A Pool Table in Philadelphia Shows Nasdaq’s Thirst for Talent

  • Exchange operator just moved into new offices in that city
  • Space is located near University of Pennsylvania, Drexel

Traders work at Nasdaq's new options trading floor in Philadelphia.

Photographer: Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg

Nasdaq Inc. has traded places in Philadelphia, moving to a new skyscraper with a view and a pool table from an older office as it tries to lure recruits in part from local universities to double its staff in the city.

The business, famous for its Nasdaq Stock Market, is transforming into a broader technology company and will be filling legal, information security, software development and human resources jobs in Philadelphia. It faces tough competition for talent there from a wide range of industries and firms, including Vanguard Group Inc., Google and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The new offices, on three floors of the FMC Tower, with views of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, two of the schools it may draw talent from, will help with that. It has an open office plan with bright, natural light, and areas to gather and collaborate. There’s the pool table, quiet meeting areas and enclosed booths for private phone conversations. Grads with technical degrees are in high demand, and the quality of the work space are important in addition to salary and benefits when it comes to recruiting.

“It becomes a decision about the whole package, and workplace does play into that package,” said Rose McGinnis, the director of student professional development and the undergraduate research program at Temple University’s College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia.

‘Trading Places’

Nasdaq got to Philadelphia -- a town whose trading community was highlighted in the 1983 Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd movie “Trading Places” -- through the 2008 acquisition of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Started two years before the New York Stock Exchange, making it the nation’s oldest, that stock market is barely a blip in the U.S. financial system, accounting for only about 1 percent of the nation’s volume. But the Nasdaq PHLX options market is thriving, matching about 15 percent of equities derivatives trading.

“Nasdaq’s committed to Philadelphia as a major site,” said Tom Wittman, executive vice president of Nasdaq and global head of equities, who is based in Philadelphia. “There are great colleges here that we can recruit from.”

Options traders have set up shop in the facility, a major upgrade from their former trading floor. At the old spot at 1900 Market St., traders and brokers were in the basement with no windows. Bill McCormack, director of floor operations at CV Brokerage, who has worked on the floor for 19 years, said, “the old space was a dungeon.” The new trading floor is bright and has windows.

How’s the Weather?

“It’s kind of nice to see what’s going on in the world,” McCormack said. “One sentence we’re not going to hear often is, ‘Is it raining out?’”

The biggest U.S. exchange companies are planting flags outside the biggest financial centers, for a variety of reasons, including proximity to colleges they can recruit from.

CME Group Inc., the giant Chicago-based futures market, last year opened up a training center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Research Park.

Bats Global Markets Inc., a Kansas-based exchange now owned by CBOE Holdings Inc., was founded in the American heartland. Even as it grew to become a powerhouse in U.S. and European stock trading, the company kept its headquarters in a Kansas City suburb, in part to bolster its presence on campuses in the region -- leveraging that to develop some of the industry’s most highly regarded trading software.

Nasdaq moved from a nine-story office building across the river downtown that was built in 1981, according to its owner Brandywine Realty Trust, which also developed its new home, FMC Tower. The main lobby and main entrances for its former office building were renovated in 2014 to 2015.

Tax Incentives

Nasdaq received sales and use tax exemptions on building materials for its office construction under a state program that provides incentives for businesses to move into economically distressed parts of urban and rural areas. It is also eligible for more tax benefits if it reaches certain targets because it is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone.

Brian Taylor, 26, joined Nasdaq in 2014 after graduating from Drexel with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Taylor, who spent time working at trading firm Susquehanna International Group LLP while he was in college, said that experience helped him get hired at Nasdaq. Taylor, a business controller at Nasdaq, said he likes that the new offices are so close to nearby universities, which allows Nasdaq to get exposure to students.

“It’s great that we’re in University City within Philadelphia,” Taylor said of the area where the new offices are located. “It’s a really up and coming neighborhood.”

Nasdaq is competing with a host of other companies for talent. Technology workers in particular are in high demand by all businesses. McGinnis of Temple University said technology students are placed in a variety of companies, including mutual fund giant Vanguard, which is based in nearby Malvern, Pennsylvania, as well as JPMorgan and shopping channel QVC, which is based in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

“There’s absolutely no shortage of jobs,” said Rosette Pyne, senior associate director, career services at Penn. “Everybody wants tech.”

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