Michael Radziemski has spent the last decade helping to make Lord Abbett & Co.’s IT more mobile and scalable in order to drive the asset manager’s aggressive growth strategy. That strategy proved particularly valuable after Hurricane Sandy battered the northeast last October. By Anthony Malakian with photos by Amy Fletcher
Lord Abbett & Co.’s corporate headquarters are nestled against the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. The 84-year-old firm has called Jersey City—known affectionately as “JC”—home since 2000.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many of the largest financial institutions on Wall Street opened offices in Jersey City to ensure business could continue in the event of another disaster. Since then, firms like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, UBS and others have joined Lord Abbett across the Hudson from Manhattan.
As these behemoths, and others, moved in, the city became a financial hub in its own right. But on October 29, 2012, Jersey City’s vulnerabilities were laid bare. On that day, Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard of the US, causing massive flooding and power outages. Recovery efforts are still under way in New York’s Financial District, and in parts of Staten Island, Long Island, and numerous other cities and towns in the northeast, including Jersey City.
A mere 20 paces separate the base of Lord Abbett’s headquarters and the shores of the Hudson River. So it’s no surprise that the building was crippled for a week as a result of the super storm. Fortunately for Lord Abbett, management had embraced automation, cloud computing and mobile strategies long before Sandy’s arrival. All of these measures—which allowed the firm to weather the storm—are overseen by Lord Abbett’s CIO, Michael Radziemski.
The ‘Aha!’ Moment
After earning his Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University in 1985, rather than building a niche in Silicon Valley—as he had originally planned—Radziemski found himself at Bankers Trust. After spending 14 years there learning the business, he moved over to MetLife after the insurance giant acquired Bankers Trust’s 401(k) unit, of which Radziemski was head of technology. MetLife turned into Citibank Global Asset Management, which he joined as global head of technology.
When the firm brought me in the idea was: Here’s somebody who’s seen the way things are in a larger firm and my job was to help Lord Abbett grow. That’s been a theme with everything we’ve done with technology since I’ve been here.
In 2003, Lord Abbett was in the process of significantly growing its business. To support that anticipated growth, the privately held asset manager needed to build out its infrastructure, which meant that it needed a CIO well versed in dealing with global IT challenges. Enter Radziemski.
When Radziemski joined in March 2003, Lord Abbett managed $49 billion. By July 2005 the firm broke the $100 billion mark, and today it manages $129 billion.
“When the firm brought me in, the idea was: Here’s somebody who’s seen the way things are in a larger firm and my job was to help Lord Abbett grow,” Radziemski says. “That’s been a theme with everything we’ve done with technology since I’ve been here.”
Compared to other US-based buy-side firms, Lord Abbett has aligned itself closely with new, innovative technologies. For example, soon after Apple released the iPad in 2010, the firm deployed the tablets to its sales force, making it one of the first capital markets firms to do so. Radziemski confesses that this was not a technology-driven initiative—it was the sales force demanding them. The firm has since deployed Lord Abbett virtual desktops for those iPads.
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