Nasdaq President and Chief Executive Officer Adena Friedman’s efforts to further strengthen the company’s listings leadership and enhance market integrity have landed her in Barron’s Top 30 CEOs of 2021. Barron’s annual list of top CEOs is chosen by the editorial staff based on who exemplified the best leadership over the past year.
2020 was a year that tested every company’s leadership, as they confronted historic new challenges brought on by a global pandemic. But Friedman did more than just keep up—she excelled, ensuring that Nasdaq kept the markets open and running smoothly amid record volatility. Barron’s noted that her efforts have led Nasdaq’s shares to soar 35% this year as the company continues to win new business, building off an impressive 2020, which saw net revenue surge 15%, leading to a 20% jump in net income.
“A full-year has now passed since our global workforce began working remotely, and I could not be more pleased with the first-quarter results that our team has delivered to our stakeholders today,” Friedman said during the first-quarter conference call.
Nasdaq continues to dominate initial public offerings (IPOs), winning the listings of 78% of operating companies in the first half of this year.1 She told Barron’s that she credits Nasdaq's success to years spent building relationships with companies in their infancy and helping them grow to the point of a public offering. Some of Nasdaq’s biggest IPOs this year include Bumble (BMBL), Applovin (APP) and Shoals Technologies Group (SHLS) – all of which raised proceeds between $1.9-2.1 billion. On May 11, it also became the new home for Honeywell (HON), which had previously been listed on the NYSE.
From a financial standpoint, Nasdaq has already proven to be capable of surpassing its 2020 benchmarks. As of June 28, Nasdaq has welcomed 395 IPOs, raising a total of $103 billion, extending its leadership to 30 consecutive quarters.
Beyond listings, Friedman continues to diversify Nasdaq’s business, expanding into new sectors. Notably, the company recently acquired Verafin to grow its anti-financial crime footprint – an integral part of Nasdaq’s mission to enhance market integrity.
"Their mission is to fight crime, and that's a big part of our mission—to bring integrity to the market," she told Barron’s. "So we can have this joint vision of how we can really support the whole financial system.”
In light of its success, Nasdaq was recently added to the Fortune 500 list for the first time since its founding in 1971, reflecting its strong growth and resiliency over the past year, despite facing significant challenges due to the pandemic, unprecedented market volatility and an overnight shift to virtual operations. Prior to joining the Fortune 500, Friedman was recognized as one of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders in 2021 for her ongoing work to help increase diversity in corporate boards.
In an effort to enhance corporate governance transparency and standardize disclosure requirements of U.S. Nasdaq-listed companies, Nasdaq introduced a Board Diversity Proposal. This proposal, which is currently before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for approval, focuses on asking listed companies to disclose the diversity of their board directors, along with a recommended minimum diversity objective of at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+.
“We do believe that our economy is really founded on the basis of disclosure,” Friedman told TIME. “We like the fact that it’s not a hard mandate. But it does really encourage progress in diversifying the board. We’re really trying to encourage progress, not to force it.”
In the fall of 2020, she also introduced The Purpose Initiative, which focuses on building a more inclusive economy through reimagining investor engagement, increasing capital markets participation and strategic partnership.
“Unequal participation in the markets is deepening the divide within our communities, and more needs to be done to level the playing field for entrepreneurs and investors of all ages, genders, and races,” said Friedman.
To read Barron’s profile of Friedman, click here.
View the full list of Barron’s Top CEOs here.
1 Source: Nasdaq data. As of June 25, 2021.