Grid for Greenbacks

Archipelago’s CTO Steve Rubinow juggles exchange integration with the launch of a new trading platform.

By Rob Daly, Waters
1 April 2005

In his office overlooking the Chicago River, Archipelago’s CTO Steve Rubinow is hip deep in integration. The electronic stock exchange is in the midst of acquiring the Pacific Exchange (PCX)—a deal that came to light in January—and integrating its option-trading platform with Archipelago’s equity trading platform.

“Integrating two technologies into a robust trading platform will be done in an aggressive time frame,” says Rubinow. “It’s the nature of the company and the marketplace isn’t that patient.”

A month after the PCX deal was revealed, Archipelago and Sun Microsystems announced plans to create a trading platform where companies may trade their unutilized CPU resources. The exchange expects to have the new “grid for greenbacks” platform in production in the early second half of this year.

It’s a conceivable target, says Rubinow. “We’re still thinking of new bells and whistles that we hadn’t thought of two months ago that we want to include on the platform. This won’t be a multi-year effort; it will be much sooner than that,” he says.

Integrating platforms while rolling out new ones is old hat for Rubinow, who’s headed the technology side of the business since 2001. In 2002, he oversaw the six-month integration of the RediBook ECN with Archipelago’s platform while rolling out the listed-trading capability of ArcaEx.

“We know our capabilities,” says Rubinow. “We know what we can and cannot do. We know where the boundary between aggressiveness and recklessness is located.”

The immediate challenge facing Rubinow and his staff with the PCX integration project, which is still in the preliminary discussion phase, will be integrating the PCX+ platform. Rubinow says the platform is written in Java and runs in Windows with Archipelago’s native platform, which is written in C and runs on Unix.

“There will be some challenges,” says Rubinow. “On the positive side, we have a lot in common. We match buyers and sellers. The underlying securities are more complex, but we know how to bring in orders and disseminating orders from customers.”

The far more complex issue that Rubinow foresees for his organization will be the merging of two IT staffs. “The hardest part of merging two equal-sized companies isn’t the technical issues, but the people issues,” says Rubinow.

Rubinow compares the current dealings with Archipelago and the PCX with the typical issues facing any long-distance relationship. “We’ve recognized the issues and we’re trying to make them go away,” he says.

Rubinow is quick to point out that the acquisition of the PCX is still in its early stages and, at press time, was potentially near the end of its quiet, no-comment period. “We’re not running the options business yet. We’re at the integration planning phase,” he says, admitting that he is on the phone with his counterparts on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Rubinow’s team is working with Sun to design the new compute exchange, which remains un-christened. “We’re using the energy trading model because the product is perishable and after a certain amount of time it’s no longer available,” says Rubinow.

At the moment, Archipelago doesn’t envision the new compute exchange falling under any regulatory watchfulness. “Not any more than eBay, but things change all the time,” says Rubinow “Let’s hope the laws haven’t changed before the exchange starts.”

With all of these tasks on his plate, Rubinow hasn’t seen the demands change his schedule. “We’re not going from a 60-hour to an 80- or 100-hour week,” he says. “We’ve been creative in how to approach the workload and the beauty of a BlackBerry is that you can check the status of a project every hour,” he says.

Resume in a Box

Name: Steven Charles Rubinow
Education: University of Illinois and DePaul University
Favorite Part of the Job: The non-stop exhilaration.
First Job: Selling concessions at a stand on Lake Michigan in the summer.
Current Reading: My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance by Emanuel Derman
Last Toy Bought: The Kestrel 4000 Weather Tracker