Preparing for the Future
By Chris Murphy, Wall Street and Technology
21 October 2004
There are a lot of differences among the six people who make up this year's CIO Elite. Their IT staffs range from a 100-person team at the electronic exchange Archipelago to the many hundreds at companies such as Barclays Global Investors, Lehman Brothers and State Street. The group includes competitors, partners and combinations of both, and the honorees work across a range of capital markets business segments.
What they share in common, though, is far more interesting. In a time when people mystifyingly debate whether the use of information technology can deliver competitive advantage, these leaders' work is inextricably linked to their companies' futures.
Wall Street & Technology editors partnered with research and advisory firm TowerGroup to identify Wall Street's top technology leaders. We looked for people who've made progress in specific areas to position their companies for success.
What's most intriguing are the plans that these leaders are laying for tomorrow. Paul Stevens of Barclays Global Investors is looking to take a data-management strategy that's already been woven through the business worldwide over the past several years and inject it with ways to make the users of data more productive. Tom Miglis at The Citadel Investment Group talks about creating systems that are capable of handling unlimited volume. Steven Rubinow of Archipelago discusses moving the company into new segments and activities that will challenge the people and technology that run the business today. And perhaps no one faces a more daunting and public transformation task than Roger Burkhardt, chief technology officer for the New York Stock Exchange, in bringing that organization from dipping a toe into hybrid markets to making an all-out plunge.
Miglis describes Citadel Group, with some qualification, as a technology firm that trades. He discusses it in the context of companies outside the financial-services world - Amazon, FedEx - that don't look at technology as a necessary cost of doing business; they look at technology as the means by which they'll find the next great moneymaker.
No one's going to tell these leaders that technology, used well, can't deliver competitive advantage.
A Team That's Built for Speed
By Chris Murphy, Wall Street and Technology
22 October 2004
It used to be mostly a joke. But when talking these days about the time it takes to get information about a security - when millisecond measurements are standard and the word "microseconds" even occasionally pops up - Archipelago CIO Steven Rubinow is serious when he says he looks first to the laws of physics. "In planning some of our more foundational kind of architecture, we just start with the speed of light and start backing off from that," Rubinow says.
Rubinow has led the technology effort as Archipelago made the switch from being an ECN to functioning as a fully electronic exchange. Technology has been a linchpin for the organization from the start, and its speed and reliability have helped Archipelago survive in a competitive market.
One of the biggest challenges is in meeting customers' ever-increasing demands for speed. Already, response times from the most time-sensitive customers are measured in double-digit milliseconds, and the clear path is to get to single-digit milliseconds. It's why a handful of customers have located their servers, which hold programmatic trading software, in Archipelago's data center, where the company rents space to organizations that want to shave even the time information loses in transit. It's also one reason Archipelago plans to move one of its matching-engine systems to its New York data center: Some New York customers wanted their servers in-house, but they didn't want to lose even the time - that's 24 milliseconds today - it takes to round-trip a request to Archipelago's Chicago headquarters.
The obsession with speed doesn't end with location. All of Archipelago's critical applications are hand-coded to maximize performance. "We pick apart every part of the process to see where we can make it as fast as the physics allow," Rubinow says.
Recruiting is one of the few processes around Archipelago that's actually fairly slow, especially to find programmers as the company looks for a close cultural fit when adding to its 100-person IT staff. They do most of their programming in C and C ++, whereas a lot of hot programmers would rather work in Java; new hires need to show an appreciation for the financial industry and the demands of speed and efficiency; and they need to be willing to react to a fast-changing industry, which means programming is often done by iteration, with requirements changing constantly through feedback from business analysts and customers. "You can't be a great coder in the corner," Rubinow says. "The communication distance between the ultimate end-user of the system and the guy writing it is tiny. There might be one or two people in that chain."
For Archipelago to grow, Rubinow says the company needs to do "new things" - which he acknowledges as intentionally vague, with a nod to more carefully disclosing policies since Archipelago went public this year. His technology challenge will be to integrate new business offerings into Archipelago's systems, but without adding complexity and cost that crush the speed, efficiency and flexibility that brought Archipelago to the dance. "I think we're going to embark on things very few if any others have done, so we don't have a lot of models to copy," Rubinow says. "So they'll be fascinating, but challenging."
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