Martín, Ferrarelli Scoop Top Awards at AFTAs 2018

UBS' COO, Beatriz Martín, and Charles Schwab Investment Management's CIO, James Ferrarelli, won the two highest-profile categories of the 2018 AFTAs: best technology executive (sell side) and best technology executive (buy side), respectively.

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Beatriz Martín, COO of UBS Investment Bank, won the final category of the 2018 AFTAs, best technology executive (sell side).

Best Technology Executive, Sell Side—Beatriz Martin, COO and UK CEO, UBS Investment Bank

Beatriz Martín, who featured on the cover of the April 2018 issue of Waters, is this year’s best sell-side technology executive, joining past winners, Jodi Richard (US Bank), Oliver Bussmann (UBS), Tim Wood (FBR & Co.), Edwin Marcial (Intercontinental Exchange), Steve Ellis (Wells Fargo) and Bob Greifeld (Nasdaq).  

Born and raised in Madrid, Martín started her capital markets career as a graduate trainee at Deutsche Bank in 1996. From 1996 to 2004 she held a number of roles in structuring and trading at the German bank in its London and Frankfurt offices. From 2004 to 2009 she was managing director and head of Iberia fixed-income sales, having been promoted from the role of executive director in 2007. After her Deutsche tenure, she joined Morgan Stanley as head of European fixed-income bank solutions and was a member of its interest-rate and credit operating committees from 2009 to 2011, before moving to UBS in November 2012 as chief of staff under the wing of then-CEO, Andrea Orcel. Three years later, Martín was installed as the investment bank’s global chief operating officer, although it was Orcel’s move to Santander in September this year that led to her highest profile role to date: CEO for the UK. “Having held the position of UK COO for three years, the transition to the CEO role was probably smoother than if I had come from the outside,” Martín explains. “That being said, the UK at the moment is going through significant political and regulatory changes, which by definition, presents some very real challenges for our UK business. Fortunately, with this position comes the opportunity to continue working with large numbers of dynamic and driven people, which stands our business in good stead regardless of the environment.”   

Martín cites a number of technology milestones that the investment bank has achieved during the course of 2018, chief among which is its UBS Flow toolchain. “This provides a continuous delivery pipeline from source code management through to automated build, test and deployment, as well as having a huge impact on how deployment is run, speeding up our risk-managed adoption of new technologies,” she explains. 

Other key developments Martín mentions include the firm’s relationship with Microsoft Azure and the creation of UBS’ Cloud Business Office, which will change the way the bank delivers technology and its ability to collaborate internally. “We have also set up the IB Innovation Lab and delivered the first successful POC in 2018,” she says.As for 2019, Martín has three primary objectives: to develop the firm’s cloud-native digital solutions on Microsoft Azure; to capitalize on its collaboration with industry peers and fintech partners around smart contracts and communications; and increase the use of container-based technologies (Dockers and Kubernetes) to isolate applications from infrastructure dependency.” 

Best Technology Executive, Buy Side—James Ferrarelli, CIO, Charles Schwab Investment Management

Institutions such as Charles Schwab Investment Management (CSIM) are certainly rowing with the current at the moment. The shift in investor appetite from actively managed portfolios, toward a preference for passive investment and exposure-based products has certainly been in the wheelhouse of providers such as CSIM, which can offer low-cost products to hungry clients—indeed, late 2018 saw some of the highest inflows for its exchange-traded fund (ETF) business. But all of this requires a delicate balance between products driven by demand and a technology backbone capable of delivering such offerings in an environment where even the slightest hiccup can be costly.

After all, to the average investor, it makes little difference whether they get their ETFs or index funds from CSIM, or Vanguard, BlackRock or any other number of competitors who would be all too happy to provide. Brand loyalty, these days, is primarily a function of two things—cost, and technological reliability, at least from a consumer standpoint.

Enter James Ferrarelli, who is tasked with keeping the lights on and the engine running at CSIM. As head of investment management technology, much of his focus has been on modernizing the technology estate at CSIM via a move to the cloud and hosted services. His tenure, which began in 2015 following long stints at Morgan Stanley Investment Management and JP Morgan Asset Management, has not only seen a 400-percent increase in cloud deployments, but also a reduction of well over 360 percent in on-premises vendor applications in favor of taking hosted solutions on a software-as-a-service basis.

In terms of modernization, Ferrarelli has also pursued an aggressive retirement strategy of legacy software, with what CSIM calls a “strong emphasis on fostering innovation” through deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning, and in automating end-to-end processes.

All of this isn’t just admirable from a pure technology standpoint. Against the aforementioned backdrop of cost control, CSIM says, Ferrarelli has held expenses to one-third of competitors, despite a 500-percent growth in the size of the overall organization.Technology heads, particularly on the buy side, are faced with extraordinary challenges today. They are required to be the perfect blend of business folk, with an eye on the numbers in their budgets and forecasts, while also having to be more conversant with and literate in the arcana of emerging technologies than ever before. Ferrarelli’s track record at an organization which, in many ways, is leading the charge in the changing world of investment management, makes him the well-deserved winner of the best technology executive award for the buy side at the 2018 AFTAs. 

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