Ex-Citigroup Rates Executive Wikstrom Joins Trading Startup

  • Roland Wikstrom will be Direct Match's relationship head
  • Direct Match is seeking to start Treasury trading platform

Roland Wikstrom, who helped run Citigroup Inc.’s G-10 interest-rates trading group, has joined Direct Match LLC, a startup that plans to offer exchange-style trading for U.S. Treasury bonds.

Wikstrom will oversee relationship management at New York-based Direct Match, he and the firm’s founder, Jim Greco, said Monday in an interview. He’ll be a member of the executive committee and help with strategy, client experience and getting customers up and running on the system.

“I understand exactly what’s occurring in market structure and they’re at the forefront,” Wikstrom said, citing prior shifts to electronic trading in equity and foreign-exchange markets. “It’s not a big leap of faith to see those same forces pushed down into the Treasury market.”

Direct Match is among new entrants attempting to find ways to electronically connect buyers and sellers of fixed-income securities. Unlike stocks, which are standardized, bond markets are more idiosyncratic with many different instruments having individual attributes. That’s made it difficult for entrepreneurs to gain footing in those markets.

Primary Dealers

The Treasury market, with a smaller universe of securities, is easier to navigate. Direct Match plans to begin operations this year with more than two dozen firms trading on-the-run treasuries, which are the most recently issued and most frequently traded, said Greco, who worked at automated trading firm Getco and Jefferies Group before founding Direct Match. Three of the participants will be primary dealers, the banks or brokerages that enjoy special status from the government to bid at U.S. Treasury auctions and handle the bulk of the government debt. Wikstrom said he’ll attempt to sign up more of them.

Last year, Direct Match raised $3 million in venture-capital funding, and in January secured an additional $6 million. The company previously planned to open last year.

Wikstrom will be reunited with Kristi Neller, a former head of sales for Citigroup’s U.S. government-bond-trading platform, known as CitiVelocity. Neller joined Direct Match last year. William O’Brien, former president of Bats Global Markets Inc., was appointed executive chairman of Direct Match’s board this month.

Wikstrom ran G-10 rates trading in North America for Citigroup before leaving last April, a month after a trader in his business was found to have allegedly mismarked a portfolio of inflation options. He joined Citigroup in 2011 after working as a senior money manager at Norges Bank Investment Management.

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