The speculation around the next chief executive officer for exchange operator TMX Group Inc. includes a lot of the expected names, and one quite unexpected one. It's that last one that's getting some of the most attention.
TMX on Tuesday said CEO Tom Kloet would extend his term by a couple of months to Oct. 31, giving more time to get a replacement in place. That raised expectations that the contenders must include an outsider, since if it was going to be an internal candidate, why the delay?
Some names that have been bandied about include executives with track records at big rivals such as London Stock Exchange Group Plc (David Lester) and Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. (Eric Noll). But the candidate that people are really wondering about is said to be Raj Mahajan, an executive currently running a high-frequency trading (HFT) firm.
Here is what we know about Mr. Mahajan:
- His current job is at a high-frequency trading firm, as CEO of Allston Holdings. Allston's trading operation bills itself as "a premier principal trading firm that trades over multiple exchanges worldwide in a variety of product classes. We sit at the intersection of financial strategy and high-technology." In other words, the company is an HFT shop. Based in Chicago, it trades futures, equities and options.
In this video, Mr. Mahajan is speaking on the firm and some of his views on HFT regulation. He's not a fire-breathing defender of HFT strategies based on speed, at least in this clip. But nonetheless, if he is the choice of the TMX board, he will have to prove to skeptics that the TMX is not being handed over to a captive of the HFT industry.
- He's a technology guy. Mr. Kloet has often described TMX as an applied technology company, because of how much whiz-bang circuitry and software is required to be a top-notch exchange. Having run global trading for SunGard, a big exchange technology provider, Mr. Mahajan ticks that box.
- He knows more than just equities. And the TMX is much more than an equity exchange these days.
- He was educated at Princeton and the University of California at Berkeley, with degrees in economics.
- He is one heck of a tennis player. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was ranked No. 8 in the Northeastern Open Tennis Division by the United States Tennis Association.
Given the debate around HFT, if the TMX board does go with an HFT executive it will be a hotly debated move.
There are also likely to be questions about whether a technology focus is required. Exchange technology is in some respects commoditized, and there are going to be those who believe that what TMX needs more than that is an ambassador: someone who can reach out and bring the new listings and initial public offerings TMX needs to ensure that its stock exchanges are vibrant.
Mr. Mahajan would have to demonstrate that he is not in thrall to the HFT business, and that he can get out and sell Canada and its markets to the world.