- Business Insider compiled a list of the people leading the most innovative and ambitious tech projects at Wall Street’s biggest firms.
- We asked Wall Street players and industry insiders who was spearheading the most cutting-edge tech initiatives.
- The list includes eight people who are heading up teams or projects at a range of the largest banks, hedge funds, asset managers, and exchanges.
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Take a quick scan of the headlines on any given day, and it might seem as if startups are driving the most interesting tech developments on Wall Street.
However, for all the talk of large financial firms being slow to innovate and adapt to changing times, the top players have still managed to create their own cutting-edge projects in-house.
Business Insider canvassed the most powerful firms on Wall Street — including banks, hedge funds, asset managers and exchanges — as well as other insiders to discover who exactly is leading the most innovative projects and teams at the biggest players.
Here are the eight names that emerged and the ambitious projects they’re working on, including massive tech integrations and building out entirely new banks.
Ali Villagra, global head of Citi Velocity
As Wall Street pushes for more simplification and returns to a world of bundled offerings, Villagra and Citi’s Velocity institutional trading platform are in prime position for continued success.
A combination of web-based analytics that cover everything from stocks to municipal bonds make Citi Velocity an ideal product for an increasing amount of investors looking for a one-stop shop.
Villagra, who joined Citi after graduating Dartmouth in 2001 as an analyst looking at debt capital markets, has spent the past nine years building out Citi Velocity. In August, she took over as its global head.
A big part of Villagra’s job is staying ahead of the curve to meet client’s evolving needs. Citi Velocity’s push into API offerings is a prime example of that, and further indication of Wall Street’s obsession with data. APIs allow investors to more easily connect data streams to applications.
Villagra also has other ways of staying up-to-date on the latest innovations, as she serves as the chairman of the board of FINOS, an industry group which supports the use of open source in financial services.
David Woodhead, technical strategy lead for BlackRock’s Aladdin Studio
What’s one of the best ways to keep customers happy with your product? Give them the power to tweak it as they see fit.
That’s what Woodhead is helping investors do with one of BlackRock’s crown jewels — its Aladdin investment management platform. Woodhead leads the technical strategy for Aladdin Studio, a suite of tools allowing engineers to open up the end-to-end operating system that has long been one of the most-prized technology assets of the nearly $7 trillion asset manager.
Currently, more than 3,000 developers are using Aladdin Studio, working on investment research, analytics, and the automation of day-to-day processes within Aladdin. With an increased focus on data on Wall Street and a workforce that has the technical ability to take matters into their own hands, Aladdin Studio has proven to be a valuable tool for many.
Recently, Woodhead’s team has worked to grow Aladdin Studio even bigger thanks to a wider adoption of open-source technology. The result has allowed users to automate repetitive tasks with the Python programming language and create more AI-based tools.
Hari Moorthy, partner at Goldman Sachs
Moorthy is tasked with building out a business from scratch for Goldman Sachs, but it’s likely not the one you’ve heard of.
Marcus, Goldman’s consumer-finance offering, has garnered plenty of media attention since launching in 2016, but Moorthy’ work building out a commercial bank could end up being a bigger business for Goldman.
Moorthy, who returned to the bank in 2018 as a partner after serving as a managing director at JPMorgan for four years, has been tasked with building out a payments business to help corporates manage money. As with Marcus, Moorthy’s work represents a departure from what has long been the bank’s bread and butter — mergers and acquisitions and helping company’s raise money.
Moorthy has his work cut out for him, as commercial banking is dominated by sprawling existing businesses at two of Goldman’s biggest rivals: JPMorgan and Citigroup. However, Goldman certainly hasn’t been afraid to put resources behind the effort. In February, the Financial Times reported Goldman had hired 100 employees to work on the project.
Matthew Granade, chief market intelligence officer at Point72 Asset Management
As Point72 Asset Management’s chief market intelligence officer, Granade has the difficult task of leading the team responsible for combing through huge amounts of data to find information that the hedge fund’s portfolio managers and analysts can turn into trades.
That’s no small undertaking in any case, but it’s especially difficult considering the fact that Point72, which manages $14 billion in assets, prides itself on being one of the most sophisticated firms when it comes to its digestion and analysis of data.
Granade, who has been at Point72 since 2015 and also spent more than five years at rival Bridgewater Associates, isn’t just focused on the quantitative side. He also leads Point72’s “person + machine” strategy, which includes a mixture of both humans and algorithms. The idea behind the hybrid approach is to combine the strengths of both sides to create the best investment opportunities.
Debra Herschmann, head user experience at JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank
For all the focus around technology making trading faster and smarter, there is still something to be said for how good a product looks and how easy it is to use.
Herschmann’s purview is exactly that, as she leads the digital experience design team for JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank. Herschmann came to JPMorgan in 2016 after spending nine years at Goldman Sachs, most recently serving as the head of corporate and investment bank user experience.
At JPMorgan, Herschmann has grown her team from 20 to 125 in the past two years and is involved in more than 60 projects across the corporate and investment bank.
Recent accomplishments include making Algo Central, JPMorgan’s algorithmic execution tool, easier to follow and use via data visualization techniques. Same goes for Activism Insights, a tool meant to help investment bankers predict the influence of activist investors. Designers created a framework to reduce the time required by users to gather insights and analysis from the tool.
Chris Woolley, director of trading at Man Group
As financial markets become ever-more complex — with investors trading in new ways and on a growing number of venues — the importance of being able to execute trades efficiently is critical. Enter Woolley, who serves as the director of trading at Man Group, a role that includes leading the Adaptive Intelligent Routing (AIR) project.
AIR uses machine learning to understand the best route for a trade, tapping into historic trade and market data to help improve the firm’s ability to execute at the lowest possible cost. Doing so also allows traders to focus on more complex trades, such as those done in the over-the-counter space, which are typically harder to execute.
AIR was initially implemented in financial futures in 2017, and Woolley has been tasked with expanding it across different financial products. Last year, AIR was deployed in cash equities and foreign exchange. Next up for the group is credit.
Ari Studnitzer, managing director for technology and product management at CME Group
Tech integrations are tricky under any circumstance, but Studnitzer’s task at CME Group is particularly impressive.
Following CME Group’s $5 billion acquisition of NEX back in November 2018, Studnitzer is leading a team focused on integrating BrokerTech and EBS, venues for trading US treasuries and foreign exchange, respectively, onto the larger CME Globex system.
That will create a single place to transact in futures, options, cash and OTC products. Even more importantly, by creating a one-stop shop, the project has the opportunity to create cross-asset savings, whether it be in data, clearing, or other areas.
Studnitzer, who has been with CME since 2012, also has a hand in the newest potential technology out of the exchange, as he manages CME Group’s tech labs.
One specific area of interest for Studnitzer has been his work creating CME’s corporate strategy around cloud usage, both for data and applications.
Jonathan York, Bridgewater’s chief architect and head of product for client service technology
York has spent the better half of a decade working on Bridgewater’s client-facing platforms and technology. The goal is to offer up the best data, analytics and visualization tools to the clients of the firm, which manages $150 billion in assets.
Analytics, in particular, has been an area of focus for York and his team. Investors are eager to make sense of the swaths of data available to them, and Bridgewater is able to do that thanks to a personalized and secure web channel they can access content through.
York’s team will also look to continue to improve the digital experience of its clients, as it aims to make the experience as customizable as possible.
No stranger to creating tools and systems geared to a customer, York spent time at vendor SunGard and ratings agency S&P before joining Bridgewater in 2013.