Our host, Susan Willett Bird explained the night quite simply. She wanted to provide a forum for senior executives which fostered deep, powerful, and potentially world changing conversations. She challenged the group to think about the last dinner conversation we had that really mattered, that caused us to think, that caused us to change the direction of our life… She wanted to create that tonight at the 360 Summit. The title of this blog post is a quote from Susan as she hoped to “create an exchange at the Exchange”, an exchange of ideas and viewpoints.
It did not hurt that cocktails were in the Main Room at the NYSE. The mere location provokes conversation on change and transformation. The NYSE is going through a tremendous amount of changes (see a previous post), and these changes were detailed by the keynote speaker of the night, Catherine Kinney, COO of NYSE Euronext. More on that later…
During cocktails, I met a few people. Very few knew each other (and I knew no one), so all of the conversations were a bit forced. What does your firm do? What do you do? We were all gazing at name tags… It helped me that I was standing a few feet from the Credit Suisse and JPMorgan SuperBooths below the podium where they ring the opening bell. This was my home turf, and I was able to explain to a few people about how the NYSE works, and even that Freddie Mac is traded right where we were standing.
It also did not hurt that dinner for the 400+ of us was upstairs at the NYSE in a fabulous banquet room with a large fireplace. Each table for 10 had three constituents:
(1) eight of the people were business and thought leaders – CEO’s, COO’s, CIO’s, Group EVP’s, General Councils, HR heads. The leaders were primarily women, and they spanned all industries. Our table had six women and one man. They came to us from a major global bank’s corporate finance arm, a commodities trading group, a major resort group, a catalog publisher, a boutique consulting firm, two think tanks, and unfortunately, we had one empty chair. Looking around the room, I’d guess the room was 90% women.
(2) one of the people at each table was a young Arab business leader who is working in the US on a business version of a high school exchange program. At our table was a young woman from Egypt who works in the jewelry business.
(3) one blogger who was invited to come and not just listen and take notes, but to reflect and muse on what they heard. (this would be me…)
On each table were thought provoking question cards if there was a lull in the conversation, but at our table there was no need for these, and given the general din in the room, I doubt these cards were more than decoration. The tables were not numbered, but were named things like “Garrulous Gurus” and “Socratic Sages”… Susan’s tag line is “Start The Conversation!”
Over salad we listened to a very interesting talk by Catherine Kinney about the massive changes at the NYSE Euronext Group. Catherine flew in from her new home in Paris to deliver today’s address. She covered three topics:
(1) The transformation going on at the NYSE
(2) The global transformation of NYSE Euronext
(3) The US regulatory environment and some progress she is seeing in this area
There was nothing new per se in her talk, but she did summarize the changes and the issues succinctly. Some bullets from her speech:
* The NYSE is committed to the Floor. She sees the specialist adding value for certain segments of the market.
* The NYSE believes in technology as an enabler.
* The NYSE wants to believe they give the the investor trust and confidence in the markets, and technology plays an integral role in this.
* There are fewer people on the floor, there is more technology, the markets are more efficient, and the cost of trading is going down.
* Derivatives are growing faster that cash trading. Euronext’s capabilities in trading derivatives is a key part of the merger between NYSE and Euronext.
* Investment Banks globalized in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Exchanges are just getting around to it. One quote, “Countries all have a flag, an army, and an exchange.”.
* Asia is the next place for the NYSE Euronext to look to grow globally.
* She talked about wanted to be more involved in India, Japan, Korea, and China.
* All but one of the eligible tech IPO’s listed on the NYSE this year (this fact got a round of applause).
* ArcaEx is attracting more listings, and new tech listing is about to be announced for ArcaEx.
* While the NYSE Euronext has a global footprint, its listings are concentrated in the US and France. There is more work to do re: globalization.
* She is not optimistic that the US litigation environment will be improved soon.
* She is optimistic that the SEC will shepherd real reform in Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 compliance.
After Catherine completed her remarks, and answered a few questions, Susan asked us to consider some topics: the changing global markets, the US presidential elections, the environment, the sub-prime crisis, and the changing demographics (on this one, specifically the fact that soon it will be routine for 4 generations to be alive at once – what does that mean for families, for firms, for healthcare, and for governments?). As the dinner conversation at home usually revolves around Hannah Montana and SpongeBob, this had the potential to be an interesting evening. It was.
I promised my dinner partners not to quote them or name names. To be fair, as there was three or four conversations happening at once at our table, it would be next to impossible to quote people anyway. The conversations varied among the deep topics that Susan looked to see us discuss, discussions about our work, and animated discussions of the jewelry our young Egyptian friend was wearing. As the evening moved on, cards were exchanged, phone numbers were shared, and I really think some new friendships were made. I am confident that tonight Susan accomplished one of her goals. Some meaningful conversations were started tonight, and I believe they will continue… Thanks Susan.