In the world of financial markets exchanges, the fastest trading platform and the highest-quality system may not always go hand in hand. But at Nasdaq OMX, a talented team of market technologists will settle for nothing less than excellence in both areas. This applies to their leader as well, Ann Neidenbach, senior VP and head of market systems.
After nearly two decades at Nasdaq OMX, Neidenbach has risen through the ranks, serving her time as COO/CIO of Nasdaq Europe and Nasdaq Deutschland and senior VP of global technology products and services. Before returning to New York, she worked out of Stockholm, leading the market technology product strategy and development teams. Her projects have been diverse, including delivering trading and clearing solutions for equities, options, derivatives, futures, fixed income and a variety of commodities products. With this robust global experience, she knows a thing or two about building market technology through the prism of business opportunity.
"Nasdaq is a small company but large in scope and extremely diverse," says Neidenbach. "I like the entrepreneurial aspects. The space is evolving, and we're always looking for opportunities to provide and develop strategic offerings."
Under her leadership, Nasdaq's 265-person global markets systems team, which operates with an $81 million annual budget, supports 26 markets. Her team is applauded for mastering the art of integrating business strategy into the product development life cycle. Notably, her work has made a significant impact on maximizing IT investment return and creating new revenue-generating opportunities, a skill she mastered in her previous role leading the market technology product strategy and development team.
"We've been supplying solutions and expertise for over 20 years, but there are a lot of upstarts from tech companies nipping at our heels trying to take away business," acknowledges Neidenbach. "It can be cutthroat at times, coming down to dollars and cents. We're doing whatever it takes: new features, pricing schemes, rebates; all the above factors are why people trade with you. It's competitive, and we must be extremely nimble in what we deliver."
Neidenbach believes the exchange market has not grown as once expected. "I think if you look back, 10 years ago there was a lot of focus on exchange mergers and bringing together pools of liquidity," she notes. "Everyone was concerned of just having Nasdaq and NYSE. Now you have dark pools and alternative trading systems in the U.S. and Europe, enabling people to trade via a variety of venues. While the industry continues to shoulder cost burdens, I don't see a lot of pressure on consolidation. Every time I turn around, another exchange is popping up."
In a way, these budding pools of liquidity represent the evolution and opportunities of the industry, Neidenbach adds. "People are constantly figuring out how to collect new data and trade it electronically," she says. "You're going to see more and more people electronically trading assets, commodities, fixed income, foreign exchange, and you'll see it evolve into other areas. Clearly there's a dependency on data. You can only trade on data you get; that's the opportunity in the trend."
Not to be left behind, Neidenbach can list several projects that serve to enhance the business, including leveraging the newly acquired eSpeed, a U.S. Treasury market that provides real-time institutional trading of benchmark U.S. Treasury securities. The acquisition effectively diversified Nasdaq's revenue stream by allowing it to expand substantially into the U.S. fixed income markets. "My focus now is how we can improve latency on the eSpeed platform, extending it to implement standard protocols and to take advantage of the underlying investment platform." She's no stranger to leading this kind of project, as she's done it with trading systems in Stockholm and Singapore, among other places.
"We've also completed a lot of clearing initiatives in the Nordics that have been exciting, and we're the second largest interest rate swap clearer in Europe," she continues. "Other initiatives include NLX, a market in London launched earlier this year that trades euro- and sterling-based derivative products. We've also launched a series of new products leveraging FPGA technology for market data feeds. We have a growing business around that and are looking to extend a hardware solution into other components in the trading system." The list goes on.
Managing Through Collaboration
With a variety of projects under her leadership ranging from large U.S. equities to commodity exchanges in Europe, Neidenbach says her greatest asset is the unparalleled talent and business expertise of her team. Under her management, the global markets team must understand each unique business case and use their resources to deploy the entire product development life cycle in ways that positively impact the business. No cookie-cutter approach will ever do in this line of business, and she takes pride in the nimbleness of her team.