Adena Friedman Spills The Stock Exchange's Secrets - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Adena Friedman Spills The Stock Exchange's Secrets

Adena Friedman Spills The Stock Exchange's Secrets

By Joshua Eferighe


Because it's good to hear from ANYONE who really understand the markets.

By Joshua Eferighe

Adena Friedman is an American businesswoman who wears the pants at home and work. She’s also a Black belt in Taekwondo that’s never been knocked out. But more importantly, she’s the President and CEO of Nasdaq. Watch her tell Carlos about her fast-paced life and how she got to where she is. You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.

Getting to Go

Carlos Watson:  Were you like always predestined to be in finance and to be in the markets or was there a moment when you were thinking about doing something very different? How did you end up at NASDAQ?

Adena Friedman: I grew up in a family that understands investments. My father was the chief investment officer of Pure Price. So as a kid, I would go to the office with him. And I’d sit down on the trading desk and they’d teach me things and let me actually draw on their whiteboards also.

I wouldn’t say it was predestined, but I certainly think my early years definitely helped me understand that finance was accessible and something I could get into and be good at.

Watson: And you left for a little bit though.

Friedman: I really enjoyed my job. And I was the CFO of NASDAQ at the time, but I was working in New York and my family lives in Washington DC, and the kids were entering those years where it was harder to be away. I got a cold call from a recruiting firm asking if I’d be interested in the CFO role at Carlyle. They were looking for a CFO who would help them go public. Rarely in your career do you really have that opportunity to take a company public.

It allowed me to live and work in the same city. Three years in, the CEO of NASDAQ called and asked if I’d come back as the president to come run most of the business units. Coming back to NASDAQ though, was the best thing I could have done.

Watson: What’s been the hardest thing about being a mom?

Friedman: Gosh, it’s always going to be work-life balance. So my children are now in their 20s, so it’s a little bit easier today. But going up through my career, I had the children young. I had children all the way through my career, that work-life balance is always going to be the hardest thing.

Watson: Any interesting tricks or tactics or things you did that you think helped you manage the balance well that you would offer on to other parents who are watching?

Friedman: I think the most important thing is to communicate with your manager. So when I got pregnant for the first time, I went to my manager and I said, “Here I am pregnant.” And I didn’t really know what that was going to mean. “What does that mean for my life?” No one knows when you first are going through it. And luckily he had children. And so it really helped because he was very much, “Okay, what are we going to do to make this work for you? How are we going to find the balance?” He allowed me to work part time for three years.

And I took that opportunity. So if someone gives you that opportunity early in your time as a parent, try it, see whether it works for you. But for me, it was a great way to get a little bit of that balance I needed early. Then I still was promoted twice actually, while I was working part time, that then allowed me when I came back full time, to really propel my career forward. But talk to your manager, be open about it, try to find a path forward. Don’t internalize it all and think you have to handle all yourself. Talk to people and have them help you.

What Is Nasdaq?

Watson: I didn’t appreciate that NASDAQ is a $25 billion market cap company. You guys have $2 billion in revenues. It’s a pretty meaty, pretty substantive company. What do you to those folks who don’t understand exactly what NASDAQ is or what you do? How do you explain it?

Friedman: We leverage our technology to manage our own markets and we have great markets in the US, but we also now provide that technology to power 130 other markets around the world. Then we have a very scaled indexed business, $350 billion of assets under management tied to our indexes and a data and analytics platform that serves the investment management community.

Robbing Hoods

Watson: What did you think of the recent GameStop/Robinhood controversy?

Friedman: Well, the first thing I would say, take a step back, and over the last year, we’ve really seen a whole new generation of young people getting involved in the markets, and that, we see as a real positive. I think that the key though to be successful as an investor in the markets over the long-term is to make sure you educate yourself. There are a lot of benefits to being involved in the markets, but there are also risks. So just understanding that balance and thinking about you as a long-term investor, in addition to doing some short-term trading, right?

So now you flip forward to what’s happened over the last month and you realize that, with all of that engagement in the markets, there are a lot of new technologies out there that allow investors to speak to each other virtually and come up with ideas and go into the markets. But you also have to recognize that you don’t want to just go with the herd. You want to be able to make your own decisions and think it through.

Watson: I know all of these questions are nuanced, but big picture, what happened with GameStop and what happened with the surge in participation from everyday traders: a good thing, a bad thing, a thing?

Friedman: I don’t put a value on it, good or bad. I say it’s a phenomenon. I think the key is for investors to be very mindful of how they participate in that phenomenon, understand it, the risks and benefits, and at the end of the day, I think we also have to look at ways that we can continue to evolve the markets to make it so that all of these participants can come in and they also feel like they can come into a market that’s well-functioning and fair, and that’s our job, but we don’t really have a good or bad value on it, we just want to make sure that we’re evaluating it, and then investors are fully informed as they come into the markets.

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