A growing FinTech company based in Australia looks for a North American home, searches far and wide, and selects Philadelphia. But for new entrant ICS that isn’t the entire story. The truth is, “Philly picked us,” said Christian Eriksen, Chief Commercial Officer of ICS, which opened its U.S. office in Philadelphia in September 2022.
“When you start out as an Australian company, and you want to expand into the United States, it doesn’t come without challenges,” he said.
As the search continued – and ICS hired two senior executives who were already located in the Greater Philadelphia region – the choice became clear, Eriksen said. Philadelphia had everything that a potential high-growth company such as ICS was looking for: a wealth of high-level talent, a burgeoning financial services industry, access to an international airport, affordability, culture, and plenty of things to do.
“I wasn’t really expecting it,” Eriksen says. “But it was actually the fact that Philly had the resources I wanted that put Philly in the lead of where to base our people.”
ICS’ experience underscores Greater Philadelphia’s attraction for companies looking to relocate or open an office – whether they’re coming from halfway around the country or halfway around the world.
“ICS’ selection of Philadelphia as their North American home speaks to the city’s growing reputation as a hub for innovation and talent in the financial services industry. We’re thrilled to welcome ICS to our vibrant business community and look forward to seeing the company flourish in Greater Philadelphia,” says James Medaglio, Director, Business Attraction & Expansion, Select Greater Philadelphia.
Filling a Gap in the Market
ICS and its investment data management platform, ATHENA, are designed to support buy-side investment management organizations in getting more value out of their data. ATHENA enables clients to aggregate their investment data, apply data validation logic to create confidence, and leverage best-in-class reporting tools in a cost-efficient manner.
Among other things, ATHENA can help users dig deeper to better understand complex financial instruments and their exposures, automate target monitoring and rebalancing, reconcile data to external and internal platforms, quickly respond to queries, and better incorporate data related to ESG and sustainability.
In short, ATHENA harnesses the tidal wave of data and information that financial companies swim in every day to provide better service and returns to their clients.
Eriksen and two partners, each with over 20 years of industry experience, founded ICS in 2016 after recognizing that existing technology systems had not kept up with the needs of financial companies.
“You see a gap in the market, and you see that it hasn’t been filled with new technology and new solutions,” said Eriksen, who is originally from Denmark.
Time to Expand in the U.S.
In 2020, the platform was getting enough traction that the founders began to consider expansion into the U.S. and Europe. They launched a research trip from New York City to Toronto and west to Chicago.
It was during this time that ICS first approached the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia to gain insight into U.S. expansion opportunities. The pandemic put these plans on hold, and ICS decided to open a United Kingdom office first.
Last year, ICS’ long-planned move to the U.S. became a reality when Eriksen “dipped into my Rolodex” and hired two former colleagues, Lou Eperthener as Head of Sales and Darrin Harris as Manager for Client Services and Presales. Both long-time friends and colleagues lived in the Philadelphia region.
“If Lou were sitting in Hawaii, I would probably have thought twice, but the more we had discussions about where to locate, we could see the kind of organizations that were in Philly already and that it was an area where we could find more talent,” Eriksen said.
Eperthener said he never expected to stay in the Philadelphia region after moving here for a job opportunity. “My original plan, to be honest, was to get to New York, but when I got here and started making friends, I got very comfortable.” That was in 1999, and he never left, opting to get married and raise a family here.
“Philadelphia is really convenient, and the cost is right,” said the Collegeville, Pa. resident. “I can be anywhere directly out of Philadelphia. During COVID, people did leave the high-rent areas, and they migrated south. But there are people who just like the Northeast, and I’m one of them.”
Harris grew up in South Jersey. He moved away briefly after college at Stockton State University before returning home and eventually settled in Conshohocken, PA. He’s thought about moving but says Greater Philadelphia has all that he needs.
“It’s a mini version of New York with the industry, the restaurant scene, the culture scene, and everything else,” he says. “Plus, it’s much more manageable, so that’s appealing.”
Embracing Greater Philadelphia’s Talent – and Culture
These advantages will all be important factors as ICS grows its business in the U.S.
“Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs are really nice options,” Eperthener said. “And then you have the number of very large institutional asset managers who are in the area, along with prospective clients and prospective employees. We have so many universities and colleges right in this area, and I think there’s going to be a pretty nice talent pool when we get to the stage that we need to start expanding the team.”
As for the Australians, they’re embracing regional culture – well, except for one thing.
“I’m still waiting for my first cheesesteak,” Eriksen said. “I saw one place, but Lou said, ‘Don’t have that one. If it’s the first one, it has to be perfect.’ So, I was close, but I wasn’t allowed.”