3 min read April 2022 — Ryan Hicke, chief information officer for technology and investment solutions company SEI, shared with Invest: why the Philadelphia market is a great place for its headquarters, the company’s exciting growth and ways in which SEI is helping to foster its diverse talent pool. Hicke also touches on a variety of industry topics, such as the importance of keeping up with technology.
What makes the Philadelphia market a great place for your headquarters?
Our headquarters have been in the Philadelphia region since our company’s founding in 1968. The reason why we remain committed to the region is multilayered. First, it’s a terrific launching point to serve our clients. We have a national and global client base, but the bulk of the business was originally built domestically. Philadelphia is a major market and has a large number of financial organizations in the region. It was just a logical spot for us to center ourselves originally. Today, we are excited about the growing amount of investment into innovation, and we very much look forward to participating in that on a few different levels.
What would you highlight as significant milestones and achievements for the year of 2021 and early 2022?
Everything we do is focused on continued growth and talent. We never stay satisfied. Our focus is on trying to build for the future, so we continue to invest in new business ideas that extend our footprint and started laying aggressive railroad tracks during the last 18 months. We have a more surgical focus on specific talent areas, but we’ve also been more open-minded about the geography of those individuals in order to take advantage of the national and global talent pools.
How does demand for your services today compare to pre-pandemic 2019 levels?
We’ve seen an increase in demand and more activity across the board. The pandemic has allowed numerous organizations to step back and rethink their operating models—not only for the present, but also for the future. It has also allowed us to rethink how we deliver our services. One of the benefits of working from home has been greater comfort with technology. For example, the attendance we get for virtual client conferences is larger.
What would you identify as an exciting innovation by SEI?
We launched a business before the pandemic called SEI Sphere, which is our end-to-end cyber and data protection offering. It leverages our talent and expert capabilities at SEI to provide clients with cybersecurity across their entire digital footprint. It’s an exciting new business for us.
What are the consequences of not updating from legacy IT systems?
There’s speed and cost. They’re going to manifest themselves in different ways. We expect more specific regulations for organizations moving forward, which is a good thing for us because one of our advantages is that we are heavily regulated ourselves, so we invest to stay ahead. And what are the implications of not modernizing legacy IT? You are inherently opening yourself up to risks, as well as exposing yourself to more nimble competitors, and those risks don’t get smaller every day. The speed of technology is exponentially accelerating. You have to have a full-time focus. The cost of failure is enormous.
What is the importance of acquisitions to your success and how does the Philadelphia market play into it?
I anticipate the role of M&A in SEI’s future will grow in importance. There are opportunities out there in the market for SEI to use its capital and balance sheet to accelerate our future growth strategies. When we look at the acquisitions we made in 2021, which totaled more than we have made historically, everything was anchored around the question of whether or not those acquisitions would accelerate strategies we already have in place. What we’re not interested in is just acquiring market share or acquiring clients. The Philadelphia region offers a tremendous number of opportunities.
What is your outlook for the next five years?
I’m super optimistic. Other regions can be defined by one industry. When you look at Philadelphia, you get an interesting mix. That’s exciting because it creates a diversity of thought, and it allows us to think differently about what we want to stand for. When I look at the new startups, I get excited about their ideas. It’s unique that people aren’t trying to create new ideas specific to one sector.
In what ways is SEI helping to foster a diverse talent pool?
One thing, personally, that I’m very focused on is figuring out how to grow and retain talent, especially in technology. Historically, when you look at the data, the region has lost a lot of talent to New York City, D.C., or other large metropolitan areas. There’s been a commitment over the last five years to become more invested in the region to try to retain talent. However, the Philadelphia region offers an enormous talent pool across different backgrounds and ethnicities, which is critical to a future workforce of true diversity. A lot of it is fueled by the education community. We need to invest earlier in their life cycles. For example, we need to start investing in younger individuals, sometimes high-school age. We have a responsibility to increase the talent pool. If we’re investing earlier, it will provide us with numerous benefits later on.
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