Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Stacey Cunningham, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, spoke with Business Insider about how the world’s largest exchange keeps pace with technology while maintaining traditions.
- Since taking over as president in May 2018, Cunningham has focused on reducing the friction that customers experience with the technology they use to trade.
- Cunningham was named as one of Business Insider’s 10 people transforming finance.
- See the full list of the 100 people transforming business here.
What’s the most effective way to marry technology and humans? It’s top of mind for Stacey Cunningham, the president of the New York Stock Exchange.
The speed at which markets now operate means trading venues need to be up on cutting-edge technology.
Yet the NYSE still maintains a trading floor and floor traders just as it has kept certain traditions that helped it grow into the largest stock exchange. Cunningham told Business Insider in an interview that figuring out how tech and tradition can work together is a key part of her job.
"That is the secret sauce," she said. "How do we implement that integration where they can use algorithms and technology to facilitate the more mundane tasks, and then focus their human expertise on the more complex tasks?"
That wasn’t always the case. Cunningham — who started her career on the trading floor of the exchange as a market maker — remembers the two sides, technology and humans, not working all that well together in the early 2000s.
"We had people and we had technology, but they weren’t integrated as well as they could be," Cunningham said. "That was frustrating for me because it meant that it wasn’t necessarily helping the job that the people were doing. It was just there."
The exchange has worked hard over the years to get the two sides to gel, Cunningham said. Now, people can focus on more important and complex events, such as the opening and closing auction and the price-discovery process during initial public offerings.
Cunningham’s focus continues to be on how the NYSE can better use technology while maintaining the traditions of a 226-year-old company. It includes reviewing the older practices the exchange carries out to determine which ones still provide value to customers.
Since she was named the Big Board’s president in May 2018, one of her major initiatives has been condensing the different technology systems a customer might have to interact with to trade into a single platform. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to work with the NYSE, Cunningham said.
The NYSE has the same goal of simplifying multiple technology systems for listed companies. Whether it’s submitting filings or researching information about who’s trading their stock, the exchange is working on tools to make it easier for companies to interact with the NYSE, she said.
The human perspective remains a focus. After building a space in their headquarters in lower Manhattan for listed companies to interact and network, the NYSE said it is going to create a similar venue on the West Coast for listed companies based there.
"We are very focused on the fact that our mission is to help companies raise money so they can go out and change the world and at the same time provide opportunities to investors to share in that success," Cunningham said. "How do we ensure that the public market stays the most attractive place for companies to raise money so that investors continue to have access to those opportunities?"
That process hasn’t always been easy. The number of public companies has been cut in half over the past two decades as many startups have opted to remain private for longer.
The trading itself has also shifted, as higher volumes have moved toward dark pools in which traders can buy and sell anonymously to avoid moving the market against them. The exchange has also been criticized from some market participants for increasing market data and trading fees.
In February, the NYSE took on another opponent, its own regulator. The exchange filed a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission for what it thought was an unfair pilot program to examine how it prices transaction fees and rebates.
"We never aspire to be suing our regulator," Cunningham said. "But we feel like it is in the best interests of the markets overall and that it is important that market forces be let to determine the best outcome for issuers and investors and not government regulations."
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