three+one® is a Rochester, New York-based financial technology company that offers innovative liquidity data and cash management solutions which deliver better financial outcomes for public entities and higher-Ed solutions – and for those they serve. Its unique liquidity data tool, cashVest®, endorsed by the National Association of Counties (NACo), as well as 17 state associations, has brought over $500 million in new revenue to communities nationwide.
Company CEO, Joseph Rulison, believes in leading by example with great passion and an eye towards the future in an ever-changing financial marketplace. He has been recognised as Most Influential CEO 2022 – New York in this issue of CEO Monthly. We got in touch with Joe to learn more about three+one and his career.
Forecasting the liquidity position of a government entity or higher-education institution is all about vision. As a pioneer in fintech, that vision meant manifesting a solution to a problem plaguing every public sector entity, still one that no one had yet devised. For three+one, that vision came into sharper focus when Joseph Rulison, an investment advisor by day, public official, and university trustee by night, looked hard at how his professional paradigm of data and money-management could serve a marketplace of elected and appointed officials charged with the financial stewardship of their organisations.
As a company, three+one saw an underserved marketplace in the sectors of public entities and higher-Ed institutions. Specifically, it felt it needed to better understand the role of liquidity and how to view and capture all aspects of cash. In a changing banking landscape, the industry was being challenged with fewer financial resources, and it could profit from the new sources of revenue three+one could offer.
three+one brought to market two fintech platforms, cashVest® and rfpPrep®, which are unique to the public sector and higher-Ed. Combined, this pioneering technology provides multi-million and billion-dollar entities the confidence of reliable data, not opinions.
The first of these fintech platforms, cashVest, enables stress-tested data analysis, time-horizon, and liquidity data across all accounts to maximize the value of all cash on deposit. The second platform, rfpPrep, has revolutionized the oft-mandated Request for Proposal (RFP) process for banking services and investment management by digitising the protocol, thereby streamlining the RFP evaluation timeline by as much as 75%. In creating this technology, rfpPrep transforms a difficult & tedious manual procurement into a smooth, hassle-free, and fair-bidding tool.
CEO, Joe Rulison explained, “We needed to be seen as a positive disruptor in the public financial marketplace. To that end, we created a core value for the company: to ‘exceed expectations’ for our clients, our employees, and our stakeholders. We’re proud to say that core value has been woven into the very fabric of three+one.”
By “exceeding expectations”, three+one has maintained a very strong client retention rate (99%) and 100% employee retention. It has also helped its clients find new sources of income and savings amounting to over $500m; these additional funds have gone back to the communities and entities they serve. Without three+one’s innovative liquidity data technology, these results would never have been attained.
Though Joe Rulison was confident in his vision for how three+one would substantially elevate public sector & higher-Ed entities in a dynamic financial landscape, the biggest test was yet to come. Joe was in Washington, D.C. talking to public officials from across the entire United States during the closing days of February 2020, a time when the public at-large was just learning about this newly discovered, but rapidly evolving virus that would become the COVID-19 pandemic.
With lockdowns forcing people out of their jobs and into their homes, it became the responsibility of public officials to initiate a comprehensive pandemic response. That responsibility trickled down to the counties, towns, cities and villages where local leaders struggled to contain the spread of a virus, let alone balance the financial books. As a fintech solution to the monetary uncertainties of a regular fiscal year, the liquidity-management and data gleaned through cashVest and the analysis provided by three+one became the lifeline for understanding the economic impact to local communities everywhere. So much, in fact, that during the COVID-19 pandemic, three+one was deemed an essential service by its clients in managing their liquidity needs who likewise relied heavily on the Pathway to Recovery®, a program created as model for entities negatively impacted by the upheaval of the marketplace.
The most crucial value to clients, however, is rooted not just in three+one being the singular provider of liquidity data services, but also from the lens through which it offers a common understanding with those they serve. The founders and key management have in the past been, and continue to serve as, public officials in their own communities.
CEO and Co-Founder Joe Rulison’s vision for what was to become three+one stems back to the 1980s where he was originally an investment advisor, and he saw the potential growth of professional money management. Following this, he purchased a Register Investment Advisor (RIA) firm in the late 1990s and named it Rulison & Company. During that time, Rulison & Company specialised in working with high-net-worth individuals and non-profit organisations. Joe commented, “We soon needed to differentiate this firm in a fast-growing, more competitive workplace. We needed to become more creative and become a community leader with board involvements. These market factors pushed me to become an entrepreneur.”
In 2001, together with the great help of his business partner, Peter Forsgren, Muniflow, a division of Rulison & Company was sold to Bank of America. His bank experience as Market President with Bank of America, coupled with the role as Managing Director of J.P. Morgan, provided Joe with the opportunity to learn from the best in strategic planning, distribution, risk-and-compliance oversight, and partnership agreements.
Joe said, “My experience as an entrepreneur, a public official, a college board chair and trustee, and a government banker provided me with the broad experience necessary to offer a 360-degree perspective in building a company, gathering a very talented team, and attracting a unique client base with tremendous growth potential.”
In discussing his idealized vision in the early days of three+one, Joe reflected on the unexpected and nearly debilitating health setback to his own vision, his eyesight. At the age of 58, just a year after officially launching three+one with his business partner, and now-COO Peter Forsgren, Joe lost sight in both eyes. The firm was growing and adding talent, major funding had been secured and put behind the technology, yet Joe quite literally could not see it happening.
Thankfully, through dozens of surgeries and procedures over the span of three years, Joe was able to regain most of the sight in his eyes, and his vision, both his own and that for his company, now stem from a markedly deeper meaning. “This was a journey built on ‘blind strengths’,” Joe stated. “I was not going to be stopped from making a dream become a reality for my team, our clients and shareholders, and my family.”
And while most fintech firms build the technology first and see if the marketplace will respond, three+one took a different approach. Joe explained, “Upon identifying an underserved marketplace, the three+one team created a need, developed innovative solutions to fill the need, then worked with our clients to tailor specific liquidity modelling that could build a national presence. As a result, we created and are now distributing liquidity management services that public entities and higher-Ed institutions are adopting.”
three+one continues to stay ahead of the curve in technology, looking to drive the highest standard of client service, while developing new markets, with new product platforms, and in new areas of the country. It achieves this through creative branding, heavy social media, national distribution, and strong client references and word of mouth. Joe has said that he therefore foresees three+one’s revenue growth to exceed 100% annually over the next five years, with high client retention and ever stronger adoption of its platforms nationally.
In terms of his leadership approach, Joe believes that there is no issue that cannot be resolved with a well-developed solution. “I firmly believe in the highest values and ethics of business,” he said. “It is far easier to do everything right the first time rather than taking up time correcting wrongs or repairing ‘cut corners’. To me, clients always come first, and our strong, positive company culture ensures that always happens.”
He continued, “Vision, belief, passion, and determination in making a difference to the public entities and communities we serve form the foundation three+one is built on. It is in our company’s DNA and our social conscious commitment to serve the financial interests of public entities and higher-Ed institutions of all sizes and locales. We are as unique as a company as we are as a team. We’re a jigsaw puzzle comprised of many pieces of incredible talent that together create an image of hope, growth, and a bright future for those entities, their communities, our employees, and those who have invested in three+one.”
“Ultimately, one’s reputation is everything. But legacy is setting a path for others to walk alongside, while creating new paths for an even better future.”
Regarding the future, three+one is only just getting started. Joe shared, “We will not feel complete until we have reached every local community in the United States and beyond. three+one is in a unique niche that offers great value to our clients and prospects. We want to make a difference in each community and organisation we serve, and it is our goal to reach over $1.0b in new savings and income for the communities we serve by the end of 2022, and over $10.0b by 2025.”
And speaking about his plans for his own career, he said, “My passion is to continue building three+one and to help communities benefit from what we have learned. As a family, my wife, Karen, and I love to give back to our community and financially support causes that help those who cannot otherwise help themselves, providing them with the same opportunities that were granted for me.”