Clare Flynn Levy

Year of Graduation: 
’91
Clare Flynn Levy

​"[I] hope that I can inspire others to seek out that place where their passions and skills intersect."

The past two years have been a bit of a whirlwind for Clare Flynn Levy ’91. In 2013, the former fund manager founded Essentia Analytics, an innovative company that bills itself as sitting “at the nexus of behavioral finance and data science.” In March 2014, Flynn Levy shepherded Essentia through the launch of its proprietary software, which provides professional investors with in-depth information regarding their skills, enabling them to do, according to the company, “more of what they’re good at and less of what they’re not.” And in September, Flynn Levy was recognized by London’s Brummell magazine as one of the 30 most inspirational women entrepreneurs currently working in the city, an acknowledgement that further motivates this dynamic businesswoman.

“I’m delighted to be included in Brummell’s list and hope that I can inspire others to seek out that place where their passions and skills intersect,” she says.

Flynn Levy knows what a lasting impression one person can make—for example, her Exeter economics teacher, Arthur Gilcreast. “Mr. Gilcreast taught me the basics of economics, which set me on a course toward fund management, but he also taught me to think on my feet and be prepared to step up at zero notice,” she says.

Another early source of inspiration was fellow Exonian and 2014 Brummell award-winner Nicola Horlick ’79. “Nicola was a massive inspiration to me in my early career: She was the mother of six kids, was leading one of the top money management firms in the U.K. and was only in her early 30s,” Flynn Levy says. “She’s set a precedent everywhere she’s gone and has no doubt inspired many young women along the way. But Nicola’s most important contribution to the industry has nothing to do with her gender. It rests on her ability to explain financial markets in terms that the average person can understand without sounding patronizing. It’s a skill that most fund managers lack, and it has served her very well.”

Professional investors are typically focused on just one thing, Flynn Levy explains: making money. Yet, as a fund manager she was also eager to find ways to maximize her return on energy expended, and after 20 years in the field she was confident that she was not alone in that desire.

“The conventional measure of an investor’s skill is performance and the extent to which that performance has come from factors other than just mimicking the market,” she says. “All fund managers are aware that performance comes at least as much from luck as from skill, but they all also appreciate the fact luck evens out over time. If there’s any skill involved in investing, then the investor who focuses on maximizing it will win.”

With Essentia, Flynn Levy created the software she wished that she’d had when running money. “I realized that professional investors could use technology like ours to optimize their decision-making processes and achieve consistent outperformance, in much the same way that professional athletes analyze their training data and game tapes and then iterate on their training regimens. It’s common sense, but it’s something that the industry hasn’t historically been forced to do. Today, end investors have less confidence in human fund managers than ever before, and the competition is only getting fiercer. It’s clearly time for a new level of professionalism to become the standard.”

If Flynn Levy has her way, use of software like Essentia’s will become the industry norm, and the signs are good. “There’s definitely demand for what we’re doing, and it’s still very early days for us,” she says, “but if you find that intersection between your passions and your skills and add in a strong network, I’ve found that you’re well on your way to entrepreneurial success.”

By Lori Ferguson