CXO Series – Paul Cassell shares his insight about the challenges, role of compliance within IT and innovation in equities exchange firms
Mr. Cassell has served as the U.S. Chief Information Officer and Head of IT Compliance for NYSE Euronext since July 2012. He is better known as a Chief Transformational Officer as he has partnered with the business leaders to define the future of their Informational Systems bringing innovation and efficiency. This innovation has not only saved tens of millions of dollars within IT but delivery and quality have been enhanced in the NYSE core business units along with significant automation advancements that have come from Mr. Cassell’s IT compliance program.
Cassell previously served as the Global Chief Operations Officer for Information Technology for two and one half years where he created innovative programs that saved millions of dollars, streamlined processes and created a united IT vision that enhanced the partnership with the NYSE Euronext business leaders.
Mr. Cassell has been with NYSE organization since 2006 in the capacity as Senior Vice President for the Global Quality Assurance division within Information Technology. Prior to his NYSE positions, Mr. Cassell was Managing Director of Quality Assurance for Archipelago Holdings from June 2002 until the merger with the New York Stock Exchange in March 2006.
Throughout his 20 plus years in the IT industry, Cassell has dramatically improved the health of the corporate culture and workplace environment. His knowledge of automation on the system side and the process side is truly cutting edge. He feels responsible for the people in his organization and is proud to have mentored many individuals who have become senior leaders in both IT and on the business side.
Sajid Khan: Paul, Thank you very much for taking the time for the Interview. Can you begin by sharing your perspective on the role of CIO in the equities exchange business?
Paul Cassell: It’s a very interesting role. I view myself as a GM and it’s my job to create value for the U.S. business lines plus develop the IT strategy. I’m essentially a relationship manager that happens to understand the different facets of IT and has the aptitude to drive change and innovation within IT and our business lines. Sometimes the answers don’t have to be so complicated. I have said this before but it rings true time and time again; “you do not need to build the Taj Mahal when all you need is a pine box.”
SK: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges faced by equities exchange firms during the last couple of years?
PC: It’s a speed game these days and like it or not the business has been commoditized. It’s all about offering smooth uninterrupted service to our customers. This is easier said than done as the code and the Network infrastructure for the electronic Exchanges have gotten very complicated. The Exchanges need to understand the value of minimalist architecture and also testing. If you take a look at a lot of the technical issues that have plagued the Equity Exchanges including the other Electronic trading venues, ultimately the issues come down to a lack of proper testing on both the infrastructure side and the software side. In the future the Exchanges will need to put more value into testing and also move to a dev/ops model that will take advantage of the software development, testing and Operations folks working in a cradle to grave manner that will ultimately drive a greater product to market.
The other great challenge that continues to grow is the role of compliance within IT. Compliance used to be associated with a standalone group perched on the outside of the core organization handling market rules and regulatory audits. Now we are seeing Compliance roles growing within IT simply because there is a need for people who have both the technical aptitude and business acumen to build compliance programs and guide IT through the ever changing regulatory landscape.
SK: How do you relate risk-based IT compliance programs with the overall IT strategy?
PC: They need to be inter woven. If you have built an IT compliance team in an ivory tower then you are missing the boat. An IT compliance program needs to be part of the IT strategy and the C levels need to buy in and help drive the message through the organization. If done right the program can elevate IT performance and efficiencies and if done wrong it will be nothing more than a check box and looked upon as an audit function.
SK: As a CIO, do you have a portion of your team that is dedicated to innovation, and if so, what percentage of your budget is dedicated to innovation projects?
PC: We have an R&D group that is dedicated to innovation but we also try to incorporate innovation in our core products and we end up releasing many minor innovative software releases throughout the year. As a whole we dedicate 40%-50% of our budget on new innovative projects.
SK: What’s been your proudest achievement in your career?
PC: Being an integral part of designing and building four Electronic Exchanges for Arca and NYSE.
SK: What is your leadership style?
PC: I would say that my style is blend of transformational, charismatic and a bit transactional.
SK: While at prior roles, did you target a CIO level position for the next step in your career progression?
PC: Yes. When I started in IT I knew that I wanted to be in a role that could be transformational and I thought it was best that I needed a solid background on the software side (either QA or Development), Project Management as well as managing a Global IT Operations team.
SK: What advice would you offer to our readers who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
PC: There are no shortcuts and remember that life is not fair and will throw you curve balls. Don’t just be the hardest worker, try to be the smartest. It’s important to have a great attitude and when given the chance ensure that you are promoting your team and not yourself.
SK: Anything else you would like to share with other fellow c-level executives
PC: I would hope we can continue with our collaborative efforts in 2014 and I look forward to hearing about more innovative IT implementations from my peers.