Tech People in the Know: Fran Duggan

In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus will profile interesting and intriguing tech professionals who are positively impacting the credit union industry.

For this issue, we spent time with Payrailz CEO Fran Duggan. The Glastonbury, Conn. –based company’s central mission is making the digital payments experience smarter and more engaging.

By W.B. King

While Fran Duggan hasn’t held a technologist title like “programmer,” he has spent more than 30 years investigating, developing and applying technology solutions that solve real-time problems.

“I have always been a gadget person and get excited about how technology can improve how we work and live and deliver the most precious resource humans want: time,” he said.

In Duggan’s view, one way in which technology departments have changed is that today’s executives “need to have a clear understanding of the business side of the business,” because the “tech side is no longer a support function, but often a central part of the company.”

Payrailz CEO Fran Duggan.

And as the financial services industry moves further into the digital age, he explained that the “data side of tech is becoming increasingly important and how you manage, secure and leverage that data is becoming critical to success.” Duggan pointed to Amazon, Google and Facebook as examples of tech companies that are essentially “data management and artificial intelligence (AI)-focused” organizations that credit unions should emulate.

Another key change in the tech space, he said, is the need for organizations to integrate. “IT used to build a one-off, stove-piped solution for solving one particular problem. That thinking was considered okay and that’s how things were built. Today and going forward, the ability to integrate technology solutions and leverage data to be able to provide the services that members want is critical,” he said.

“For a technology leader to see how the all pieces fit together and making them fit is a very different role than being the manager of building solutions,” he continued. “Tech managers need to be more like architects than the traditional role of being the construction manager.”

Evolving with Technology

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and an MBA in general management from Boston University Questrom School of Business, Duggan held numerous positions in the financial services industry, including a 10-year stint as an executive at Webster Bank. At this post, he designed and oversaw the development of online banking and payment applications. He later founded Payveris and served as its CEO for nearly six years. Launched in 2011, the company offers online and mobile payment solutions and a cloud-based payment platform with a full suite of API’s for bill Payment, A2A and P2P services.

“I get excited about the possibilities of technology. You are never done building because technology continues to evolve,” said Duggan who assumed his current role as Payrailz’s CEO in 2017. He added that 40 of the company’s 65 employees work in tech-facing roles.

“We all thought – and some still do – that the Internet and mobile phones are the ultimate, but I see artificial intelligence as another breakthrough or revolution in technology,” he added.

The concept of AI learning and adapting from user data is not only exciting, noted Duggan, but it is still in the early stages of development.

“Think about an AI application that helps members manage their daily finances, such as paying their bills, putting money savings, finding way to save money on everyday bills and purchases and overall removing that financial burden that is the number one source of stress to the average person,” he said. “To me, that is a game changer, not because the technology is fascinating, but because of what it can do to better people’s lives.”

Creating forward-looking digital relationships will be “critical to business success,” Duggan said. He added that credit unions have a lot of potential to gain traction. He noted, however, that credit