By any measure, Paul O’Neil is in a class by himself. Whether through his work with clients, colleagues, or industry associations such as NICSA, Paul has had a tremendous impact.
Today, the board of directors of NICSA will award Paul the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes individuals who have had a distinguished career in the mutual funds industry and who have contributed significantly to the success of NICSA.
For those of you who may not know Paul, here’s a little background. He has over 40 years in the mutual fund industry, spanning domestic, European, and Asian shareholder and support services, including 19 years with Boston Financial. He’s also been a member of NICSA since 1977, serving as a member of the board of directors for 15 years and culminating with the designation of Board Emeritus in 2015.
In recognition of this tremendous honor, here are some perspectives on Paul from some of the people who know him best- his colleagues.
I “grew up” in my career under Paul’s guidance. I think of Paul much more as a mentor and a friend, than as a boss. He was inspirational and encouraged my growth, even when I doubted my capabilities. He was a true coach and showed you how to get there.
In the early ‘90s when the mutual fund industry was experiencing explosive growth, Paul and I worked together at Boston Financial. Despite the many challenges, the complex environment, and the long hours we faced, Paul always kept his sense of humor, passion, and even-keeled demeanor.
I remember one particularly painful tax season in which the wrong tax form types were mailed to over 200,000 shareholders. Paul didn’t raise his voice or bat an eye (ok, he may have rolled them a little!) He simply asked for an action plan for resolution and a mitigation plan to ensure it never occurred again. Paul never focused on the mistake itself– his energy was always focused on resolution and service excellence.
There have been many times in my career when I’ve been faced with an issue, and I think, “What would Paul do?” Tackle the issue head on, keep your focus on the customer, give credit where credit is due, and never forget to celebrate!
Managing Director, Boston Financial Data Services
My favorite memory of Paul was one cold day in Luxembourg when Paul had been there about a month trying to work through a particularly nasty issue. We went to lunch at Subway (yeah, that Subway!). As we were ordering, Paul looked at me, “Steve, it’s like Groundhog Day. I get up. I come to work. I work with the team on recons and other issues. I eat at Subway. I go home at midnight, and I get up the next morning at 6:00 and do the same thing. It’s been that way for a month!” Only Paul could take such a desperate situation and make everyone around him laugh.
Paul has been a great teacher and mentor to me. He has always been patient when I did not understand something operationally. He has always dispensed his wisdom in a friendly and collegial way, always making you feel great about the interaction, and all the while he was teaching. He also has a wealth of experience that can only be gained through the travels and situations that he found himself in.
Paul is also very blessed in the partner he has chosen. Patty has been by Paul’s side every step of the way- be it in Lux, London, or on one of his crazy three-week round-the- world 84-meeting jaunts. They are a perfectly matched set! And they have wonderful children that look up to and cherish both of them. I always told Paul that the experiences he and Patty provided for their boys have been priceless. They are truly citizens of the globe and are good young men with great values.
I hope that when Paul wakes each morning he pinches himself and marvels at what he has done with his life. I would tell him, “Not bad for a kid from Boston!”
Chairman, CEO, and President, DST Systems, Inc.
No matter what Paul was asked to do, he embraced every challenge as an opportunity to add value to the enterprise, our customers, and our industry. He is a consummate professional with a sincere passion for life and a lot of fun to hang out with.
President and CEO, Boston Financial Data Services
He has always risen to the challenge with a calm and professional presence, taking up assignments in the U.S., U.K., Luxembourg, and Asia. He is recognized as one of IFDS’ (International Financial Data Services) founding fathers, having the developed the business during its inception years to the success we have today. He is the ambassador for our sector, being a key note speaker and chair at industry events and mentoring senior talented leaders across IFDS and Boston Financial. He is a man of high integrity, respected by both his colleagues and clients. He has a collaborative style and has always been a strong team player.
He has been pretty poor at golf despite being an enthusiastic spectator at The Open and Ryder Cup but continued investment in technology (i.e., new clubs) has helped! Paul was our Managing Director of Asian Operations for the latter part of his career with IFDS and has the most air miles out of all the executives!
CEO, Funds, Europe, International Financial Data Services
I have been very lucky to have worked with Paul over the years in many capacities. I have been a peer during our work with NISCA and a client of his with the MFS offshore funds. I also feel lucky to call myself his friend. From every vantage point, he has always stood apart as someone special. When I think of Paul, commitment, integrity, family man, and patience are the words that begin to capture my image of him.
As part of the NICSA board and organization, Paul’s contributions were powerful. He used his gift of strategic thinking and visionary spirit to help develop a long-term relationship with AFLI (an industry organization in Luxembourg). This has been a strategic and profitable relationship for NICSA; Paul was the steward who kept the link between NICSA and ALFI strong and productive. No matter the task, Paul would always volunteer to help get things done.
It is rare that one finds a good friend in a colleague. He not only makes time for his colleagues and friends but is quick to extend a helping hand. On a personal level, Paul is a great friend and I consider myself blessed.
Senior Global Advisor, MFS Investment Management
What do I remember most about working with Paul? Two things. First, how organized he was. He never went into any meeting without a list of the things he wanted to cover or questions he wanted to ask. No matter how long the meeting or how many participants, he was always able to reduce his list to a single page. Secondly, Paul was always the calmest person in the room. No matter the issue or how crazy everything around him was. I try to think about these two things and follow that example every day.
When I think about Paul’s contributions, I think of the impact he had on our businesses in the U.S., U.K., Luxembourg, Ireland, and Hong Kong. I cannot think of another individual that I know who has had that kind of global impact.
Vice President, Boston Financial Data Services
Paul was already a seasoned veteran in Europe when I joined IFDS. And so from my first day in the office, Paul has been a mentor on how the third-party administration business works and probably more importantly, how our shareholder organizations (State Street and DST) work.
He has always been very generous in sharing his knowledge, experience, and contacts in the industry to anyone who needed it. His ability to fly around the world, look constantly fresh in meetings, and be up-to-speed on local issues in all our geographies is an example to all our employees who aspire to be global leaders.
CEO, DSTi Holdings Ltd
Executive Chairman, International Financial Data Services
I had the pleasure of working with Paul from the mid-80s at Boston Financial to a project at State Street in Luxembourg a few years back. I can recall many instances where stress and emotion were all around us; I was always amazed at Paul’s ability to remain calm and professional in a storm and keep us all on track.
Paul guided me through many challenging assignments in my early years- building confidence in me, teaching me to become a better leader, how to gain trust from others, and how to communicate in the language of business management.
Managing Director, Boston Financial Data Services
I know Paul from our interactions on the NICSA board. As an honorary director, Paul wasn’t obligated to attend board meetings, but I found myself hoping that he would. Simply put, Paul was an ideal director. His contributions were always on-point and helpful- and informed by a respect and affection for NICSA, its history, and the individuals involved.
President, Versanture Consulting
How would I describe Paul? The consummate professional. When I joined Boston Financial over 20 years ago, Paul was already in a very senior position. Yet he was always available to share his insights and provide solid feedback, even to a member of Finance (actually, Paul had a keen finance focus, and was certainly ready to talk budget at any time).
Not surprisingly, he was tapped shortly thereafter to help grow the UK side of the business. His work ethic, positive demeanor, and exemplary attitude was always evident. I will miss his frequent calls regarding ex pat tax issues. But more importantly, I will miss our frequent interaction (wherever he was in the world at that time). I am thrilled that I am able to call him “friend.”
CFO, Boston Financial Data Services
Do you have a favorite memory of Paul, a story to share? Please post a comment. We’d love to hear your perspective on Paul!