Forbes Finance Council is an invitation-only organization for executives in successful accounting, financial planning and wealth management firms. Members are successful leaders from world-class financial companies, each bringing a wealth of experience to the table. In this spotlight series, we profile our incredible members and share their advice with you. This week: John M. Perry.
John M. Perry is the CEO of Bluefin Payment Systems, the leading provider of secure payment technology for retailers, enterprises and small to medium-sized businesses. Bluefin offers cutting-edge payment technology that follows a holistic approach to data security.
How did your career as a finance executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
Over the past 20 years, my career has involved specializing in sales, marketing and business development in small, mid-size and large companies in the U.S. and internationally. I’m fortunate to have been placed in several roles where I have been able to demonstrate my ability to grow company revenue in a profitable and sustainable manner across multiple and complex product platforms. Some of my past positions include chairman of Spectrum, an independent electronic bill payments company, president of NOVA Information Systems, a U.S. Bancorp company, and executive positions with First Data, Visa USA and Wells Fargo Bank.
I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a degree in engineering, and a few years later earned an Executive Masters Degree in management from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. I cannot imagine two more different institutions, but they have been very complementary in my career. In the first few years after graduating from West Point, I took every opportunity to learn as much as I could and volunteered for challenging leadership positions as they presented themselves in the tank battalion where I was assigned as an active duty Army officer.
When I left the Army nine years later, I began my civilian career as a marketing manager at Wells Fargo Bank. I had a terrific boss who helped me get my bearings in the business world. He took the time to help me understand how to conduct business within a very big organization, and he continues to be the best mentor of my career. I had the opportunity to work for him several more times at different organizations, including those owned by private equity firms. He had a big impact on my future success in the various sales and marketing positions I held, and later as a CEO.
How do you keep yourself motivated and driven by your work, regardless of how busy you are day to day?
I enjoy staying engaged with Bluefin employees and customers and I appreciate their honest feedback. Feedback helps our organization become better in many ways, whether it involves adopting new technology trends, providing customer service insight or dealing with employee concerns. I try to keep a pulse on our 100 Bluefin employees and more than 16,000 customers by doing employee roundtables and client one-on-ones. When possible, I also take the opportunity to engage in public speaking, which allows me to showcase Bluefin and its many security solutions.
What do you see as the future of the financial world?
I believe that compliance and regulatory intrusiveness will continue to lead to a high degree of uncertainty in the business world. However, we are now seeing a different type of deep uncertainty across all industries in the form of data breaches. Our company has been able to take advantage of that trend and the need to secure financial payment technologies in nearly all sectors, be it a call center, a hospital or a university. We devalue the data for our clients so that if they are hacked, there is nothing of value to be stolen.
What is your best finance-related tip for businesses?
Businesses need to have a clear technology and employee plan to secure their clients’ critical and personal information. Companies of all sizes should plan for a data breach of some kind because it will happen at some point. Company leadership should not wait for the breach to happen. Leaders have a responsibility to their clients and shareholders to be prepared by hiring smart people and investing in secure and robust technologies.