Shanny Basar talks to Valerie Bannert-Thurner, Senior Vice President and Head of the Buyside and Sellside Solutions business within Market Technology at Nasdaq about innovation, ambition and learning from crises.
A decade ago Valerie Bannert-Thurner (Ph.D.) was working at FTEN when the trading and risk management start-up was acquired by Nasdaq. She was concerned about working for a large company but ten years later she is still at Nasdaq and is now Senior Vice President and Head of the Buyside and Sellside Solutions business within Market Technology. She credits this to the firm being very entrepreneurial at heart while providing the resiliency and trust that is required from a critical market infrastructure provider.
Bannert-Thurner said: “The biggest take away from my ten years at Nasdaq is that I am grateful for being given the opportunity to grow. I have had a new challenge every other year.”
Her current responsibilities include platforms for execution, risk management, reporting and surveillance for all buy- and sellside customers of Nasdaq.
“I have been fortunate to be part of an awesome team and together with the team my biggest accomplishments have been to get a commitment for investment, building the lab and redesigning the processes for how we innovate, and continuously pushing new product developments,” she added. “We wanted to push the envelope and use technology in new ways.”
Trade surveillance for the sellside is the biggest and fastest growing part of her business. Every customer has stepped up diligence and wants to fully automate the process across asset classes and business segments. Nasdaq is aiming to launch the next generation of trade surveillance with a cloud-based platform.
Bannert-Thurner said: “Our engineering team has not slowed down during Covid-19 and we have signed deals with customers we have never met face-to-face.”
Nasdaq reported, in its third quarter results for 2020, that it continues to see strong client traction in its Market Technology segment with revenues of $86m, an increase of 2% from a year ago. New order intake was $84m during the period, including four new customers. The exchange also announced the launch of a cloud-deployed automated solution for investigating anti-money laundering for retail and commercial banks and other financial institutions in partnership with UK-based Caspian.
“Nasdaq Automated Investigator for anti-money laundering will change the industry by using more intelligent technologies to automate the process,” said Bannert-Thurner. “Alerts are currently investigated manually and that has led to backlogs.”
Anti-money laundering transaction monitoring systems can potentially trigger as many as 200,000 to 300,000 alerts a month in extreme cases. Nasdaq uses artificial intelligence, together with supervised and unsupervised learning in conjunction with business rules, to provide an auditable justification for all alerts in seconds.
Next year Nasdaq will be making big investments in surveillance for over-the-counter markets, data analysis, cloud adoption and artificial intelligence.
Bannert-Thurner said: “We also have great ambitions to drive the growth of our execution platform business.”
In May, Stifel Financial announced that it will use Nasdaq technology for Stifel Crossing Platform (STFX), its new Alternative Trading System. The US-based wealth management and investment banking firm was the first regional broker to launch a platform of this kind which will enhance its trading capabilities by taking advantage of the firm’s substantial retail order flow.
Hugh Warns, Global Head of Equities at Stifel, said in a statement: “This is yet another example of Stifel making strategic investments in key areas of our business to better serve clients, especially as conditions change and market structure evolves. By leveraging Nasdaq’s technology, we are able to revolutionize and differentiate how we bring quality executions and transaction services to our clients, while also achieving cost efficiency.”
Bannert-Thurner continued that another focus is market infrastructure to support digital assets from end to end, including surveillance and data, as part of the group’s strategy to expand outside traditional financial markets.
“Nasdaq Market Technology is also supporting non-financial markets such as sports betting,” said Bannert-Thurner.
She continued that Adena Friedman, President and CEO of Nasdaq, has set the strategy for the next five to 10 years.
“It is clear that we are a technology and data company at heart and we cherish and embrace it,” Bannert-Thurner added. “We know where we want to go and we are executing at full steam which makes us extraordinarily resilient, and that is a differentiator.”
Bannert-Thurner has a long interest in technology as she holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s degree in Business Engineering and Industrial Management from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich. She also holds a Ph.D. in Strategic Management from the institute. She credits her inspiration when young as maps and drawings – her mother was an architect.
For her experience with her son and daughter ,Bannert-Thurner believes society needs to start emphasising equality at an early stage, such as in kindergarten, in order to improve diversity in finance and technology.
She said: “We need to support women to juggle their family obligations and the job so they are not afraid to ask for flexibility. I once reduced my hours to take care of my son.”
Her advice to women is to not be afraid, to pick a good environment and not to stay with bosses that do not support you.
“I work in the right environment but could not have been successful without the support of my family,” she added. “My husband still gets asked why he is picking the children up from school.”
The shift to remote working as a result from Covid-19 may provide an opportunity for workplaces to become more flexible, which could improve diversity.
Bannert-Thurner said: “As challenging as the pandemic is, it also provides an opportunity to change work and embrace the new. We could not have paid for this experiment but we should learn from it. I will never travel as much as I used to.”
She continued that Nasdaq celebrates and encourages diversity and makes sure their processes go to great lengths when hiring for every position. “Diversity makes the team stronger and more resilient,” said Bannert-Thurner.