Isaacson a Perfect Fit for New-Look CBOE

The soon-to-be head of tech for CBOE has all the necessary qualities.

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Dan explains why selecting Bats’ global CIO to run the technology for CBOE following its acquisition of Bats is the correct pick.

The process of putting together our cover stories, in which we profile a C-level executive at an end-user firm, is often months in the making. High-level technology executives don’t necessarily have a ton of free time, and when they do, spending it talking to journalists isn’t their main priority. 

Most of the time, setting up interviews months in advance is never an issue. Firms don’t tend to make drastic changes on a whim, and there is usually enough lead-up time to give us a chance to follow up with the subject if something at their firm changes dramatically. 

However, every once and awhile something momentous happens that wasn’t anticipated. 

That was the case on Sept. 26, when CBOE Holdings announced it had acquired Bats Global Markets. The news was obviously big for the industry, but also directly impacted our upcoming profile of Chris Isaacson, Bats’ global CIO, who, it was announced, would be named the CIO of CBOE Holdings following the closing of the deal. 

I knew the news meant I’d need to set up a follow-up interview with Isaacson for the story, which I did, but I wasn’t worried about my story, which you can find here. To be honest, it seemed like a natural progression for him in his career. He was, in my eyes, the best candidate for the job. 

Granted, all of these feats individually might not necessarily guarantee someone will be a strong candidate. However, the combination of them creates a well-rounded individual who understands the ins and outs of a firm he’s helped build for over a decade.

Well-Rounded

For starters, what makes Isaacson the right pick for leading the CBOE-Bats migration comes down to his background. It’s not that one thing stands out above the rest. It’s more the sum of the different experiences he’s had. 

Isaacson holds an undergraduate degree in computer science along with an MBA. And while that certainly doesn’t make him unique, it does show his understanding of the importance of knowing the business side in addition to technology. The same goes for the seven different Series licenses he’s earned. Isaacson is also one of Bats’ founding employees, and gained significant experience early in his career working directly with customers while managing the trade desk. 

Granted, all of these feats individually might not necessarily guarantee someone will be a strong candidate. However, the combination of them creates a well-rounded individual who understands the ins and outs of a firm he’s helped build for over a decade. 

He’s also someone who simply loves to take charge. It’s been a characteristic of Isaacson for a while. He talked about how, while getting his MBA, he spent a lot of time working on projects for industry people where he was building and delivering software.

“I just loved it,” Isaacson says. “I just liked to lead people. I liked to lead projects. And I liked technology.”

Accomplishments

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, there is Isaacson’s resume of accomplishments. Facts are facts, and successful integrations of Chi-X Europe, Direct Edge and, most recently, BZX Options, all show he knows his way around a big project. 

Perhaps, though, even more importantly is Bats’ failure of its initial public offering (IPO) in 2012. It’s easy to look good when things are running smoothly, but how a person reacts when things turn sour is even more important. 

Isaacson showed his resiliency, and added some to the exchange, by overcoming the initial disaster to have a successful IPO this year. While many might have crumbled under the pressure, he showed his ability to learn from his mistakes, readjust and try again. 

“The humility that was learned there has driven us to greater excellence and engineering,” Isaacson says. “Also, a healthy respect and fear that things can go wrong and therefore you engineer them in such a way so that they fail gracefully.” 

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