Larry Leibowitz, executive vice president, head of U.S. markets and global technology at NYSE Euronext Group, was a refreshing keynote at this year's TowerGroup Financial Services Business & Technology Conference in Boston.He hasn't yet been at the exchange for a year, but already is making big changes at the 200-year old institution. Obviously making big changes at the NYSE is no easy job, but Leibowitz is a man on a mission and his change mandate is widespread.
In his speech to the crowd, Leibowitz discussed how he and the NYSE Euronext teams are working to make organizational changes quickly and effectively to keep up with the electronic trading world of today.
"Big changes take time," said Leibowitz, adding that there's often a dichotomy between instituting change while keeping up with the day -to-day operations and "putting out fires every day." In order to make these big changes, Leibowitz said the vision has to be clear and concise, with goals set and a focus on client needs. Showing quick wins along the way is also key to keeping morale high and teams focused.
Being open, honest and transparent with clients is also a change Leibowitz has made steps to embrace. For example, there is now a Web site with alerts when the exchange experiences technical problems as well as an open conference call line directly from the floor so clients can hear for themselves what is going on when there are problems and how they are being fixed.
"We have to make changes faster than ever in order to remain competitive," said Leibowitz. Making these quick changes means leaning healthy conflict management internally and encouraging open debate. But teams also must make decisions and not look back. "It's ok to make mistakes," said Leibowitz, adding that they should be intelligent mistakes.
To better engage employees and get them on board with the rapid changes and the vision for what change will bring, Leibowitz also reaches out to them and is proactive with "lunch and learn" sessions and town hall meetings. He is also rewarding "team players" with compensation and recognition.
"It's a very different place than it was a few years ago," said Leibowitz. When asked what the exchange floor would look like in five years, he said jokingly that it probably wouldn't be a restaurant because it probably couldn't get a liquor license. When it comes down to the floor Leibowitz said he isn't sure, but the hybrid model, the mix of people and electronic trading is always changing.
He said that the exchange is working to decrease the cost of running its floor business and that might ultimately encourage floor presence. If a trader can trade any instrument and it's cheap to be on the floor and there are other traders there, it might be a good fit to keep agency brokerage operations on the floor for example.
Only time will tell how the changes at the NYSE will play out, but if Leibowitz's enthusiasm and vision is any indication, it's a new era for the NYSE.