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Equilend : EquiLend 10th Anniversary
www.equilend.com 09 Profile: judith robertson EquiLend had definitely shaped what I felt I could achieve in the new business. In particular, it had changed the way I viewed what could be done through cooperation, rather than competition. I was now open to the possibility that you could work with people on the other side of the negotiating table to find a common aim. Back in 2001, this certainly was not a traditional business view: our work with EquiLend pioneered an approach towards cooperation that has now become much more prevalent. I see it today in the younger people coming up through the industry, who take it for granted that collaboration works for everyone’s benefit. The traditional view that we all had back then, that emphasised guarding proprietary information, seems a little silly to them. For example, I remember one of the big issues when we set up EquiLend was whether we would publish our application programming interface (API). Eventually, we took the decision that we would, but this was a tough decision; now there would be no question about it. At BGI, we had hoped to be able to get benchmarking into the platform. We saw increased transparency as one of the opportunities: we were a strong proponent of benchmarking and it was even a little uncomfortable for us to present returns on securities lending to investors without a benchmark. We were disappointed that we were out-voted on this issue, but concluded that, even without benchmarking, EquiLend would be a positive influence on the industry. At Venturion, I would use EquiLend as an example of what it was realistic to expect to achieve. It made me very aware of the challenges of getting people to use new technology or change the way they view their business. pErspECTivE I’d add that my experience with EquiLend has equipped me for my current role as a Commissioner to the Ontario Securities Commission [Judith was appointed as Commissioner in June], which I went to after two years as CEO of Belzberg Trading Technologies. Through EquiLend and then Venturion I had been active on policy matters and on the question of new market places, which are areas that I’m very interested in. At EquiLend we had to look at regulatory issues from several perspectives – dealer, lender, investment manager – and think through the policy issues. // Curriculum Vitae (extracts) 2011 – Commissioner, ontario securities Commission 2009 – President and Ceo, belzberg trading technologies, toronto 2003 – 2005 President and Ceo, Markets, toronto 1997 – 2002 head of global securities lending, bGi, san francisco Left: Judith Robertson at her desk at the ontario Securities commission in Toronto industry were looking for sponsors or partners; we had been approached once or twice. As head of securities lending, John Martinez asked me to do a strategic review at BGI. What came out of this was that the opportunities were greater if we collected a critical mass of participants from across the board than if we assembled just a few of the larger lenders or dealers. Initially, we worked to form a loose agreement with a group of three other lenders and dealers over the first few months. There was strong agreement about what we could achieve in improving administrative efficiency in the sector. It felt like the new business would take up where Loanet left off; back then Loanet had been working well for the US domestic market but internationally it was very weak. GrowinG pains From there, it was agreed that we would speak to other firms and that was when the fun started. Over the course of that first year, when the membership grew from a core of four to the final ten, there was a good deal of jockeying for position. Some new members demanded that certain participants be excluded – we were definitely on that list for a time! – while others, who weren’t included yet, demanded that they be part of it. There was a good deal of “who you know”, some serious arm twisting and, as the launch deadline approached, some last-ditch calls saying: “I’m going to get fired if I’m not at the table!” In May 2001, I had decided to return home to Toronto with my family; I was in transit crossing the country with them at the time of the incorporation photo which is why I’m missing. I worked with EquiLend until 2002, when I left to join Venturion, a start-up group that had raised funding for investment in financial services. At Venturion I focused on establishing BlockBook, a new electronic communication network (ECN) for block trading, for which there has always been a large market in Canada. EquiLend pioneered an approach towards cooperation that has now become much more prevalent” EL.indb 9 26/08/2011 09:54