MEET LOUIS DEMPSEY OF FSDA CORPORATE MEMBER, RENAISSANCE REGULATORY SERVICES, INC.
We are speaking today with Louis Dempsey, President of Renaissance Regulatory Services, Inc.
Louis, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been employed in the industry for about 30 years. Starting an as an examiner with the State of Florida’s Division of Securities, later joining the SEC’s Miami Regional Office as a Staff Accountant and subsequently serving as a Branch Chief. I spent a few years consulting with a large financial services company and founded RRS in 2006. My first experience in securities markets was when I was 12. My father gave me my first shares of stock, ConEd and told me to let the dividends reinvest - it ultimately helped finance college. I was hooked on markets from that point. In college, I studied Economics, focusing on International Trade and Finance. That’s where I started in public service. First with the Department of Revenue and then, after graduation, with the Comptroller’s office. FSU - Tallahassee - was a great place to learn about the workings of government.
How long have your served as President of Renaissance?
RRS started in my spare bedroom in 2006. We had two clients who pried me out of a comfy office at the SEC and I’ve served as “President” ever since. We work as a team, so I don’t really use that title internally. While in many ways we’re old school when it comes to hierarchy and structure within the firm, we want everyone to feel like they are on an equal footing. Focusing on titles tends to limit creativity and initiative. We like everyone to stretch beyond their boundaries. That’s critical for small firm and for delivering the level of service we strive for.
How hectic is a day in the life of the President of Renaissance, and what does it involve?
We’re mission driven and my days tend to be fluid, so we really focus on the goals and deadlines, not on any one day’s agenda or accomplishments. We start each week with a Monday morning meeting to go over each active client project, filing deadlines, and our sales pipeline. It’s hard to stick to a daily schedule when you run a small business and travel as much as we do. Conference season, and my commitment to FSDA and other associations, have me on the road for several weeks at a time, which makes day to day management challenging. If I’m in the office, which is rare at certain times of the year, I try to help with whatever fires are burning. Most of the time I find that the team has it handled and prefer me to stay out of the way. I use the weekends to catch up, deal with financial operations, IT - I’m the “defacto” CFO/CTO – and keep up to date on significant regulatory developments. We have a great team at RRS, and they keep the engine running.
I know you're a member of the FSDA Membership Committee. Tell us a little bit about what that committee does.
Yes, I’ve chaired it for the past few years. What a privilege to serve on an FSDA committee. Broadly, we work to develop initiatives to recruit and facilitate the onboarding of new members. For example, we develop ideas for membership drives, materials for members to use to recruit new members, and practices for educating and involving new members. We also encourage members to get involved and spread the word within their organizations so we can identify and recruit the “next generation” FSDA board member. This is critical for the long-term success of the FSDA’s mission, which is invaluable, not only for the industry, but for investors in the State of Florida. The membership committee helps to facilitate all FSDA’s efforts - education, regulatory, legislative. Membership committee members include the most active FSDA members. They are active in all our outreach programs and contribute considerable time and effort to the FSDA mission.
Why is it important for Renaissance to be a member of the FSDA?
Honestly, when I started RRS in 2006, my involvement was primarily for business development – making contacts – but that’s changed over that past several years. FSDA’s executive director when I joined, O’Bannon Cooke, was gracious and helped me get my foot in the door. He probably offered me the first discount membership. It wasn’t long after joining that I realized what an important role FSDA plays in Florida and I learned a lot about its history from other members. As RRS business has grown our focus is more about supporting FSDA’s educational outreach, regulatory and legislative initiatives. It’s not so much about business development for RRS anymore, but to give back. Over the past 30 years, the industry has changed more than it had since the passage of the 33/34 Acts. Changes to market structure, products, services and even key market participants. The two constants are that a small number of bad actors will keep scamming, making the industry look bad, and the regulators will keep coming with their broad-brush approach. But that’s another discussion.
FSDA does great things for the industry and investors – it shines a positive light on the industry in Florida, and that benefits us all.
I know that you are very involved with senior investor and teen financial literacy issues. Please tell us a little bit about your involvement with these issues.
Teen financial literacy first. After the financial crises it became clear that the lack of basic financial knowledge for so many young adults. We assumed that everyone is provided a basic level of financial education before leaving high school, apparently not. This is critically important for our economy and the growth of wealth and wellbeing in Florida - and across the country. FSDA has also partnered with the Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach County Schools to provide financial literacy in elementary schools. I’ve participated in that program as well. I have to say presenting to a room full of fourth graders was the most intimidating, yet rewarding, experience I’ve had in my professional life. I gained a greater appreciation for what teachers face each day. Luckily for me the curriculum provided was excellent and the kids loved it.
As for seniors, I’ve worked my entire career in South Florida. When I started in the industry years ago, I worked on consumer complaints and fraud investigations. Many of the victims were elderly retirees, widows and widowers. I saw first-hand how elderly investors are exploited by fraudsters, “confidence” men and women. There are so many issues we face as we grow older. Physical and mental health decline, our networks of trusted friends grow smaller, family may be distant, and we become more vulnerable to exploitation. Over the past several years we saw the impact of cognitive decline with my own father. It can be devastating.
FSDA’s focus in this area is critically important for long term economic health and protection of investors. Let’s face it, we’re all potential victims of exploitation as we grow older. And, it’s not just a customer issue, it’s an employee issue. So FSDA focuses its efforts on industry and consumer educational outreach programs. I’m glad FSDA and its members are on the frontline in Florida, working with regulators, legislators, community leaders, and law enforcement to protect investors.
Louis, thanks for taking time to speak with us today.