Hall of Fame: Chris Johnson, HSBC Securities Services

IRD/IMD Awards 2017

IMD/IRM Awards 2017 Hall of Fame
Max Bowie and Chris Johnson

For Chris Johnson, senior product manager for market data, HSBC Securities Services, dealing with data management and regulation has been a relatively recent chapter in his career in financial services. But he has spent the past seven years educating the industry—attending some 30 conferences in 2016 alone—in the importance of achieving compliance with new regulations, especially the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II regulatory framework in Europe.

Johnson entered the City straight out of school, joining stockbrokerage Laurie Milbank, which would later be bought by Chase Manhattan Bank. Working in futures and options trading, he spent four months on the Liffe floor as a “yellow jacket”—a runner between traders and their firm’s box.

There he learned the value of reference data. “When I worked at the stockbroker, the people in the next room were the static data team. I asked what they did, and my boss—a wise and inspirational manager called John Nicoll, who was head of the futures and options back office at Laurie Milbank (and later head of futures and options at Chase Manhattan)—said ‘They have the most important job in the firm. They have to get everything right, or nothing in the firm works’,” Johnson says. 

After stints in over-the-counter derivatives, Johnson moved to Bankers Trust as a middle-office manager, running the client valuations team at the time of the Barings crash. “We heard the news about Barings on a Saturday night, and within 30 minutes on Sunday morning I was able to pull together all our exposures… Collating extracts from different systems and putting them together really reinforced the idea of good, centralized data,” he says.

From there, the idea became a theme; moving to Chase prior to its merger with JP Morgan, he worked on the Financial Technologies International (now GoldenSource) platform, then to UBS before leaving the long hours of the derivatives world behind and joining Threadneedle Investments as head of investment information services, where he implemented platforms such as Eagle Pace and GoldenSource. 

Johnson joined HSBC in 2006, and in 2008 was called upon to review bond prices for accuracy and consistency as the credit crunch hit. With the subsequent regulations directly affecting that function, “I’ve been on the regulatory data journey ever since,” he says. “I’ve spent much of the past seven years trying to ensure the right market data content is available to support regulatory reporting, to help our clients deliver the needs of the end-investor… All those formative experiences have contributed to where I am now.”

He is now elbow-deep preparing his own firm for compliance with new regulations, and urging cooperation and collaboration to ensure market-wide readiness. “When I first started attending conferences around 2005—I first spoke at one in 2007—people like Peter Serenita and John Bottega spoke so passionately about the subject that they inspired me to be more like them and to learn from them,” Johnson says. 

Johnson has found HSBC supportive of his efforts, which in turn bolster its own activities. “The senior people ‘get it’ and are totally supportive of the importance of getting this right. It’s a whole ecosystem of making sure we’re compliant, our clients are compliant, that we’re providing good service to them, have good relationships with our suppliers, and are trying to be ahead of any changes,” Johnson says.

Preaching to the converted is one thing, but still not everyone understands the gravity of impending regulations, and the role of data management in compliance. “When I’m explaining the importance of what I do to people outside the financial industry, I tell them, ‘For anyone who has an investment product that needs to be valued, I’m responsible for getting the data right. It’s about supporting investors. And the ultimate goal is to make the investment system safe and economic for investors’,” Johnson says.

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