners that I service on a day-to-day basis. What really what bothers me is that as the proliferation of decisioning happens within financial services companies, that decision-makers are not really thinking about governance and scale and what they’re providing as an output to the decisions that they’re making.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past decade fighting this battle against open-source analytics because the perception externally has always been open source is free and SAS is expensive. The reality is that we’ve moved past a proprietary language and now we integrate with open-source technology so that users can have the best of both worlds. What we provide and the reason that we exist and why we will grow into the future is that trusted, governed scalable platform that’s really needed to go beyond developing an analytical model to driving a decision into an enterprise.

What keeps me up at night is that the importance of that last mile, from analytics to actual decisions will continue to be lost on executives. It’s this perception that just creating a model is good enough. Whereas, I want to get my foot in there, and my voice in there to say, “No, you need to really think about how you’re injecting this into an operational decision that affects your company.”

I want people to understand that that is a function of what they need to be providing when they’re proliferating these decisions into their organization, because that, in turn, keeps us relevant because that’s what we’re the best at.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

We have a lot of really good restaurants in the Triangle. If I want to go have a really good local experience, I go to Rey’s. It’s got this old school feel that you really can’t replicate.

Some of the SAS team

6. What is next for you or your organization?

My goal is to grow this business that Jim Goodnight has entrusted me with, as much as I possibly can. It’s not a sales mentality. It’s really how do we align this awesome product and technology platform that we’ve built with the needs of our customer and the needs of the financial services industry.

For SAS overall, what’s really exciting is we’ve announced that we’re going public.  So that’s what’s next. And a big reason why I’m excited about that is a lot of the things that a private company was able to do, or get around for a long time, we are now having to solve for. I think that that’s going to make us better, like how we align ourselves operationally, how we align our focus on our customers, how we align our focus on our technology, all of those things are being sharpened, and I can see the pace and the efficiency and the level of work that the organization is doing just rising with that tide. Jim Goodnight set this big, audacious target and we’re rising to that call as an organization.

About Brooks Malone 105 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.