Tech Into Nashville: Cathy Guthrie/Michael Berman – Ncontracts

Ncontracts

Michael Berman was a man in search of a solution when he founded Ncontracts 12 years ago. As general counsel of a financial technology company, he saw contract and vendor management was plagued with problems. Financial institutions relied on third parties to do everything from process payments to guard against cyber risk. To do this, they had to share access to their most sensitive systems and data, exposing themselves to a huge amount of risk.

Berman, an attorney turned entrepreneur, had a vision for a better way to manage the risks of these third-party relationships. Setting up shop in a windowless office over a Mexican restaurant with one other employee, he began his company with services and software to help companies understand, manage, and mitigate the financial and operational risks posed by third-party vendor relationships and their contracts. 

Today Ncontracts has grown into the leading provider of risk and compliance management software solutions for the financial services industry and has over 260 employees and 3,700 customers. Based in Brentwood, Tennessee, it serves the growing regtech industry, providing solutions that help heavily regulated banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, and fintechs comply with increasing regulatory demands. 

Ncontracts accomplishes this goal by attracting employees who are “humble, hungry, and smart” to imagine, build, and deliver strategic solutions and services—while nurturing an environment where curious and collaborative employees thrive. Recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of America’s fastest-growing companies for the past three years, it’s also been named one of Nashville’s Top Workplaces in 2021.

Berman has also won accolades from his employees for his warm, empathetic, and intelligent leadership, most recently being hailed as “Trusted Leader” as reported in The Tennessean. The attorney turned entrepreneur has attracted like-minded leaders including Cathy Guthrie, executive vice president, human resources. Originally from Austin, Texas, Guthrie wasn’t planning to move to Nashville but was drawn to Ncontracts’ strong ethos. 

“We’re a company that is committed to the idea of employees having great lives and great work,” Cathy says. “It just made sense for me.”  

Talent and tools

Ncontracts’ rapid growth has been a combination of both organic growth and acquisition, strategically buying both competitors and companies that have added to its product portfolio. It also employs over 75 software developers and quality assurance staff to innovate and integrate new solutions. 

The company embraces a learning-based, product-led development methodology where outcomes, not outputs, dictate the build. Unlike a top-down organization, at Ncontracts the problem is established first, and the team working on solving the problem determines the best solution. The executives at Ncontracts trust the test-and-learn process being used by developers and product designers. 

To do this, Ncontracts seeks out people who are patient, not afraid to ask questions, and willing to dig into the work until they really understand the problem. Much of the tech work is peer-based and employees collaborating on a project often show each other their work. Leaning into its risk management roots, the company encourages its employees to ask questions through the work process to promote new ways of thinking.  

Progress is measured with objective and key results (OKR), a collaborative goal-setting tool used by teams and individuals to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs are how Ncontracts tracks progress, creates alignment, and encourages engagement around measurable goals.

“The very best thing that you can do is hire really talented people… who want to win, but who want to win together,” says Guthrie. “Give them the tools—whether they’re working remotely or in office—to keep them connected and growing.” 

She adds that the company works hard to create and maintain a great work environment, noting, “Our biggest risk at this point is not being able to get the right talent—or not being able to keep it—so that is a proactive focus for us.”  

Finding talent with the right fit is a more recent challenge for Ncontracts. From 2009 to 2015, Berman grew the company with friends, family, and angel investors. He took the long and slow path to growth, leveraging his industry knowledge to sell the concept of Ncontracts to every financial institution who’d talk with him.

“We aren’t one of these companies that you see in Silicon Valley that have a pre-money valuation of something crazy, and they don’t even have a product built,” he says. 

It was a strategy that paid off, with Ncontracts now offering a full suite of integrated governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) solutions, including enterprise risk management (ERM), vendor management, lending compliance, business continuity, cybersecurity, and audit. These solutions help keep financial institutions—and the consumers they serve—protected from cybercriminals, fraud, and service disruptions by giving them tools to identify, manage, and mitigate these risks.

Guthrie says employees take great pride in knowing that their work keeps consumer data out of the hands of cybercriminals and strengthens the safety of the country’s financial system. 

“For top performers, working hard in pursuit of a higher purpose, doing a good job is just inherent,” says Guthrie. “The work Ncontracts does matters, and our ecosystem keeps evolving.”For further information about Ncontracts, be sure to visit their website and social media.  


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