Technologists in the business world set performance goals that may push their skills to the limit, but the benchmarks are simply stated: better, faster and cheaper. Those who excel in the financial services industry — including the executives, innovators and entrepreneurs spotlighted in Institutional Investor’s Tech 50 — are better and faster than ever before. They are applying advanced technologies that allow them to accomplish more within budget than ever before and are doing so on a large, often global, scale that has become imperative but was not feasible until recently.
Financial firms are dealing with new regulations, costs and capital pressures, and facing ever-evolving competitive challenges from both familiar peers and disruptive fintech start-ups. Yet the asset managers, banks, exchanges and other entities represented in the Tech 50 are not in retreat when it comes to information technology and innovation. Pushing forward is an operational and strategic necessity, and no less so for compliance and cybersecurity.
There are common themes up and down this 16th annual ranking: agility in software and product development; mobility to accommodate activities increasingly untethered from the traditional desktop; and cloud computing for its ubiquitous availability and immense scalability.
And there are blockchain reactions. Virtually everybody has one, starting at the top with Bank of America Corp. chief operations and technology officer Catherine Bessant. The second woman to be ranked No. 1 (following then–JPMorgan Chase & Co. international president Heidi Miller, in 2010), Bessant sees in the distributed ledger “the power to produce tremendous amounts of innovation.” Given that “the execution of a commercial application has not been at scale,” she says, blockchain remains “a great technology with a lot of potential.”
If anyone can speak to scale, it is Bessant, who has a tech budget of $17 billion and 110,000 employees and contractors worldwide. An indication of BofA’s innovative edge is its industry-leading 259 patents last year.
Success at scale is also evident in the continuously improving top and bottom lines of Intercontinental Exchange and CME Group, led, respectively, by career technologists Jeffrey Sprecher (No. 2) and Phupinder Gill (No. 4); and in the output of chief information officer R. Martin Chavez’s (No. 6) 11,000 engineers at Goldman Sachs Group. Meanwhile, technology sales are growing at BlackRock – COO Robert Goldstein (No. 7) says revenue of the firm’s Aladdin solutions rose 11 percent last year, to $528 million – and at Nasdaq, where the order backlog for market technology, a business under COO Adena Friedman (No. 8), increased 10 percent in 2015, to $788 million, as of December 31.
Along with those names are the likes of IHS Markit (Lance Uggla, No. 3), Bloomberg (Shawn Edwards and Vlad Kliatchko, No. 5), Thomson Reuters (David Craig, No. 12) and S&P Global Market Intelligence (Mike Chinn, No. 31), each in its way pushing the envelope in service to partners and clients.
At the lower end of the spectrum are examples of “niche tech”: the application programming interfaces of Xignite (Stephane Dubois, No. 43); the HTML5 cross-platform software of OpenFin (Mazy Dar, No. 44); and data management on MongoDB from Xenomorph Software (Brian Sentance, No. 49).
The Tech 50 ranking was compiled by Institutional Investor editors and staff, with nominations and input from industry participants and experts. Four primary sets of attributes were evaluated: achievements and contributions over the course of a career; scope and complexity of responsibilities; influence and leadership inside and outside the organization; and pure technological innovation.
Of the 50 entries, 37 return from last year. The returnees’ 2015 ranks are shown, and the rest are designated “PNR” (previously not ranked). •
The Tech 50 was compiled under the direction of Senior Contributing Editor Jeffrey Kutler. Individual profiles were written by Kutler; Asia Bureau Chief Allen T. Cheng; Senior Writers Frances Denmark and Julie Segal; Research Staff Writer Jess Delaney; Content Editor Anne Szustek; Associate Editor Kaitlin Ugolik; Assistant Editor Jen Werner; and Editor Michael Peltz.