Witad Awards 2020: Exchange professional of the year—Lauren Dillard, Nasdaq

Women in Data and Technology

For 17 years, Lauren Dillard worked at the Carlyle Group. It was going to take a unique opportunity to pry her away. Sometimes change presents itself as a new challenge—maybe a new city or a whole different industry or job function. Sometimes it’s the opportunity to work alongside someone you greatly respect. Dillard was ready for a new challenge, but it was the chance to once again join forces with Adena Friedman that led her to join Nasdaq in the summer of 2019.

Dillard and Friedman worked together for three years at Carlyle. Friedman, who was CFO at Carlyle, left to rejoin Nasdaq in 2014, first as president and COO, and later taking over as CEO at the start of 2017. Seeing Friedman put her stamp on Nasdaq, Dillard was ready to explore new opportunities with her former coworker, and she joined the exchange as the executive vice president of global information services. 

“When [Friedman] came back to Nasdaq, what interested me was her strategic pivot. I fully believe in what she laid out as far as delivering transparency to markets everywhere, and the need for data and analytics across the investment community,” Dillard says. “I believe she’s the best CEO in the business.”

Dillard, the winner of the exchange professional of the year award, believed in that push toward data and analytics, because she saw the need for it while heading Carlyle’s investment solutions business.

“It all goes back to that North Star: How do we provide transparency, data, and analytics to serve the capital markets?” she says. “I’ve got this best-in-class team on some of the historic legacy businesses, and then it’s my job to help the business move into new asset classes and support areas.”

In June 2019, Nasdaq joined with Microsoft to provide real-time US equity market data to Main Street investors. Through Microsoft, the general public can now access real-time data from Nasdaq Last Sale to inform their research and financial literacy. Additionally, Dillard and her team launched Nasdaq Smart Options, a service that allows for easier access and more transparency to essential options market data, with savings of 80% over the cost of connecting to the full standard Options Price Reporting Authority (OPRA) data feed.

“I usually tell people that it’s all about learning and never saying no to an opportunity,” she says. “I had a very non-linear career; I’m a nerdy tax professional. But you don’t say no to new opportunities and constant learning, so you find what you can bring to the table.”

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