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NYSE’s new leader on the three core beliefs that are guiding her

January 20, 2022, 4:00 PM UTC
Lynn Martin, President of NYSE.
Lynn Martin, president of NYSE, writes that her company is moving “into a future that will demand the best combination of humanity and processing power that we can muster.”
Courtesy of NYSE

Technology has played a big part in my life since childhood, when my parents brought home a Commodore 64 computer and I began seeing how far my horizons could expand with the help of that machine. That initial exposure to computers turned into a college major, got me my first job, and then created the cornerstone of my career. 

Over the years, I’ve pivoted somewhat, but I’ve continued to approach new opportunities with a keen appreciation for the value of data and what technology can create.

Today, I find myself in a new year with a new job. While the physical distance between my childhood home in Long Island and lower Manhattan isn’t very far, it’s been a long and fascinating journey for that girl who loved to code. On Jan. 3, I began my tenure as the 68th president of the New York Stock Exchange, serving a remarkable community of 2,400 companies and working to provide them with the trading venue and tools they need to take their business to the next level.

Succeeding in this job will require me to look both forward and back, to view the future through the lens of my unique experience and to help guide an iconic institution in an uncertain age when the latest COVID-19 surge can force us all to scrap well-laid plans and turn on a dime. 

With this in mind, I have three core beliefs that will guide me, and I believe they can be useful for many of us as we drive our businesses forward. They will become only more relevant as time presses ahead.

Every company is a technology company

When I began my career, my first full-time job was as a programmer at IBM, and my employer was very obviously a technology company. That was in the middle of the dotcom boom, and tech had a very clear set of categories, including hardware and software providers as well as the then-nascent internet sector. As the years progressed, though, it has become more difficult to define just which companies should be labeled “tech.”

This is because every company in our current digital age employs some form of technology, and its adoption is moving at a rapid pace. Nearly every product we buy today is a beneficiary of this evolution. The cars we drive and the clothes we wear, the homes we live in and the foods we eat, are all to various degrees designed, assembled, marketed, and delivered with the help of technology. 

Companies in the traditional tech sectors continue to play a huge role in our economy, as everyone who sits in front of a computer or uses a smartphone knows well. Yet technology’s ability to support innovation across industries is equally important. It drives GDP. It creates jobs and opportunity. It improves quality and enhances productivity.

Understanding this, we need to position our businesses, markets, and policies to support these companies and their evolving, technology-driven needs. For example, educating and training our next generation of workers to thrive in organizations that prioritize technology is critically important. 

ESG will only grow in importance

If technology has become ubiquitous, ESG is on a similar trajectory. As a phrase it can reverberate as a bit amorphous, but “environmental, social, and governance” considerations have become top of mind for virtually every public company CEO and board of directors. The reason isn’t government regulation, quotas, or other mandates. Rather, it is the free market at work. 

Investors today are demanding that companies pay close attention to issues like climate change, their carbon footprint, diversity, and more. Beyond just paying attention, they are making their preferences known through their voting as shareholders and the way they direct their investment dollars. Roughly one-third of U.S. assets under professional management today are focused on ESG. It is no longer sufficient to pay lip service to these issues; corporations are expected to take real action and provide transparency on various initiatives focused on these matters.

In my previous role at Intercontinental Exchange, the NYSE’s parent company, we created databases that track board diversity, climate risk, and other ESG measures, and we made these products available to the investment community. The ability to measure performance in these areas adds an important level of transparency to ESG risk factors and will help drive the continued demand for disclosures.

This is evident by simply looking at the behavior of publicly traded companies. Last year, 99% of companies that held IPOs on the NYSE had at least one woman on their boards. The Fearless Girl statue stands vigil outside the NYSE and reminds us every day that while there’s still much work to be done, ESG-driven risk management is here to stay, and will only become a larger factor in the years ahead.

Our capital markets are without equal

When the pandemic arrived in early 2020, companies across a broad range of industries quickly felt its impact. Demand for many goods and services dried up as the first lockdowns hit, forcing these organizations to seek additional funding. Our U.S. capital markets answered the call. At the NYSE, listed companies executed a series of critical follow-on offerings that provided needed capital to help them get through those toughest months.

The resurgence of the IPO market followed shortly after as private companies looked to our markets to help expand their operations and fuel growth. This initial wave of activity did not wane, eventually becoming the biggest IPO boom in history, with new listings setting records for capital raised in 2020 and again in 2021. Capital was able to flow steadily to entrepreneurs looking to pursue their dreams and change the world.

The ability of our U.S. markets to sustain this level of activity dates back to work begun years before COVID became a household term. For example, the modern NYSE is powered by a remarkable technology platform called Pillar that was purpose built and has proven its ability to handle more than 350 billion electronic messages in a single day. When the tremendous volatility set off by the pandemic and, later, the meme-stock boom hit our markets, the platform functioned magnificently, as designed. 

Our U.S. capital markets are the deepest, most transparent, and most liquid in the world for a reason. Their resilience, combined with the extraordinary companies traded there, make them a benchmark against which all others are measured. This is something we cannot take for granted. It is a position we must work together globally to retain, so that our businesses and economy can continue to flourish.

***

Taking my place among those who have led the NYSE is both an honor and a responsibility. More important, though, it is a journey, one that I will take with our NYSE staff, ICE colleagues, listed companies, market participants, regulators, lawmakers, and others. Data and technology allow each of us to do much more, much faster, but at the core of any successful enterprise is people collaborating toward common goals.

It is important that we keep this in mind as we move into a future that will demand the best combination of humanity and processing power that we can muster.

Lynn Martin is president of the New York Stock Exchange.

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