There's a definite career path if you work in trading automation: after learning all there is to know about electronic trading early in your career, you then skip from one senior job to applying it at different banks and hedge funds until you comfortably retire.
John Lowrey, the former global head of electronic equity markets at Citi, and - for the past five years - Citi's global head of cash product strategy, has diverged from the norm. Lowrey left Citi in January this year. Yes, he now has plenty of advisory positions across the industry, but what he's truly passionate about is helping start-ups.
"I had a wonderful five and a half years at Citi," says Lowrey. "I was brought into to rebuild all the technology stack that went with trading, and we invested heavily in everything from infrastructure to algorithms, data and analytics and cloud, but that cycle was coming to an end."
Someone like Lowrey - who was global head of electronic product at Marex Spectron for two years, a former CEO of Chi-X global, and a managing director at Knight Securities before joining Citi - could find a new permanent role easily, but he says his long term goal was always to do something different. "- I didn't want to go into another bank - we are in the middle of a revolution in the fintech space right now, and I saw an opportunity-set in what's going on there."
Alongside his various advisory positions, Lowrey has therefore founded Imbrium Consultants, whose purpose he describes as working with fintech start-ups that can help banks drive the next phase of trading automation. "My view is that in the future most trading technology will be situated in two places," he says. "- The cloud and the colo [colocation - a physical data center], but right now most trading and risk management technology is still very localized and sits in banks' and brokers own four walls."
For the cloud move to happen, Lowrey says banks will need to revolutionize their approach to data. "The transportation of data between a specific location and the cloud at extremely high speeds necessitates the rapid modernization of the technology and databases that manage this," says Lowrey. "There will be a revolution in data management."
Getting data right for electronic trading in the cloud isn't just about low latency. It's also about an ability to use different kinds of data outside "normalized" data sets and to make them usable. Meme stocks are a case in point: "All of a sudden, social media became very, very important, and banks have found themselves woefully unprepared for a world where data is both unstructured and relevant in real time."
The technology for updating banks' data systems won't be generated internally, but will come from fintech start-ups, predicts Lowrey. "The fintech space is the most vibrant it's been for 10 years," he says. "I'm seeing a massive bubbling of innovation." At Imbrium, he intends to help technologists apply their expertise to the financial sector. " - I can act as a kind of translator to enable them to create products suitable for use in investment banks."
Lowrey himself is currently based in Florida, where he has a holiday home that he moved to at the start of the pandemic and has yet to return from. However, he says his new role is unrelated to his location, and that the fintech sector is scattering in any case: "It used to be that these firms were in New York or San Francisco. Now I'm meeting entrepreneurs who are anywhere from London to Tel Aviv to Eastern Europe, to Austin, Texas."
What about all the buy-side firms moving to Florida? Lowrey says they might need him too. "There a lot of hedge funds and asset managers moving to Florida, and they'll need electronic trading resources. - That's not why I'm here, but I am aware there might be demand for my services."
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