NYSE’s New Boss Says 221-Year-Old Market Must Act Like Startup

IntercontinentalExchange Inc. completed its purchase of NYSE Euronext at the close of today’s trading session, and its chief executive officer said the deal will usher in a swift shift to a more aggressive culture at the 221-year-old owner of the New York Stock Exchange.

Jeffrey Sprecher, the CEO of Atlanta-based ICE, wants the combined entity to act more like a startup than a venerable institution with roots in the 18th century. His new employees should take more risks, adopting an approach that made ICE one of the world’s biggest exchange operators just 13 years after its founding, he said.

“I hope I can convince the NYSE employees to embrace that style of business and accept a certain amount of failure,” Sprecher said in a phone interview today. “Any more-mature company has a hard time with that, but I really think that in today’s era companies need to move quickly.”

Sprecher is buying NYSE Euronext at a time when profits from the company’s traditional business, U.S. equities, have diminished because of regulatory and technological changes during the past decade and a half.

With the acquisition, he gains a financial futures division, NYSE Liffe, that gives him interest-rate futures for the first time. He tried and failed in 2007 to buy the Chicago Board of Trade to get access to the contracts, which allow investors to bet on or hedge moves in rates. The products are the largest contracts by volume at ICE competitor CME Group Inc.

Job Cuts

The 58-year-old executive said the integration of the two firms will be swift. ICE, with about 1,100 workers, is taking on a company with more than 3,000 employees. He said workforce changes will be announced tomorrow.

“ICE needs to move relatively quickly and be relatively definitive with the combination employee pool so that we can get the integration behind us,” Sprecher said. “I don’t want our company to be distracted by internal issues at this moment in time when there’s so much change being put on top of our customers,” he said. “It’s important that we’re relatively quick and decisive on getting the companies integrated.”

ICE’s takeover has already led to changes at the top of NYSE Euronext’s management ranks. Chief Financial Officer Michael Geltzeiler plans to join ADT Corp., while the departure of NYSE Liffe’s co-CEO, Mark Ibbotson, was revealed in August.

On Oct. 31, Bloomberg News reported that two Liffe executives would leave. Fraser Cowie, executive director for strategic alliances, and Ian Dudden, head of commodity derivatives, planned to depart following the acquisition, according to three people familiar with the situation.

ICE has already announced plans to spin off NYSE Euronext’s European equities division through an initial public offering.

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