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Lou Eccleston has beem named as the new chief executive officer of the TMX Group, operator of the country's largest stock exchange. Eccleston will assume the role on Nov. 3.The Canadian Press

There were a lot of names bandied about as the likely next head of Toronto Stock Exchange owner TMX Group Ltd.

Lou Eccleston was not one of them.

After months of speculation about who would be named the next occupant of the wood-paneled office of the TMX chief executive, the announcement Monday of an American executive with little name recognition in Canada was a surprise. It left traders and market users casting about for information on the man who will run the company at the heart of of Canada's most important financial markets.

So far, the picture that is emerging is of an expert with a background in data – a key business for TMX – but questions about his ability in other areas that are crucial for TMX. For example, running the TMX means dealing constantly with Canadian regulators, understanding the complex rivalries and alliances between different market users, and marketing the company's stock markets to corporate issuers.

While not a huge company in revenue or employee count, TMX is at the centre of the complex web of Canadian markets. The company owns stock markets that are home to most of the equity trading in Canada, bond trading systems, energy trading systems and clearinghouses for all those assets. TMX also provides data, indexes and connections to markets in Canada and around the world.

That makes the CEO a key figure in the financial community, and a player in debates on everything from high frequency trading to Canada's economic future.

"Everyone I talked to tells me he is very well spoken, follows through on what he says he will do and he gets technology," said Doug Clark, head of research at brokerage firm ITG Canada, which trades on behalf of large institutional clients. "People are optimistic about that."

"That said, everyone is also saying, 'How did they pick a guy who has no experience with running a market or having any dealings with issuers?' That seems to be the big concern."

Mr. Eccleston, reached by e-mail, declined to be interviewed. Mr. Eccleston worked in senior roles at Bloomberg LP and Thomson Financial, both known for their financial information terminals that traders depend upon. At Bloomberg he also ran the company's fledgling stock trading system. Most recently he was at McGraw Hill Financial, overseeing a unit that provided real-time data.

This will be Mr. Eccleston's first chief executive role at a major company. In the financial-data world, Mr. Eccleston has a significant profile. He was ranked No. 21 on a list of the 50 most important people in investing technology by the influential publication Institutional Investor.

And while he has not been CEO of a large public company, he has run big operations. At McGraw Hill, his business unit generated $1.7-billion (U.S.) in revenue, close to three times that of TMX.

McGraw Hill's executive vice president of corporate affairs, Ted Smyth, worked with Mr. Eccleston on the company's executive committee. He said Mr. Eccleston is "high energy, global, forward-looking, eloquent and a strong advocate for the power of technology and big data."

Yet four days after McGraw Hill put out a press release trumpeting Mr. Eccleston's naming to the institutional investor ranking, Mr. Eccleston was no longer with the company. A spokesperson for McGraw Hill Financial said Mr. Eccleston "departed to pursue other opportunities."

TMX has been seeking a chief executive replacement since March, when Tom Kloet announced he would be leaving by Aug 31.