Voice of Experience: Lynn Martin, CEO, NYSE Liffe U.S. and New York Portfolio Clearing

Lynn MartinThis week The Glass Hammer is profiling successful women in the derivatives industry.

By Jessica Titlebaum

Lynn Martin’s father played a large part in getting her to where she is now. As an engineer, he worked long hours and six day weeks, but always made it home in time for family dinner. Following in his footsteps, Martin pursued a career in computer engineering. After graduating magna cum laude from Manhattan College with a BS in Computer Science, she worked full time at IBM and went to graduate school at Columbia University for Mathematical Finance.

“I did not have the usual programmer personality,” Martin said. “I have a very quantitative mind, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. During grad school, I interviewed everywhere, from quant desks at banks to law firms specializing in IP litigation.”

Martin first heard about the London International Financial Futures Exchange (Liffe) in her coursework at Columbia when studying financial modeling, which is also how she came across Euribor. Short for the “Euro Interbank Offered Rate”, the average interest rate that European banks borrow funds from one another at, the Euribor was an important reference rate in the European money market.

“Around the time I completed my master’s coursework, I heard about a business development position at Liffe in New York,” Martin said. “They were looking for someone with a technology background to connect users in the US to their newly-launched electronic platform. I only had a cursory level of knowledge of the products they traded.”

Emerging Woman in Derivatives
As an emerging woman in derivatives, Martin was hired at just 25-years-old as vice president of Liffe to build the distribution of the LIFFE CONNECT platform in the United States. With a large responsibility at a growing new company, Martin learned quickly that you need to “know what you don’t know.”

“Any time you walk into a new job thinking you know everything about that job or company, you are doing yourself and the company a disservice,” she said. “Every company has subject matter experts. Ask them questions when you are unsure about a topic. Most importantly, though, treat the subject matter experts with the respect they deserve.”

As her knowledge of the Exchange grew, so did her industry experience and Martin quickly climbed the corporate ladder. She went on to become chief operating officer of NYSE Liffe U.S., which was launched after Liffe and Euronext merged with NYSE Group to create NYSE Euronext. In July 2013, when Thomas Callahan resigned as chief executive officer of NYSE Liffe U.S., Martin was announced as his successor.

“Tom and I worked very well together when he was at the Exchange,” said Martin said. “He was very supportive of me professionally and personally. I learned a tremendous amount from him and I will always be grateful for that and for his support.”

Martin credits his support to the balance she was able to find as a working mother.

“I was always working and answering emails. When I had my son, I had to make a conscious effort and carve out time in my schedule when I would be unavailable to respond to emails. I would not have been able to do that without Tom’s support. Ultimately, I believe the balance I have found from having a family has made me better professionally,” Martin said.

Important Lessons
Early in her career, Martin also had a good relationship with her female manager at IBM, from whom she learned an important lesson.

“We were working on a Y2K conversion project for a leading bank and she taught me that you can never over communicate,” Martin said. “While it was a hard lesson to learn at the time, it is one of the most valuable lessons anyone could have ever taught me. Leaders use information, such as market intelligence from more junior staff, to make decisions. Junior staff relies on their managers to communicate topics, such as objectives and strategy for their respective groups. Maintaining strong two-way information flow is critical to operating a strong organization. ”

Now that Martin is on the other side of the table, she believes women walk a fine line in the office.

“Typically women don’t want to appear overly aggressive, but on the other hand we want to make sure our opinions are heard. Women should not be afraid to voice their opinions and ask questions, but should not talk for the sake of talking. Pick your spots and offer opinions when you have a strong view,” Martin said.

A Time of Tremendous Change
One pattern in Martin’s career, and a sign of changing times in the derivatives market, is the array of exchange mergers in which she has been involved. After joining Liffe in 2001, Liffe merged with Euronext in 2003 and then with NYSE Group in 2007. That merger led to the formation of NYSE Liffe U.S., a new upstart exchange operating in an established brand. Most recently, NYSE Euronext was acquired by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in the winter of 2012 to form ICE Group, a leading global operator of trading and clearinghouses. As part of ICE Group, Martin is managing the transition of the NYSE Liffe U.S. and NYPC businesses into ICE Group’s existing platforms, an integration that is expected to be complete in Q3 2014, subject to regulatory approval.

“Mergers are a time of tremendous change within an organization which naturally causes some uneasiness with employees. Don’t be afraid to view change as an opportunity, as they typically yield more opportunities than not for talented professionals,” she said. “The most important thing one can do during time of change is stay focused on achieving short term attainable business goals.”

She believes the most recent merger with ICE is beneficial for NYSE Liffe U.S. products.

“ICE has state of the art, market leading technology particularly when it comes to speed and risk management functionality. Further, our migration to the ICE platforms will help expand our product distribution to global market participants. I believe this merger will expand the reach of the innovations we’ve brought to market over the last five years,” Martin said.

Besides having a front row seat to industry mergers, Martin has seen other changes take place in the derivatives space since 2001.

“When I started, the industry was seeing a shift towards electronic trading. I would say half the traders I interacted with were folks transitioning from pits to screen and algorithmic firms were still in their infancy,” Martin said.

The Great Equalizer
The CEO says electronic trading has become an equalizer for women in derivatives.

“Physical stature is now irrelevant when it comes to being filled on an order. Anonymized electronic central order books have yielded a far more democratic marketplace,” Martin said. “While many men are still the industry leaders, we are creating a different industry for our daughters to inherit.”

Martin says she was motivated by being a woman in a male-dominated industry. “I worked as much as I could to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible” she said. This means 12-hour days are still the norm and periods where she is working 15-hours a day, seven-days a week are not out of the question. Martin not only inherited her father’s work ethic and dedication to family, but his motivation to succeed as well.

“It’s in my DNA to work hard,” she said. “In the beginning, some people might have looked at me and wondered if I knew what I was talking about, but the people who gave me the hardest punches over my career have become my best clients.”

1 Response

  1. “Typically women don’t want to appear overly aggressive, but on the other hand we want to make sure our opinions are heard. Women should not be afraid to voice their opinions and ask questions, but should not talk for the sake of talking. Pick your spots and offer opinions when you have a strong view,” Martin said. I really love this part of the interview. I recall a 1998 American movie, Paulie. This is about a talking parrot that was separated to its child owner. The lesson I learned from that movie is about the danger of talking too much and the danger of not talking or saying anything. Maybe its just a matter of timing. Just like Martin, she knows how to balance her time to her work and family and to talk when and when not it is needed. Thank you for a very inspiring story.