The 2014 Trading Technology 40: R. Cromwell Coulson


R. Cromwell Coulson
President and CEO
OTC Markets Group
(Previously not ranked)

As an institutional trader early in his career, R. Cromwell Coulson was frustrated by the opaque, inefficient nature of off-exchange trading. He saw a better way in the online revolution: In 1997, Coulson led a group of investors in taking over the old National Quotation Bureau, then he set about building a modernized, automated over-the-counter marketplace. “The majority of our [more than 80] employees are engineers, operations and business technologists,” boasts the 47-year-old CEO of what is now OTC Markets Group. He chose “a network-based, direct-connectivity” architecture rather than something more exchangelike because “the future of markets is not in centralization,” he says. “Basically, we use technology to let people share information and communicate.” The New York–based company streamlines broker and investor access to 10,000 U.S. and international securities — including 1,500 American depositary receipts, or 75 percent of all ADRs — on three platforms. OTCM itself trades on the top-tier Otcqx market, Otcqb is designed for venture-stage companies, and OTC Pink accommodates all others. The operation went down for several hours on November 7, 2013, prompting the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to declare a rare suspension of OTC securities trading. The publicity, though negative, shone a light on OTCM’s importance as a market infrastructure — but the crash was not its own doing. The cause was “a core network provider’s catastrophic failure” that disrupted communications with the company’s New Jersey data center, Coulson explains.

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