About Finlingo

How “Constructive Laziness” Led To a Technological Breakthrough in Examination Testing and What It Means For Your Business.

Sean and Andy - London

Finlingo’s IQue ensures that your examinations:


“Oh not again…”

I had just finished writing 5 questions for a CFA Level I practice examination for my old boss at my old firm.”

Great.  Only 45 more to go,” the unsympathetic old so-and-so replied.”

You must be joking,” I thought.  “There’s gotta be a better way.”

Question writing is exhausting.  It’s also a misnomer.  Because you’ve got to write a question, the correct answer, two incorrect answers, and the explanation for each examinable concept.And you’ve got to make each one unique.  Just like every one else, as the smart aleck says.It’s an incredibly important job. It’s also an unconscionable time-suck.  And there’s no way around it.

Well… until now.

Genius Fails Exam For the First Time in His Life… And Wants Revenge!

Back in 2005, Andy Duncan was sitting at his kitchen table, staring in disbelief.

A man with a First Class Honours degree in Cognitive Psychology…. who’d already published not one, but two O’Reilly textbooks – on PERL programming – of all things!  A man who already earned his Certificate in Quantitative Finance, studying under noted mathematician Paul Wilmott.

As his Aussie friends like to say, “He had a face like a beaten favorite.”

With eyes wide open and mouth agape, for the first time in Andy’s life, he learned that “F” doesn’t stand for “Fantastic.”

Andy Duncan had failed CFA Level I. And he couldn’t believe it.

Fail me once, shame on you. Fail me twice, shame on me!

Andy Duncan was not a man who’d be beat.  For the next CFA Level I examination he’d take, he was going to pass.  He was motivated.  His income depended on it!

In the run-up to the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, CFA course providers had blossomed.  And Andy wanted a piece of that pie.  But in order to teach CFA Level I, he had to pass Level I.

A sensible policy.

So Andy did what Andy does best.  He coded a program that would let him zero in on the exact concepts he needed to learn.  What he didn’t want was to answer the same study question over and over again, as one gets with most study course providers. The problem with this is that you memorize the questions and answers, instead of the concepts. For instance, as soon as you see “Mary Sue” in a question enough times, you’ll know the answer is “C.”

You can’t help this, by the way.  That’s how the brain works – it’s a pattern-matching engine.

Andy’s program would spit out all sorts of variations on CAPM, Beta, accounting ratios, Sharpe ratio questions – anything that was a part of the curriculum. All the variables would change – everything – except the thing he had to learn. Andy used his new program for the entire study period of Level I.  And, of course, he passed.Then, the silly boy put the program away and forgot all about it… until……but before we get to that, meet Sean.



Sean and Andy Meet and The Rest is History

Sean Ring was at the end of his rope.  A 5am wake-up call.  Five screens blinking all sorts of nonsense. 

Two phones ringing non-stop. Though he grew up in New Jersey (that’s Joisey to you), he had been living in London for 7 years by this point.

That’s when it happened.  That fateful day in 2006 when he opened up Microsoft Word, typed out a one sentence letter of resignation, and left his broking desk an hour later. Wondering what to do for entire year – bonuses were okay back then – he happened upon a classified ad advertising a job in financial training.

Much to his surprise, he was offered the job the next day at a salary level not far off his banking one.  Which either made him a great lecturer or a terrible banker. And the love affair began. Traveling everywhere from San Francisco to New York to Dublin to Paris to Moscow to Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur, Sean felt like – but did not look like, one hastens to add – James Bond.  Or Indiana Jones.  It didn’t matter.  Traveling the world and teaching was the mutt’s nuts to him.There was only one thing he didn’t like about his new vocation: writing those damn questions.

“I provided compliance support to Sean and the listed derivatives trading desk. Unlike many traders, Sean had a very good understanding of not only the business, but also the technology and surrounding concerns such as risk and compliance. He is also friendly, approachable and was willing to explain what he was doing which made finding solutions to compliance issues easier.”
Edward Stileman
Edward Stileman
Compliance Consultant

“Barcelona? What’s in Barcelona?”

In 2015, as Sean had just turned 40, he felt the need to upskill.Why not learn to code?  All the kids are doing it these days…Sean had a job offer to work in Hong Kong starting in March 2015, and it was December, so why not go to a coding bootcamp in January and February?Sean: “Dude, I’m heading to Barcelona next month.”Andy: “Barcelona?  What’s in Barcelona?”Sean: “I’m going to learn to code!  And Pam can shop for two months straight…”Andy: “I’m coming, too.”Sean: “What?  Don’t you already know how to code?”Andy: “Yes, but I could always learn a new language and it gives me something to do!”

Over a Chicken Lunch, A Bolt From the Blue

By Day 3 of the coding bootcamp, Sean was already hopelessly lost.

But he also knew that what he was picking up was really cool.

The amateurish beginning of the course merely amused Andy, who was already getting bored.And then, over a nice roasted chicken, Sean asked the seemingly innocent question…

More about finlingo

“Huh?” asked Andy, as he munched on the savory meat.

”What if we could create questions using variable ranges and a stem, so we don’t have to worry about question banks ever again?’

Andy’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.  His gaze nearly bore a hole in Sean’s head (which was quite frightening at the time).Andy had remembered that he already built such a question engine, as you well know, and all he needed to do was convert the engine from PERL to Ruby.

Et voila! No more onerous question writing.

Andy continued to work on Finlingo for the next few years, in his spare time.As for Sean… let’s say coding isn’t his forte.  And anyway, he had to head to Hong Kong for his return to the world of banking in general, and talent development in particular.

Hong Kong, the Mecca of Capitalism, taught Sean many things.  One of those things was how much he hated working inside large organizations.  So while Andy had essentially finished coding the rest of Finlingo, Sean was attempting to navigate, with mixed success, the innards of a global investment and private bank.

But this time, Sean wasn’t client-facing.  He was a VP in Talent Development.  This gave Sean the invaluable insight of what’s important, and unimportant, to banks and financial services providers concerning their greatest asset: their human capital.

.So while Finlingo is a wonderful piece of software, Finlingo Limited, the company, helps you put together proper training programs where: –

  • Repetition is the key to learning, especially for hard skills such as modeling. 
  • Soft skills are prioritized for client-facing staff, such as salespeople and relationship managers.
  •  Webinar training replaces nearly all of the classroom training, especially for hard skills. 
  • We provide in-house training only at special request.

Reach out today for a chat about what we can do you.  We’d love to hear from you today.

Key Reviews

“Sean is one of the best facilitators I have worked with. Not only was he an amazing and fun manager to have, he is one person full of Zest! Give Sean the floor and you are bound to have an unforgettable learning experience. I’d strongly recommend for interactive training sessions!”
Karishma Santami
Karishma Santami
Early Career Leadership | Career Advisor & Consultant
“Andy delivered two brilliant talks at our Mises Brasil 2017 Conference. He is both thoughtful and eclectic, a phenomenal combination.”
Helio Beltrão
Helio Beltrão
Founder and President, Instituto Mises Brasil