Of Markets, Blogs and Renewal: Welcome to NYSE Exchanges

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about renewal.

It started a couple of weeks ago at the initial public offering of General Motors, on 18 November.  I was in the back of the huge crowd on the NYSE trading floor; with a magnifying glass you might be able to see me doing a "Where's Waldo" in this photo, at the upper left amid the sea of news photographers.

That was one intense morning on the trading floor.  One of those the-world-is-watching moments.  Everyone was “on,” everyone was wearing their game face, everyone knew how important it was that everything go right.  And it did.

I can’t remember that level of absolute purposefulness since, perhaps, the reopening of NYSE on 17 September 2001, the first trading session after the 9/11 attacks.  That got me thinking about the importance of GM’s story to America, and perhaps worldwide.  The rebirth of an industrial icon, one of the greatest names in the history of business.  The restorative power and flexibility of our economic system, that such a company could go through restructuring and re-emerge newly positioned for the future.  Following a long, deep and global recession, this was some welcome good news, a sign that better times may yet return, a comeback story.

President Obama said later that day, in part: 

"…This is a country of optimistic and determined people who don’t give up when times are tough.  We do what’s necessary to move forward.

"So these last two years haven’t been easy on anybody.  They haven’t been without pain or sacrifice, as the tough restructuring of GM reminds us.  And obviously we’ve still got a long road ahead and a lot of work to do – to rebuild this economy, to put people back to work, to make America more competitive for the future and to secure the American Dream for our children and our grandchildren.

"But we are finally beginning to see some of these tough decisions that we made in the midst of crisis pay off.  And I’m absolutely confident that we’re going to keep on making progress.  I believe we’re going to get through this tougher and stronger than we were before.  Because just as I had faith in the ability of our autoworkers to persevere and succeed, I have faith in the American people’s ability to persevere and succeed.  And I have faith that America’s best days and America’s -- and American manufacturing’s best days are still ahead of us."

What better setting for the re-start of those “best days” than the transformed New York Stock Exchange trading floor.  It was all around me that morning, the things we’ve been talking about for months, a renewed business in full:

  • The floor brokers teeming around the designated market maker, working orders and algorithms on their wireless e-Broker management systems, talking customers through the opening auction on their cellular headsets.  The newly remade workspaces on the trading floor for those brokers and their staffs, fitted with new screens, new phones and a new network for a new age of trading in multiple markets and multiple asset classes right from the most famous financial marketplace in the world.  The brokers’ adapting to today’s trading environment was recently well documented in Waters magazine .
  • --The remade broker workspaces ringing the floor, where we peeled back more than a century of changes and went back to the future, restoring the original marble walls and arched windows, building out sleek new trading desks with glass walls, open light, the newest screens and phones and a new network enabling brokers to run a full agency business right there, trading in multiple markets and asset classes.  And still being able to walk out onto the floor where the prices are discovered in the world’s bellwether stocks.
  • -- GM selected as its designated market maker GETCO, one of a number of firms that had bypassed NYSE years ago but now competes in our unique brand of high-tech/high-touch marketplace, as reported in the Wall Street Journal

Duncan Niederauer told an interviewer that the GM offering highlighted this year’s return of equity capital raising, a core component of NYSE Euronext’s role in the economy.  He said the offerings in just October and November this year would top those of full-year 2008 and 2009 combined.  

And the final element of the renewal theme today: A few days later, I get a call telling me to get ready for the launch of NYSE Exchanges, our new blogging platform.  Making a change is always a little scary-exciting, but I learned when we first started blogging five years ago, 5 December 2005: come on in, the water’s fine.  We’ve always enjoyed – and have deeply grateful for – incredibly strong support for blogging, from both inside and outside the company.

My own blog on this new venue is called Open Interest.  Here’s how I describe the focus (and myself) in the blog bio:

"Been doing PR here since 1988, blogging since 2005.  Open Interest explores the transformation of markets, from how stuff works to transparency, diversity, community, advocacy and more."

Oh, and about the passport photo of me at the top of this post: See?  I haven’t been lying about the nose all this time! 

I think the best part of this new platform will be the ability to bring out more of my ECs (expert colleagues) from across the diverse businesses of NYSE – equities trading and listing, derivatives, technologies – and have them talk directly with our community about their respective areas.  This should make for tremendously robust conversations.

When I first interviewed to join this company nearly 23 years ago, the HR recruiter told me that no matter my role, I would be expected to be the best person in that role anywhere in the business.  That’s some expectation, but it has always stayed with me, and I see it embodied by so many of my colleagues, in so many places around the company, that it’s convinced me that it’s our true competitive edge.  If we can bring to the global discussion  of markets and technologies even a bit of the expertise and vision I see around me every day, it’s going to be one heckuva dialogue.