At age 32, Bloomberg is young compared with many of its big financial services customers but older than the generation of breakout technology successes that includes Amazon.com (19), Google (15) and Facebook (ten). The firm is comfortably middle-aged. Staying grounded as a provider of news and data that underpin market activity around the world, Bloomberg is even enjoying some growth. So far this year, its terminal subscribers have increased by nearly 3,000, a bit less than 1 percent.
But Bloomberg is no comfort zone. Much like the chronologically younger denizens of Silicon Valley and other entrepreneurial hotbeds — yet staying true to its core information business and not going so far as to classify itself a purely technological enterprise — Bloomberg is an innovation factory. Its more than 3,000 technologists relentlessly push to improve on past generations of the terminal, accelerate trading and data speeds, and spread Bloomberg’s influence in the financial technology world through vendor alliances, standardization efforts and participation in the open-source community. That record of achievement lands Thomas Secunda, Bloomberg’s technology visionary and global head of financial products and services, at the top of Institutional Investor’s Tech 50 ranking for an unprecedented third straight year.
Also for the first time since the ranking was introduced in 2000 (then called the Online Finance 40), there is a tie for No. 1. Intercontinental Exchange chairman and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher rises from No. 2 following the November completion of his company’s acquisition of NYSE Euronext — the culmination of a technology-driven strategy that he put in place when ICE was born 14 years ago.
In their different ways, Secunda and Sprecher set a tone that increasingly pervades the financial industry as it grapples with a convergence of technological advances that are at once exhilarating and confusing — that open new vistas of commercial opportunity while raising existential questions about the future of finance as we know it. Those in the Tech 50 are opportunistically working to shape, even invent, the future.
Constant improvement is part of the game. Both Secunda and Sprecher speak about cutting through complexity and making their customers’ lives simpler. “Our goal is to be much easier to access, much easier to understand, but to still be very rich in content, fast and robust,” Sprecher says.
But then, there is also breakthrough thinking, and it is evident throughout the Tech 50.
Invention and reinvention happen continually at Bloomberg’s Usability Lab, where customers are invited to be scientifically monitored as they interact with new products, work flows and screen designs. Bloomberg extensively prototypes its developments and in recent years has come to rely on UX, or user experience, experts to get them right, says Secunda.
The laboratory is three years old, but usability initiatives have been under way since the earliest days of Bloomberg, according to Secunda. Today it has a lot of company. Fidelity Investments ( Stephen Neff, No. 4), S&P Capital IQ ( Lou Eccleston, No. 21), Capital One Financial Corp. ( Robert Alexander, No. 30) and DBS Bank ( David Gledhill, No. 37) all have some form of lab, often away from main office or operational locations, to encourage creativity and collaboration among design and development teams.
Of course, that is not the only way to foster R&D and innovation. Veteran financial systems executive Cristóbal Conde (No. 39) participates in the FinTech Innovation Lab, designed to incubate start-ups and bring them to the attention of prospective customers. Conde contends that big institutions can push the leading edge only so much; therefore, he says, “some innovation should be outsourced.”
Citigroup does it by being on the ground in Silicon Valley: Deborah Hopkins (No. 11) is CEO of Citi Ventures, which seeks out and buys into disruptive start-ups like mobile payments company Square. ICAP, under CEO Michael Spencer (No. 14), invests primarily in posttrade start-ups through its Euclid Opportunities fund. CME Group ( Phupinder Gill, No. 8) recently established a strategic investments unit. The year-old, early-stage Bloomberg Beta fund does not limit its holdings to companies Bloomberg works with, or even to the fintech sector.
Meanwhile, the industry is cracking the code of cloud computing. It is the basis of State Street Corp.’s near-complete technology transformation ( Christopher Perretta, No. 26). Deutsche Börse ( Hauke Stars, No. 29) has acquired a cloud software company. Bloomberg, Secunda says, has in some sense “always been in the cloud.”
The Tech 50 ranking was compiled by Institutional Investor editors and staff, with nominations and input from industry participants and experts. Four primary sets of attributes were evaluated: achievements and contributions over the course of a career; scope and complexity of responsibilities; influence and leadership inside and outside the organization; and pure technological innovation. The top 25 appear in the following pages, and all can be seen online at institutionalinvestor.com/Tech50.
Of the 50 entries, 36 return from last year. The returnees’ 2012 ranks are shown, and the rest are designated “PNR” (previously not ranked).
39: Cristóbal Conde
Institutional Investor — July 08, 2014
In 2011, when Cristóbal Conde retired after nine years as president and CEO of SunGard Data Systems, the company not only was one of the leading technology vendors to the financial industry, but it had grown into the world’s biggest privately held business software and information technology services company, with $5.6 billion in revenue and 26,000 employees. That’s a pretty fair legacy, but Conde, then 51, wanted to leave his mark in other ways: as a senior adviser to private equity firm TPG Capital, a director of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. and, what he says is “so much fun,” as a mentor to start-ups. This is the third year of Conde’s residency with the Partnership Fund for New York City’s FinTech Innovation Lab, a competition administered by consulting firm Accenture to identify promising entrepreneurs and hook them up with venture funding and prospective financial institution customers. Conde liked some of the contestants so much that he literally bought into them: He is executive chairman of True Office, which builds interactive training systems; chairman of fund transaction and settlement network Calastone; director of cybersecurity innovator Centripetal Networks; and director of surveillance and analytics developer Digital Reasoning. Conde, who sold his own company, Devon Systems, to SunGard in 1987, says financial firms “have focused on compliance and incremental systems changes” in recent years and therefore “need disruptive start-ups more than ever.”