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Leadership

Nasdaq CEOs Recall 50 Years of Innovation

In celebration of @Nasdaq’s 50th anniversary, President and CEO Adena Friedman hosted her former colleagues at a virtual panel discussion in which each reminisced about their most defining leadership moments and the profound role Nasdaq has played in shaping the global markets.

In celebration of Nasdaq’s 50th anniversary, President and Chief Executive Officer Adena Friedman hosted Bob Greifeld, Hardwick Simmons, Frank G. Zarb, Richard Ketchum and Joseph R. Hardiman at a virtual panel discussion in which each reminisced about their most defining leadership moments and the profound role Nasdaq has played in shaping the global markets.

Hardiman, who served as CEO from 1987 to 1997, kicked off the conversation by reflecting on Nasdaq’s role during the 1987 stock market crash, a time when U.S. markets fell more than 20% in a single day. The crisis, which happened just six weeks after Hardiman assumed his role, was a “real eye opener,” he said. 

The market crash led Nasdaq to expand its automated execution function and make participation by market makers mandatory, propelling it to become a “truly” automated stock market, Hardiman said. This allowed Nasdaq to become less dependent on its computer bulletin board system and the telephone, which were the tools the company used for trading in the beginning years.    

Ketchum, who served as president from 1991 to 2003, and Simmons, who was CEO from 2000 to 2003, both reflected on 9/11 and the exchange’s role at the time. Anticipating market chaos due to confusion surrounding the attacks, Nasdaq, along with other markets, remained closed until September 17, 2001. The shutdown marked the longest period of time the U.S. markets remained closed since the Great Depression. 

As for Zarb, who served as CEO from 1997 to 2000, he shared that he was proudest of leading Nasdaq’s efforts to gain independence from its founding organization, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which allowed Nasdaq to go public in 2005 under the symbol NDAQ. 

Friedman agreed that this was a “huge project and a huge undertaking” and that it helped us “establish ourselves as our own company, have shareholders and to define ourselves as a market for investors.”

Lastly, Greifeld, who was Friedman’s immediate predecessor from 2003 to 2016, said his defining moment was when Nasdaq realized it needed to revamp its technology, leading to the company’s acquisition of INET, the electronic trading unit of Instinet in 2005. This transition offered Nasdaq traders improved quality of execution and increased speed at lower cost and transformed Nasdaq from a single exchange to a multi-faceted technology and services company it is today. 

“We built the company off the backbone of that technology,” he said. “It put us into a great position.” 

As for Nasdaq’s trajectory for the next half-century, the former leaders uniformly agreed on the company’s continued role and projection in the technology ecosystem to help power markets all around the world. 

“We are the provider of integrity, and integrity is the core of who we are and what we do,” Friedman said on her ambitions for the company. “So, I think we'd like to be the number one provider of crime fighting technology in the financial industry as well, because we think those two go hand-in-hand to create integrity of markets and to create that fabric that drives the economy."

Each of the former Nasdaq leaders recalled Friedman’s time during their tenure. Having started as an intern at Nasdaq back in 1993, Friedman has worked with all of them and became the first woman to head a major U.S. stock exchange in 2017.

To further commemorate Nasdaq’s anniversary, Friedman and her former colleagues rang the Nasdaq Stock Market Opening Bell on Monday morning. Nasdaq also launched Nasdaq 50: Frontier of the Future, an immersive, virtual exhibit, in partnership with the Museum of American Finance (MoAF) that showcases the innovation-filled history of the company. 

Nasdaq was founded on February 8, 1971 as the world’s first electronic stock exchange. Since its inception, the company has built and acquired businesses across the capital markets ecosystem, with the sole goal of advancing the financial industry. Today, Nasdaq is a global technology company that aims to build stronger economies with its technology, which currently powers more than 130 markets around the globe, and create a more sustainable and equitable world by supporting people of all backgrounds with the resources they need to reach their full potential.

“In the 50 years since Nasdaq’s founding, the world and capital markets have evolved dramatically,” said Friedman. “What started as the world’s first electronic equities quotation system has transformed into a global technology company that serves not only the capital markets but markets everywhere. The success of our future relies heavily on our commitment to embracing inclusive growth, empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs and driving innovation that moves the global economy forward.”

Explore 50 years of people, moments and milestones that have shaped Nasdaq's story.

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