Witad Awards 2023: Market data professional of the year—Nancy Allen, EquiLend

“They call it ‘physical chess,’” says Nancy Allen, talking about the sport of fencing. “You learn to think physically and competitively under pressure. You’re always thinking two to three moves ahead—if I attack like this, how will my opponent counter, and what’s my counter to that?”

That experience gained from being captain of the Cornell University Varsity fencing team is something Allen—now global head of data and analytics at securities lending platform EquiLend—has always brought to her professional career: thinking on her feet and constantly asking, “How can we be competitive and successful?”

At EquiLend, Allen brings that to bear not only to her leadership of its Data & Analytics unit, but also to her role as US chair of the company’s leadership committee—an internal think-tank of executives from across the company who discuss strategic opportunities, how to do things better, and where they see the company in the future.

Another thing she brings to her role is a deep understanding of customer needs, having spent the first 16 years of her career before joining EquiLend at sell-side firms including Deutsche Bank, State Street, and Northern Trust, dealing with the spectrum of client types—from sovereign wealth funds and pension funds to central banks—and learning what matters to each client and how best to serve their needs. Having walked in the shoes of those who are now EquiLend clients, Allen is uniquely placed to understand their client needs.

When she joined EquiLend in 2016, running data was a new area to her, but the job drew on all the skills she had acquired over the course of her career. Since then, she has launched new data and analytics products, expanding the company’s flagship DataLend product into a suite of eight products, including Orbisa, the company’s first buy side-focused product, which provides metrics for hedge funds. Currently, her group is working on a new product, Trading Analytics, which provides insight into the operational aspects of trading flows across its NGT platform.

Through its existing products, the vendor also has the capabilities in place to support compliance with the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) proposed 10C-1 regulation to bring greater transparency to the securities lending market by requiring firms to report all securities finance transactions within 15 minutes of trading. For her part, Allen welcomes increased transparency because it creates opportunities for even more data products and services. “Our role is to look across EquiLend and source data to create new analytics,” she says. “Data is an asset. Giving it back to the markets to help them function more efficiently … is very rewarding.”

Equally rewarding—and more broadly important—is her participation in the industry group Women in Securities Finance, of which she was one of the founding members, and which now has more than 1,000 members. The group hosts events focusing on career development, networking, diversity and inclusion, and how women can better represent themselves within their companies.

“It’s important for younger women, but it’s also good for me to bounce ideas off more senior women. Many times throughout my career, I was the only woman in the room—and that never pleased me,” she says, adding a final word of advice: “I always say, ‘be confident,’ and even though I’m typically risk-averse, take opportunities, keep learning, and keep diversifying the skills in your toolbox.”

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