The 2008 meltdown, its regulatory aftermath and residual shocks like the European debt crisis continue to constrain bank profits and capital market activity and cast a pall of austerity over many financial institutions. Yet excitement and optimism reign among the developers and managers of the technologies on which firms and markets increasingly depend.

This enthusiasm is a common thread running through the Tech 50, Institutional Investor's annual ranking of those who lead the financial services industry in technological achievement and innovation. Far from being oblivious to prevailing economic and competitive realities, these executives bear witness to them. Having risen in stature and influence well beyond where they were a generation or even a decade ago, they have a firm grasp of those challenges and bring to bear tools, resources and expertise critical to overcoming them.

"Technology isn't just about automation and efficiency," asserts Goldman Sachs Group chief information officer Steven Scopellite, No. 10 on the list. "We see it as a business enabler, an accelerator, a control point — a source of competitive advantage."

Adds Phupinder Gill (No. 16), CEO of CME Group: "Technology has been the great differentiator for us. Now we are a technology-based company."

Indeed, financial technology has come of age not only as a way to move manual tasks onto machines but also as an engine of profitability. Exchange operators CME, NYSE Euronext (Dominique Cerutti, No. 6), Nasdaq OMX Group (Robert Greifeld, No. 20) and London Stock Exchange Group (Antoine Shagoury, No. 37) all make money selling technology to other markets and are investing in growth opportunities, particularly in derivatives and clearing. Those thriving businesses sustain the No. 3 ranking of IntercontinentalExchange CEO Jeffrey Sprecher, who says proprietary technology is essential to ICE's ability "to maintain a healthy pace of product development."

The 2012 Tech 50
Click name to view ranking profile.
1 Thomas Secunda
2 Stephen Scullen III
Fidelity Investments
3 Jeffrey Sprecher
4 Lance Uggla
Markit Group
5 Catherine Bessant
Bank of America Corp.
6 Dominique Cerutti
NYSE Euronext
7 Michael Spencer
8 Guy Chiarello
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
9 Olivier Le Grand
Cortal Consors
10 Steven Scopellite
Goldman Sachs Group
11 Dan Mathisson
Credit Suisse
12 Daniel Coleman
13 Robert Goldstein
BlackRock Solutions
14 Seth Merrin
Liquidnet Holdings
15 David Craig
Thomson Reuters
16 Phupinder Gill
CME Group
17 Sean O'Sullivan
HSBC Holdings
18 Deborah Hopkins
19 Joe Ratterman
BATS Global Markets
20 Robert Greifeld
Nasdaq OMX Group
21 Michael Bodson
Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.
22 Gaurav Suri
D.E. Shaw Group
23 William O'Brien
Direct Edge
24 Lee Olesky
Tradeweb Markets
25 Gerald O'Connell
Chicago Board
Options Exchange
26 Tom Miglis
27 Richard McVey
MarketAxess Holdings
28 Ron Levi
GFI Group
29 Lou Eccleston
S&P Capital IQ
30 Marianne Brown
31 Peter Carr
Morgan Stanley
32 Magnus Böcker
Singapore Exchange
33 Christopher Perretta
State Street Corp.
34 David Gershon
35 Philip Weisberg
FX Alliance
36 Jan Verplancke
Standard Chartered
37 Antoine Shagoury
London Stock Exchange Group
38 James Toffey
Benchmark Solutions
39 John Bates
Progress Software Corp.
40 Mark Palmer
StreamBase Systems
41 Bradley Peterson
Charles Schwab Corp.
42 Gary Scholten
Principal Financial Group
43 Steven Sadoff
Knight Capital Group
44 Kim Fournais /
Lars Seier Christensen

Saxo Bank
45 Howard Lindzon
46 Shin Kusunoki
Nomura Research Institute
47 Robert Alexander
Capital One Financial Corp.
48 Tyler Moeller
Broadway Technology
49 R. Peter Sanchez
Northern Trust Hedge Fund Services
50 Tyler Kim

Major banks are not skimping on technology. In 2011, Goldman's communications and technology spending increased 9 percent, to $828 million. At Bank of America Corp. ( Catherine Bessant, No. 5 ), data-processing and communications expenses grew 6 percent last year, to $4.2 billion. JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s technology, communications and equipment total also rose 6 percent, to $4.95 billion.