Leadership tests

Nothing prompts an organization to reexamine its strategy like a change of leadership.

Nothing prompts an organization to reexamine its strategy like a change of leadership.

That’s certainly the case at the Federal Reserve, where the appointment of Ben Bernanke to succeed Alan Greenspan is likely to lead to a subtle shift toward the inflation-targeting favored by the former Princeton University economist and away from Greenspan’s more instinctive behavior (see “What Bernanke Means to the Fed,” page 7).

In taking up his new post, Bernanke has it easy in many respects. He inherits a central bank whose anti-inflation credentials are well established after Greenspan’s 18-year reign. Reto Francioni enjoys no comparable legacy at Deutsche Bšrse.

The Swiss executive faces a big test as he takes over as CEO this month. His predecessor, Werner Seifert, resigned abruptly earlier this year after shareholders revolted over his bid to acquire the London Stock Exchange. As Staff Writer Alison Langley writes in “Back to the Bšrse” (page 58), Francioni must build relationships with his shareholders and provide fresh direction for the Frankfurt-based exchange. The new CEO, like his chairman, Kurt Viermetz, is known to favor alliances over acquisitions, but he will run into hurdles if he tries to strike any partnerships: Rivals and regulators are critical of Deutsche Bšrse’s vertically integrated structure. Francioni also will struggle to satisfy the conflicting demands of shareholders, who want exchanges to deliver profits, and users, who want cheaper transaction costs. The difficulty of reconciling those interests has prevented exchange consolidation in Europe to date.

Across the Atlantic, Thomas Peterffy has had a profound influence on the evolution of U.S. exchanges. In the 1980s, the founder of Interactive Brokers Group used his computer programming skills to route stock and options orders to markets offering the best prices, an innovation that sowed the seeds for the growth of electronic trading. In “A Breed Apart” (page 25), Contributor Suzanne McGee describes how Peterffy’s single-minded focus on efficiency helped turn his firm into a major force on Wall Street. Now he is looking to expand by bidding for parts of the troubled brokerage Refco. It’s no sure bet, but Peterffy’s track record ensures he will be taken seriously.