In summer 2022, Accutech Systems Corp. hired veteran fintech executive John Watts to lead the company’s trust and wealth management business unit. As the unit’s managing director, Watts is responsible for the company’s flagship product, Cheetah Wealth ManagementTM software.
He joined the company having previously served as senior vice president of operations at a banking solutions company focused on loan origination software. In 2020, the Indianapolis Business Journal named him the area’s Chief Technology Officer of the Year.
In this Q&A, John talks about what makes Accutech different from other fintech companies, including how it is uniquely prepared to tackle the changing marketplace, and why golf is the greatest game mankind ever invented.
What made you want to work at Accutech?
People and culture. It’s a testament to how the company hires. You must be a cultural fit before we take your résumé into consideration. Other companies I have worked for almost take the opposite approach. It’s business. Get the job done. But it becomes a very sterile kind of workplace.
But you spend so much of your day with your coworkers, you better like who you work with. You better have good chemistry with the people you work with, because you can solve problems more effectively. It promotes a more collaborative environment.
What motivates you?
I come from the business side of fintech. My background is in finance, investments, and banking. I just happen to be interested in technology. Early in my career, personal computers and the internet were coming into mainstream use. So, I have seen how technology has led to evolution in the industry. I just like learning about how we can apply technology to business problems.
My mindset has always been: It is people and processes that need to be addressed before you implement technology. People that try to implement technology as the sole solution are setting themselves up to fail. Trying to automate a flawed process or replace people with only technology can be problematic.
What are the biggest issues facing trust and wealth management right now?
The biggest issue is what is being called the Great Transfer of Wealth from the Baby Boomer generation to the next generation. How our clients engage with their clients is going to change. We’ve gone from a full-service society to a self-service society. People don’t want to totally go away from full-service, especially when they have problems. But they want the ability to self-serve on their own time.
I mean, I don’t go into banks anymore. Financial advisors and wealth management professionals must have tools at their disposal to connect and engage with the next generation client.
Where do you see opportunities in the trust and wealth management industry?
Everyone knows that there has been a lot of growth in wealth management. That’s because there has been a paradigm shift. Our parents and grandparents worked for a company their whole life and had a pension. There wasn’t much need for financial planning. But now, people are responsible for their own future and their own retirement. The responsibility has shifted from the company to the individual.
There is this misconception that the trust side of wealth management is not a growth industry. But that same paradigm shift toward individual responsibility has also created untapped opportunity on the trust side.
There are people and families that have a fair amount of wealth and don’t have trusts. And they are prime candidates. We need to educate them. As our country’s personal wealth is growing, having assets just titled in someone’s name puts those assets at risk. It’s better instead to have a structure in place to protect and preserve the assets and wealth for future generations, and having a trust is a key element to that.
What do you want people to know about Accutech and the direction the company is heading?
We have been in this business for 35 years. At the same time, we are at a very exciting inflection point. I kind of look at us as a 35-year-old startup. In the Trust and Wealth Management unit of Accutech, we want to triple our growth in 7 years. That’s cool. That’s fun.
I always tell people that software is never done and it’s never perfect. There are always things you can do to improve your product. Our clients don’t stand still, technology is always evolving, and the business environment is constantly changing. All this means that our job is never done. So, you must be innovative. We are the technology leader in our industry, and we have been demonstrating that.
Tell us about yourself away from work.
Both my wife and I were raised in families where our parents were part of the community through service clubs and church and volunteer organizations. That’s in our DNA.
Along those lines, my church is a key element in my life. I’ve just recently gone back on the board as an elder.
Golf is also a key element in my life. I used to play competitive amateur golf. I was also active with the Indiana Golf Association and Indiana Golf Foundation. I was on the board there and was president for a couple years. The IGF supported the First Tee program. First Tee was created to help kids develop life skills to grow into productive adults. It’s like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but it uses golf to teach core principles.
Golf teaches so many lessons that you can apply to everyday life. There is a great quote from Arnold Palmer, and I think he said it best. He said that “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”