Util: Re-imagining investments in fintech
Patrick Wood Uribe is a passionate entrepreneur. As the CEO of Util, Patrick brings a wealth of experience at the intersection of machine learning and finance. Before joining Util, Patrick was Head of Business Development at Kensho, the leading provider of artificial intelligence and data analytics to sophisticated financial institutions and critical government agencies. In addition to serving Kensho’s clients in the finance industry and the intelligence community, Patrick was Kensho’s Head of Academic Research, leading the firm’s many collaborations with distinguished academic institutions and research teams. In 2018, Kensho was acquired by S&P Global in the world’s largest AI acquisition to date. Patrick joined Kensho from The Advisory Board Company, a global health care research and technology firm, where he provided strategic guidance and leadership development to health care executives in the U.S., Colombia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia. Prior to his role at The Advisory Board Company, Patrick was a tenure-track professor at Boston University. In addition to publishing in peer-reviewed journals, he has delivered lectures and seminars on his research across the U.S. and Europe at institutions including the Max-Planck-Institute in Berlin, Oxford University, Yale University, and the European University Institute in Florence.
He speaks on an array of topics in an interview. Excerpts:
Conception of Util
Util is a financial technology company on a mission to change the way the world invests. With responsibility for over $100 trillion worldwide, investors have enormous power to effect change. Until now, however, their capacity to measure and manage the extra-financial performance of companies and investments has hinged on a patchwork of third-party ratings and company disclosures that speak to corporate, rather than social and environmental, risk. Patrick speaks of a personal experience that has shaped Util. “I was once asked to create sustainable portfolios for different economic scenarios, and I found that every benefit came at the expense of something else I really cared about. The only choices back then were either getting stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’ or ignoring the negative impacts and moving on. Now the market is demanding that we find a way to do better.”
Fintechs – Challenges Galore
“We must get out of the zero-sum mentality in business culture. It just isn’t true, for one thing, and it’s also a tremendous waste of useful energy. Innovation can be competitive but we operate within an ecosystem that demands just as much cooperation to succeed.”
For all their financial decisions about risk and reward, investors have virtually instant data on a vast scale. For their decisions on sustainability, however, they have nowhere near the information they need to act with the same speed and confidence. “And that’s where Util comes in,” adds Patrick. “We use AI to deliver detailed, evidence-backed data of the same quality and scale as financial data, so investors can treat sustainability data with as much confidence.”
“I’m naturally curious and thoughtful, and that helps in leadership. Most importantly, I like to take responsibility but to share credit. Even if you make responsible leadership choices, you can’t avoid failure. But you can discover it quickly, bounce back, and learn a lot from it; so, make it your superpower to get the best out of every failure.”
Patrick suggests that startups approach the industry with both skepticism and humility. “There’s a lot that can be done better, or more fairly, or more openly, so it’s good to be skeptical. But it’s also a complex and powerful ecosystem that can’t be ‘fixed’ with a few great ideas. Always ask for advice, for opinion, perspective, feedback — it’s the only way to do better than you can alone.”
Within nine months of launching, Util made the shortlist for Investment Week’s Sustainable & ESG Investment Awards 2021, nominated for ‘Best Sustainable & ESG Research & Ratings Provider’. As a business rooted in tech, Util has been selected for a suite of world-leading accelerators, including the New York FinTech Innovation Lab, the London Mayor’s International Business Programme, and the Mass Challenge 2022 FinTech program, latterly working with Columbia Threadneedle.