Anna Ewing is a bit of an anomaly in today's tech landscape.
She doesn't deal much with slick gadgets or social networks, but as Chief Information Officer at Nasdaq OMX Group she makes sure that some of the world's most complex and critical commerce goes smoothly on about 70 financial exchanges around the world.
Twitter has nothing on that.
Ewing is a techie through and through, but she also never strayed far from finance. After majoring in Management Information Systems at York University in Toronto, she grabbed an MBA from the institution's business school.
From there, Ewing was snapped up for a tech job at Merrill Lynch and moving to CIBC, one of the largest banks in Canada, where, among other things, she helped manage the firm's technological transition to the 21st Century, a tricky process dubbed Y2K at the time.
She joined Nasdaq a few months later, when it was still a simple U.S. stock exchange. Today, it owns 24 exchanges worldwide and provides the technological infrastructure for dozens of others.
FINS talked to Ewing about the stress of overseeing $12.7 trillion in transactions, whether she looks for tech candidates that also understand markets and the New York City tech boom.
Kyle Stock: How hot is the market for tech talent on Wall Street these days?
Anna Ewing: In the financial services industry overall, tech is such a core part of the industry. Certainly here at Nasdaq, it's core for what we do. Even during the financial crisis, as the worst-case stabilized, there was really continual growth in this area. …Opportunistically or strategically, there's always a drive to bring in tech talent.
New York City certainly is a mecca for financial services and tech talent, but there is competition and not just within financial services. New York is one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the country and you now have a different type of competition with all of the start-ups here.
KS: Do you look for candidates that understand finance as well as tech or is tech enough?
AE: It depends on the role. Being a developer on our trading platforms for example, you want people who also understand how the markets work. You're looking for both that industry expertise as well as the technology expertise.
In some of our other areas, there's less of a need for a financial services background. … From that perspective, our recruiting is definitely not limited to the industry. Telco, for example, is a big feeder for us.
KS: You have an MBA, what did you commit to first, business or tech?
AE: (When I started the MBA program), I was already working in the field of technology in financial services. It was clear to me very early how integral technology is to the business. …And it really provided a great career path personally. What attracts a lot of people to our industry is the dynamic nature of the business and I was no different.
KS: Given all the money flowing through Nasdaq markets, your day-to-day must be fairly different than that of most tech workers, do you find it thrilling or perhaps terrifying?
AE: (Laughs) Well, you have to be accepting of that level of stress and responsibility that comes with operating in a mission-critical environment that is very much part of the national infrastructure in a lot of ways. …You also need to be able to manage that stress.
KS: Did you ever consider jumping to a software company or some other more traditional tech enterprise?
AE: We actually have a division called market tech where we are providing software to other markets and brokers around the globe, so I would argue that we are in that business.
KS: How about something more entrepreneurial?
AE: Well, I think that technology is part of the innovation curve in financial services. Certainly, in our industry, it's core to competition. We have to create new products and do things nimbly, because sometimes the window is a short one.
KS: Is Wall Street more attractive to tech talent than it was in the late-1990s?
AE: I think the industry is more attractive, but there's more competition from all over, so that kind of balances it out.
KS: Naturally, you compete with the big software and computer firms for workers, but do you find yourself competing more with traditional Wall Street firms for tech talent these days?
AE: I would say not necessarily. We attract people from other trading firms and other tech industries. I would say that they're beefing up, but we're not necessarily competing more than we have in the past.
KS: You have been in this business for almost 30 years.
AE: It's been very exciting. Marrying the dynamic environment of financial services with tech is second to none in terms of an exciting career. If you look at technology and how it has changed the business model in that timeframe, that wave of innovation and how we've been using technology has been very very dynamic.
KS: Did you have any lucky breaks along the way?
AE: I think the way we have transformed the Nasdaq to who we are today -- a global player operating 24 markets around the world and our tech business powering 70 markets around the world -- that transformation and my opportunity to be part of that has been most rewarding.
KS: If you were forced to retire tomorrow, what advice would you have for your replacement?
AE: You can't stand still. This is a very dynamic area and the world is our oyster because of our capability and our footprint and our reach. You have to continue to innovate because tech continues to advance.
Write to Kyle Stock