American Financial Technology Awards
Who won the AFTA for the Best CIO, Best CIO and Best IT Team for last year? Read on...
By Ben Ray, WatersTechnology
01 January 2007
A LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
It was another sensational evening. If you work in financial IT, the 2006 American Financial Technology Awards (AFTAs) ceremony, held last month in New York, was the place to be. It all started in December 2005, when Incisive Media hosted the first annual AFTAs honoring the best people and projects in financial IT. The 2006 AFTAs was an even greater success.
We are proud to say that the AFTAs is recognized as the premier event honoring the men and women inside investment firms, exchanges, and hedge funds who work tirelessly to keep traders happy and operations running smoothly. We added new categories in 2006-like Best Front-Office Initiative and Best Cross-Asset Initiative-to spotlight the hottest and most innovative projects in our field.
AFTAs winners are leaders. But don't take our word for it. The judges on our panel hail from the world's top firms. They voted based on the nominees' vision, technical brilliance and aplomb to break new ground. The awards for Best CIO, Best CTO and Best IT Team, in particular, commend those who stop at nothing to keep their firms on the cutting edge.
The AFTAs is brought to you by Incisive Media's flagship publications in the financial technology space: Buy-Side Technology, formerly Hedge Fund & Investment Technology; Dealing with Technology, which delivers the latest news on the sell side's front office; and Waters, the monthly magazine that covers the issues and trends that matter to CIOs.
We would like to thank our award sponsors for a stellar event. We congratulate all of our nominees and winners, and wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2007.
Group Publisher, Financial Technology and Market Data, Incisive Media
• Chairman: Phil Albinus, Editor, Waters
• Marv Adams, CIO, Citigroup
• Victor Andersen, Editor, Buy Side Technology
• Joseph Antonellis, CIO, State Street
• Susan Certoma, CIO, Wachovia Investment Bank
• Peter Cherasia, CIO, Bear Stearns
• Rob Daly, Editor, Dealing with Technology
• Steven C. Rubinow, CTO, NYSE Group
• Tom Sanzone, CIO, Credit Suisse
• Kurt Woetzel, CIO, The Bank of New York
BEST FRONT-OFFICE INITIATIVE
The pace never slows down on the trading floors, especially in a strong economy. The Best Front-Office Initiative is designed to highlight the boldest front-office project of the year.
Some observers feel that the days of the big project are over thanks to outsourcing. This could not be further from the truth. Investment firms and exchanges are still undertaking large-scale IT projects and this category celebrates those risk-takers. The price tag and headcount for these projects may be high, but so is the payoff.
The nominees were Citigroup's TreasuryVision, GFI's CreditMatch, and ITG's Gate Execution Router.
Citigroup's TreasuryVision won the AFTA for Best Front-Office Initiative. TreasuryVision features a Web dashboard that provides clients with multi-bank, multi-currency, multi-asset information aggregation, among other tools.
Accepting for Citigroup are Joe Bonelli and Greg Greenwald.
BEST BACK-OFFICE INITIATIVE
Credit Suisse's CSAR
Most traders never see or notice the colossal efforts of back-office IT staffers, but these unsung heroes tackle projects that are vital to the success of the firm. Even with outsourcing and reputable technology vendors available to them, many investment firms are still doing monumental work in their back offices. The Best Back-Office Initiative AFTA pays tribute to the true stars of financial IT.
The nominees were Bear Stearns' Centralization of International Breaks, Citigroup's Sears Conversion, and Credit Suisse's CSAR.
The winner was Credit Suisse's CSAR-pronounced "Cesar." In an effort to evolve Credit Suisse's global cash securities transaction processing capabilities, the bank created the Cash Securities Architecture Reengineering (CSAR) platform. The result was a near seven-fold increase in trading capacity with a reduction in the number of personnel needed to maintain the system.
Shyam Sasidharan, Augusta Sanfilippo, and Narotham Reddy of Credit Suisse accept the AFTA for Best Back-Office Initiative.
BEST GLOBAL DEPLOYMENT
Successful firms must think globally when rolling out new platforms and IT projects. It is not uncommon for a project to start in New York and then move to London and the rest of the world, or vice versa. To win the AFTA in this category, the deployment had to have a view outside the local or regional office. The judges kept this in mind when they chose the best IT project designed for the global stage.
For the most forward-looking and wide-reaching of all the AFTAs categories, the nominees were EBS Spot, Merrill Lynch's RIO, and Scotia Capital Anvil ARTS.
The winner of the AFTA for Best Global Deployment is EBS Spot. The global upgrade was a virtual world tour that consisted of more than 40 countries, 110 cities and 2,500 workstations on roughly 900 trading floors. The scope of the project was so broad that it took three years to complete.
BEST CROSS-ASSET TRADING INITIATIVE
Barclays Capital's BARX
The days of trading in one asset class are over. The AFTA for Best Cross-Asset Trading Initiative was added to reflect the increasing popularity of multi-asset-class trading. This award honors the cutting-edge IT projects that helped traders take on multiple asset classes in complex trading environments. It may be difficult, but so is staying ahead of the competition.
The nominees were Barclays Capital's BARX, HSBC's front-office trading system, and ITG's FX server offering. The winner by a wide margin is Barclays Capital's BARX.
Barclays Capital has taken a multi-asset-class approach to the development of its electronic trading capabilities. Its BARX offering comprises two multi-asset-class platforms: one across the OTC product range, and one across the listed product spectrum. It has worked so well that it is being used as a guideline for future IT projects at Barclays Capital.
MOST INNOVATIVE TRADING ROOM
The trading floor is where the magic happens. In selecting the winner of this award, the AFTAs judges considered the size of the floor, number of traders, and most importantly, the technologies that combine to keep the money flowing. Each of our judges has experience in the back office where mission-critical operations take place around the clock, but they know that the trading floor is the tip of the commerce spear.
The three nominees are investment firms whose trading floors define "cutting edge." Two of the floors were built from scratch under tight deadlines and mitigating factors. The nominees were Bank of America, Lloyds TSB, and Wachovia Investment Bank.
The winner is Wachovia, whose new trading floor is located in midtown Manhattan. The bank's IT team filled several floors of New York's historic Seagram Building with the latest and greatest in blade technology while preserving the handsome building, which is protected from structural changes by law.
Tony Bishop of Wachovia accepts the AFTA for Most Innovative Trading Room, which is sponsored by IPC Systems.
BEST RISK ANALYTICS INITIATIVE
Determining risk exposure is one of the top challenges that financial services firms face. This award honors the buy- or sell-side institution that has derived the greatest benefit from its risk analytics platform. The nominees had to demonstrate the use of new techniques for identifying and mitigating risks, and demonstrate the development of new risk-financing strategies.
It was a close race among three excellent nominees: Bear Stearns' BearXplorer, Bear Stearns' Measurisk and Merrill Lynch's Grid.
The winner is BearXplorer, Bear Stearns' suite of risk analytic models and tools that provides risk managers, CIOs, portfolio managers and traders with an assessment of exposure to exogenous portfolio drivers.
Rick Jacobsen of Intel, the award's sponsor, hands the AFTA for Best Risk Analytics Initiative to Kay Booth of Bear Stearns.
BEST EDM INITIATIVE
It's a quandary: Firms are drowning in data but they often don't have access to the right data at the right time. How do they bring order to this veritable flood? These investment firms took on the waves of data with ambitious programs that kept their heads above water.
This is a job for enterprise data management (EDM). The nominees were Citigroup Private Bank: Project One-global client reporting, State Street's global market data hub and Wachovia's global data management and client reporting EDM initiative.
The winner is Wachovia. To tackle the EDM challenges within Wachovia Corporate and Investment Bank, the bank launched a three-year program in 2004 to increase capacity and efficiency. As a result, the bank now has a consolidated view of about 5 million securities.
Accepting the AFTA for Best EDM Initiative is Tony Bishop of Wachovia.
BEST INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVE
A solid and resilient infrastructure is the backbone that allows a bank to work to see another day, year and decade. Those nominated in this category tackled very different projects that had profound impacts on how their firms operated. Failure was not an option.
The nominees in this category were Citigroup's global data consolidation and asset optimization, Credit Suisse's Java application platform and Lehman Brothers' grid initiative.
The winner was Lehman Brothers. The first step in moving Lehman Brothers to a company-wide, grid-based platform was to bring a handful of isolated grids, each of which runs on internally developed technology, into an architecture framed by Symphony. Today, Lehman has three grids-about 1,500 four-processor blade servers-which support interstate derivatives, mortgage and corporate-credit analysis applications.
Accepting the AFTA for Best Infrastructure Initiative was Thanos Mitsolides (holding the award) and his colleagues at Lehman Brothers.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
In a landscape of leaders there will always be those whose vision, strength and convictions stand above the rest. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to the individual who has made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the success and vitality of the financial IT industry.
All of the nominees can be proud of their legacies. They are: Austin Adams of JPMorgan Chase, Jonathan Beyman of Lehman Brothers, and Dianne Schueneman of Merrill Lynch. Schueneman remains at Merrill Lynch while Adams and Beyman have retired, bringing their distinguished careers in financial IT to a close.
The judges' overwhelming choice was Jonathan Beyman. They hailed his impressive resume and his clear leadership in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Lehman Brothers lost 7,000 trading seats and one employee, and Beyman and his team were able to build a fixed-income trading floor in the bank's operations center in Jersey City, NJ. The new floor went live when the fixed-income markets opened on the Thursday after the Tuesday attacks.
In June, Beyman told Waters that he was leaving financial IT after a career spanning two decades to join the world of academia. He is studying history at Columbia University and teaching an IT management course at the University of Connecticut at Stamford.
Beyman says he is moved by the recognition from his peers. "I am very honored, although I think the award is premature. To quote Robert Frost, 'I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,'" he says. "That is, I don't think I've achieved everything I plan to in this lifetime, at least not yet. I suspect I was voted for so I wouldn't come back to Wall Street!"
In the ever-changing world of financial IT, chief technology officers must be nimble. It used to be that a CTO could spend his or her entire career focusing only on technology without worrying about the needs of the business side. Those days are over. A CTO's knowledge base must now extend from back office to the boardroom.
This year's nominees were Keith Dennelly of State Street, Adrian Kunzle of JPMorgan Chase and Steven Rubinow of NYSE Group. The winner of the Best CTO AFTA is Adrian Kunzle, JPMC's global head of architecture, investment bank technology. The judges were impressed with his work on one of the most ambitious IT projects on Wall Street-the bank's compute backbone. This grid replaced a combination of supercomputers and high-end servers with a grid of affordable servers running 4,000 processors.
"I'm thrilled to receive this award. It means a lot to be recognized by the world's top financial technologists and journalists," says Kunzle. "I owe tremendous thanks to my talented and dynamic team for constantly pushing and challenging me, and to the JPMorgan Investment Bank leadership team for their strong belief in technology as a strategic asset that can help drive growth and revenue."
The Best CTO AFTA was presented at JPMC's offices by the award's sponsor, MA Partners, a management consulting firm. Sandy Kaul is partner and US head of business and operations strategy services at MA Partners.
The winner of the Best CIO AFTA shows outstanding leadership in the role of chief information officer. Today's CIOs must build and maintain systems that allow traders to exploit new pools of liquidity while operating within regulatory guidelines. The winner accomplishes this with confidence, mastery and vision.
The 2006 nominees for Best CIO are IT powerhouses: Peter Cherasia of Bear Stearns; Kevin Kessinger of Citigroup; and Tom Miglis of Citadel.
Our judging panel overwhelmingly handed the Best CIO award to Peter Cherasia of Bear Stearns. The judges were impressed with Cherasia's accomplishments during his seven-year tenure as CIO and director of e-commerce at the firm. He transformed his division from a reactive, decentralized organization to a business-driven team that works in partnership with its clients.
While he acknowledges the honor of winning the Best CIO AFTA, Cherasia says he shares the credit with his team. "I think this is a real recognition for the IT team at Bear Stearns. It's not really about me or what I have done but what they do each day," he says.
He says the award will help when it comes to growing Bear Stearns' IT team. "When we raise our profile in the industry, it should help us with recruiting," he says.
The AFTA for Best CIO was presented by Craig Stephenson of Korn/Ferry International, the award's sponsor.
BEST IT TEAM
What are the hallmarks of a great IT team? The AFTAs judges had to consider the culture of a firm, the ambition of its projects and the people who work in the trenches to deliver the goods for the traders. A good team is made up of individuals who overcome obstacles, meet deadlines and do not accept anything less than perfection. The winning team represents a group of the best and most talented people in all of IT.
The nominees for Best IT Team were Credit Suisse Prime Services, Knight Capital Group, and the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex).
Nymex's IT team clinched the award. In 2005 and 2006, the exchange's IT department successfully implemented several industry-shaping projects that resulted in increased uptime and reduced costs and operational risk for Nymex and its customers. The objective was to increase monthly operational uptime from 99 percent to 99.99 percent.
Thunderous cheers and applause rose from Nymex's table at the AFTAs ceremony as CIO Sam Gaer and chairman Richard Schaeffer took to the stage to collect the award and thank the judges for recognizing the exchange's IT team for its hard work.
Ashok Vemuri of Infosys, the award's sponsor, presented the AFTA for Best IT Team to Gaer and Schaeffer.