Bitcoin, Jason Sudeikis, WeWork Mark Historic Week at the NYSE

The New York Stock Exchange is known for many things including its historic trading floor, ubiquitous opening and closing bells, and colorful IPOs.

ProShares rings the NYSE opening bell.

This week, Bitcoin joined the list.

While crisp, fall weather greeted traders and staff early Monday as they entered the NYSE building in lower Manhattan, anticipation was already red hot for the debut of the nation’s first bitcoin-linked ETF. News coverage on the launch of the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF began the week before and had risen to a crescendo.

“Bitcoin Comes to the Big Board,” the widely followed the New York Times DealBook newsletter reported Monday.

The Bakkt team rings the first trade bell.

Even before the historic listing, the NYSE trading floor was host to another crypto-focused event. Bakkt, a digital asset platform for consumers, businesses and institutions, made its own market debut Monday with company executives on hand to ring the first trade bell. Bakkt was launched in 2018 by NYSE parent Intercontinental Exchange, so the visit represented something of a full-circle journey for the business.

While there was plenty to see inside the NYSE, outside the exchange a miniature soccer pitch arose from the cobblestones. It was built for an event featuring actor, writer and producer Jason Sudeikis, star of the hit Apple TV+ comedy series Ted Lasso, about an American college football coach hired to manage an English soccer team.

NYSE-listed healthcare provider Abbott and European soccer club Real Madrid put on the event to support children’s health and nutrition. Sudeikis seemed in his element on the green turf, passing the ball to teens from the Real Madrid Foundation’s Social Sports School in New Jersey during a series of shooting drills.

Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis at the NYSE.

“As long as the fans of Real Madrid don’t think that I’m being hired as a player, or even worse as a coach, then I think everything’s going to be fine,” Sudeikis deadpanned during a video interview with NYSE Floor Talk host Judy Shaw.

As the sun came up Tuesday morning, preparations were well under way for the launch of the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF. Providing exposure to the cryptocurrency through Bitcoin futures, the fund is the first of its kind, and the ProShares team, led by CEO Michael Sapir, traveled to the exchange to ring the opening bell.

“It all has to start somewhere,” Douglas Yones, the exchange’s head of exchange traded products, told the ProShares bell ringers and guests in the ornate NYSE Board Room, where they gathered just prior to the ceremony.

The week’s activities were varied and exciting, both in the building and remote. On Wednesday, for example, the NYSE Board Advisory Council, which focuses on diversity in the boardroom, held a virtual meeting featuring speakers Kenneth Frazier, council member and executive chairman of NYSE-listed pharmaceutical provider Merck, and SEC Commissioner Allison Lee. Since its founding in 2019, the council has set up more than 500 meetings between diverse candidates for board seats and companies looking for directors.

A large crowd celebrates WeWork’s listing.

Early Thursday morning, the cobblestones in front of the NYSE were home to another well-attended event. CNBC brought Squawk Box to the NYSE to cover the highly anticipated listing of WeWork, the flexible workspace provider, transforming the space that served as a soccer pitch on Monday into a pop-up TV studio.

Anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani and Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure under portable stage lights as a large crowed looked on and cheered. Sorkin commented on the crowd, as did NYSE President Stacey Cunningham about an hour later in the NYSE Board Room when she welcomed the WeWork team and their guests.

“It was so exciting to hear all of the emotion outside, all of the excitement this morning,” Cunningham told the gathering. “Walking down the street, you could feel the energy.”

Not long after the 9:30 a.m. opening bell, WeWork shares began trading on the NYSE. It was one of five companies to go public on Thursday amid a total of 16 making their public debuts at the exchange this week, extending what is already a record year for new listings.

The week concluded as it began, with crypto front and center at the NYSE. Bakkt was scheduled to ring the closing bell Friday, ending the historic week’s final trading session.

This story was initially published on the NYSE website.

As Wildfires Burn, ICE Shows How Sophisticated ESG Tools Have Become

Wildfires are raging across the western United States, destroying homes, commercial buildings and entire towns. The biggest is the Dixie Fire, which has spread across more than 700,000 acres in Northern California and turned more than 1,200 buildings to ash.

“My defiantly quirky, beautiful adopted hometown turned into a ghost town last night,” reporter Meg Upton wrote on Aug. 5 in the Plumas News. In an unstoppable march of heat and flame, the Dixie Fire erased the bulk of Upton’s hometown of Greenville from existence.

As with many of the more than 150 wildfires burning today, the Dixie Fire was fueled by dry timber and high temperatures amid a changing climate.

A house in flames at the Dixie Fire near Greenville, Calif. Reuters/Fred Greaves

A nation away, experts at Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange, known as ICE, and climate and ESG data provider risQ, headquartered in Boston, work to help identify and quantify the risk associated with such potentially disastrous events. Their efforts power a young service called ICE Climate Risk, developed for those who invest in the trillions of dollars in bonds that municipalities have sold to pay for hospitals, power plants, schools and other critical infrastructure.

ICE Climate Risk sits at the cutting edge of modern ESG tools, with the most advanced growing remarkably sophisticated in recent years as those who invest in a variety of asset classes pay rapt attention to environmental, social and governance issues.

“ESG is definitely evolving,” says Mark Heckert, who oversees ICE’s fixed income and data services products.

ICE Climate Risk works by dividing the nation’s 48 contiguous states into 100-square-meter cells and analyzing each for its risk from different climate events. Comprising more than 1.3 billion cells in total, the data set quantifies risk for events including flooding, hurricane, heat stress, drought and, of course, wildfire.

Climate risk can be particularly important to investors in municipal bonds, as these securities are tied to the locations of the projects they fund. For example, a bond sold to pay for a new library in an area with a high risk of flooding may warrant a different price than a similar bond in a location with little threat from the climate.

“We can tell you for every patch of dirt in the U.S., what debt is sitting on it,” says risQ CEO Evan Kodra.

Map showing risQ wildfire scores and historical fire perimeters.

Indeed, ICE Climate Risk had identified Plumas County, where Upton’s hometown of Greenville is located, as falling in the 98th percentile of wildfire risk across the United States and the 86th percentile in the fire-prone state of California. Of course, the database could not predict when the Dixie Fire would occur. It can and did, however, quantify the likelihood of such an event.

“It was way at the top end of the percentile in that risk,” says ICE’s Spencer Gallagher, who helped develop ICE Climate Risk together with Kodra.

ESG investing has been around for some time, with the United Nations launching its Principles for Responsible Investment in April 2006 at the New York Stock Exchange, which is owned by ICE. Yet, demand for high-tech ESG tools like ICE Climate Risk has grown most rapidly in recent years as investors have demonstrated a keen interest in projects and organizations whose values and approaches align in these areas.

Launch of the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment at the NYSE.

In addition to climate risk, ICE is involved in many other areas of ESG investing. “ICE was an early investor in this space and has been helping develop these markets for many years,” says Brookly McLaughlin, who oversees ICE’s sustainability efforts.

In some ways, the company’s offerings represent a microcosm of the modern ESG universe.

For equity investors, ICE’s ESG Reference Data tracks about 500 ESG metrics across publicly traded companies including carbon emissions, renewable energy, diversity and inclusion, and board profile. The NYSE leverages this data as it works with its 2,400 listed companies to help them adopt best practices in ESG standards and disclosure.

The NYSE Arca exchange lists more than $23 billion of ESG-focused ETFs. ICE also lists numerous climate-related futures contracts in Europe and North America, allowing companies and other organizations to offset their carbon footprints.

In early August, ICE, together with risQ, announced that municipal bond investors can now receive data to help evaluate the potential social impact of an investment, an area of fast-growing interest. Similar to ICE Climate Risk, they can use this information to analyze poverty, employment, racial diversity and other factors in the geographies where the bonds’ underlying projects live.

Growth in the importance of ESG investing doesn’t seem likely to disappear anytime soon. Earlier this month, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report that received wide media coverage, finding that temperatures will continue to rise globally “until at least the mid-century.” This almost certainly will make the ability to identify the risk of climate events like the Dixie Fire even more critical in the years ahead.

“When we first started, a lot of the market originally was skeptical that a lot of this stuff was ever going to matter,” Kodra recalls. “That clearly changed.”

This story was initially published on the NYSE website.

The Unassuming Nerve Center of the NYSE Trading Floor

There are no signs announcing its location. No painted lines on the parquet floor to guide visitors. Yet, every trader at the New York Stock Exchange knows the way to this small but critical area of the famed 16,000 square-foot trading floor.

It is called, quite simply, the Ramp.

Modest in name and appearance, the Ramp serves a crucial function at the modern NYSE, where technology and human expertise complement each other to power the world’s largest stock market. When traders have questions about technology or trading or exchange rules — or when major market events occur — there’s only one destination.

Young traders learn this from the very beginning.

“The Ramp was our command center,” recalls Jay Woods of DriveWealth Institutional, a veteran of more than 25 years on the floor. “If there was ever an issue, you always would hear, ‘Just go to the Ramp.’”

Officials working at the Ramp as the closing auction approaches during a big market day.

Physically, the Ramp is aptly named. An 18-foot-long inclined walkway with high-top desks on both sides, the Ramp leads to an area of the floor where key NYSE support teams are present. To the left and right, the Ramp is framed by nearly five dozen video displays, capturing the real-time status of all the data and technology that impact the floor.

“I always think of the Ramp as the bridge from Star Trek,” says Peter Tuchman, a broker with Quattro Securities who started on the floor in 1985.

A softly lit archway at the foot of the Ramp is the only clue that something significant lies within.

Charlie Caccese, whose 10-person NYSE floor operations team manages the Ramp, describes it as a conduit to support expertise across the organization. The Ramp’s population includes representatives of the exchange’s trade and system operations teams. Members of NYSE Regulation and the exchange’s end user computing group are present as well.

Like the NYSE and floor community it serves, the Ramp’s work has evolved over the years. Questions about trading have always been an important function for the Ramp, but over time its support of floor technology has grown substantially.

NYSE floor brokers today work the trading floor with wirelessly connected tablet computers at the ready. During major IPOs, TV viewers will see brokers crowd around trading floor posts as pricing information is yelled out and the stock prepares to open. Thanks to their handheld devices, brokers can place orders right from the middle of the scrum.

Peter Tuchman of Quattro Securities using a wireless handheld device.

“The Ramp community is there to help us interface with the floor’s technology and that’s a huge job,” Tuchman says. “So, their job has gotten much bigger and much broader.”

In addition to brokers like Tuchman and Woods, the NYSE’s Designated Market Makers also leverage exchange technology supported by the Ramp. DMMs facilitate trading in the NYSE’s listed securities and play a critical role in the opening and closing auctions.

On the biggest market days, the Ramp typically draws a crowd. June 25 marked this year’s FTSE Russell index reconstitution, a massive trading day the NYSE and floor community anticipate weeks in advance. NYSE President Stacey Cunningham and other senior executives made their way to the trading floor to oversee the closing auction together with the Ramp’s regular staff.

“We were all there. It was a big day,” says Rob Turtoro, who leads the NYSE’s trade operations team. That afternoon, the closing auction totaled 2.1 billion shares, six times normal volume.

There have been many historic moments for the Ramp. During the extreme volatility seen in March 2020 in the early days of the pandemic, market-wide circuit breakers were triggered four separate times when the S&P 500 fell by 7%. Trading was halted for a stress-filled 15 minutes each time. The ability of the Ramp’s key teams to provide coordinated human support right on the floor was critical.

“I don’t think any other exchange really has that,” Turtoro says.

Jay Woods of DriveWealth Institutional on the NYSE trading floor.

Not long after the March market-wide circuit breakers, the Ramp stepped forward in a new way. The NYSE floor closed temporarily but stocks continued to trade, the first time this had happened in the exchange’s history. Trading progressed fully electronically and companies remained able to raise capital throughout the 9-week closure.

To support remote IPOs and follow-on offerings, some innovation was required. This included the Ramp’s ability to monitor the process using video conferencing, publish pricing information for the public and allow DMMs to access their systems from afar.

“We had to somewhat get creative to allow the raising of capital while no personnel were allowed onto the floor,” Caccese says.

These transactions provided badly needed capital for companies during an uncertain moment in our history. Today, of course, the situation has changed dramatically. The U.S. economy is reopening and normal is steadily returning.

With little fanfare, the Ramp continues to serve. “These people,” Woods offers, “are the unsung heroes of the floor.”

This story was initially published on the NYSE website.

NYSE’s Newest Upgrades Start Right at the Front Door

During the pandemic, the New York Stock Exchange took extraordinary steps to keep its markets open and operating smoothly. At the same time, it was quietly making major upgrades away from the trading floor.

Finding them is as simple as walking through the front door.

Visitors will see the first of these improvements as soon as they step off the cobblestones that line lower Manhattan’s Broad Street and enter the building’s redesigned main lobby. Those who have visited before will witness a stunning transformation. Those entering for the first time will be treated to a sleek, modern experience that marries the exchange’s past and its high-tech future.

A view of the NYSE’s redesigned lobby showing its two 24-foot video displays.

The space that greets visitors is designed to exist in concert with both the exterior of the Greek Revival style building and the recently renovated event floors above, which include the NYSE’s iconic boardroom, home to IPO celebrations, conferences and investor events.
“There is a cohesiveness of look and feel that was achieved by the materials and the finishes and the lighting,” says Jim Katsarelis, who manages NYSE building operations and led the 2-year renovation. “Technology also played a part.”

The NYSE’s Jim Katsarelis is interviewed by Cheddar’s Jon Steinberg about the redesigned lobby.

When it first opened to the public in 1903, the George B. Post-designed building provided more space and convenience for traders and better light and ventilation than the prior structure. The new renovations place a premium on the visitor experience. Two 24-foot-long video displays line one side of the lobby, guiding guests as they move through the expanse toward the elevator bank and the floors above. On the other side, smaller screens describe key moments in the creation of the modern NYSE. One even challenges guests with a trivia quiz that cycles through 100 distinct questions.

Glass-enclosed exhibits curated by the NYSE’s archivists bring to life the listed companies that sit at the core of the NYSE community. There’s a miniature version of NASA’s Orion Space Module, a project led by Lockheed Martin, and a NIO Founders Edition electric car. Items highlighting longtime NYSE issuers like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Campbell Soup Company welcome visitors as well.

The lobby plays a particularly important role for the NYSE. While news images tend to focus on its colorful floor traders, the exchange’s building at the corner of Wall and Broad streets is a hub of activity for the NYSE community, which includes more than 2,300 listed companies.

The entrance to the NYSE’s redesigned lobby featuring wall displays and freestanding exhibits.

In the last full year before the pandemic, nearly 90,000 guests entered the exchange. They came to celebrate IPOs and direct listings, attend conferences and investor meetings, participate in bell ceremonies and media interviews. They included founders, CEOs, CFOs, board members, executives, portfolio managers, government officials and foreign dignitaries.

Gifts from NYSE-listed companies Coca-Cola and NIO exhibited in the NYSE lobby.

As the reopening in New York and across the nation progresses, the flow of exchange visitors continues to pick up. Importantly, the gatherings they attend have been enhanced, with the ability to hold remote events developed during the pandemic creating a new normal that combines in-person and remote attendance.

“We’ll always have this hybrid, remote option,” says Tina Schippers, who with her colleagues managed about 2,000 NYSE events in pre-pandemic 2019. “People are always going to want to use the technology that we tapped into the past year.”

This will significantly extend the reach of NYSE celebrations and conferences, Schippers explains, reaching many more people than in-person events alone. Activity will ramp up further this summer before reaching a pandemic-era crescendo after Labor Day.

If the NYSE’s upgrades are substantial, the work required to get there was extraordinary. Katsarelis’ lobby renovation began prior to COVID-19 in early 2019, but construction started later that year and ran throughout the pandemic. In fact, the lobby itself has only just reopened, welcoming guests for the first time the week before Memorial Day.

A team of about 80 people from a dozen separate NYSE areas participated in the project. Because the lobby is located directly under the trading floor, work had to be done on nights and weekends to avoid impacting market operations. For example, more than 42 miles of old telecommunications cable were removed during construction, which routinely ran until midnight or 1 a.m.

Further, Katsarelis explains, since construction is not an activity that can be accomplished remotely, team members had to adopt new safety protocols to keep the project moving.

A trade confirmation slip from 1942 found during construction on the new NYSE lobby.

Their efforts did, however, yield some unexpected gems. Workers unearthed historical items that had somehow found their way into the building’s structure, including a remarkably well-preserved trade confirmation slip from 1942.

“We were able to get some pretty cool artifacts,” he says, “that literally fell out of the ceiling.”

This story was initially published on the NYSE website.

The High-Tech NYSE That Nobody Ever Sees

It’s shortly after midnight and the New York Stock Exchange is waking up.

Miles away from its famed trading floor in lower Manhattan, the NYSE’s massive array of servers begins whirring to life. Serge Sheynkman’s system operations team monitors closely as the applications that power the NYSE begin their startup actions, preparing for a trading day that is still more than nine hours away.

The process itself is automated, bringing up system after system until all are ready to trade. Meanwhile, Sheynkman’s team stands prepared if manual intervention is needed.

“They are ready to address any unexpected circumstances,” he says. “They are the best in the business.”

This is the modern-day NYSE, powered by technology remarkable in its scale and capabilities. Visitors and TV viewers never get to see this NYSE, critical to a market that trades more than 1 billion shares a day and lists companies worth a combined $35 trillion.

Serge Sheynkman and his system operations team at work.

The colorful floor traders so familiar to millions around the world may be the public face of the exchange, but they interact regularly with an impressive array of technology that operates far off camera. This high-tech NYSE touches market participants in many ways.

While traders and investors get their last few hours of sleep before heading to work, a second team logs onto the NYSE’s systems. At about 3 a.m., the trading operations group verifies that all business and regulatory data needed for the day’s session have been loaded. This includes the details of upcoming new listings, like IPOs, as well as corporate actions announced late the prior day, such as dividends and stock splits.

At about 6:30 a.m., the floor operations team, located in the historic exchange building at 11 Wall Street, gets involved, powering up the technology that connects the exchange’s floor brokers to the rest of its systems. About an hour later, trading operations confirms that the Designated Market Makers’ systems are ready for trading.

Hope Jarkowski on the NYSE trading floor.

“That technology is really important for a lot of reasons,” says Hope Jarkowski, who leads the NYSE’s equities business.

The ability of brokers and DMMs to seamlessly connect with the NYSE’s main trading engine, Pillar, enables the exchange’s unique model to shine, she explains. Traders can manually jump into transactions when their experience and judgment prompt them to do so, while the NYSE’s systems can execute trades in fractions of a second when no intervention is required. Together, the combination of humans and machines performs far better than either one could alone.

Technology, though, never takes a curtain call.

When everything operates smoothly, there is nothing to see and nothing to hear. This was very much the case during the market volatility that emerged during the early days of the pandemic as well as the frenzied trading during the meme stock boom earlier this year.

NYSE systems activity can be measured by looking at the number of electronic messages processed. These messages include orders, quotes and trades. On March 4, 2021, the combined systems of the NYSE Group, which include the NYSE’s affiliated exchanges, surpassed their early pandemic record of 329 billion in a single day to process a stunning 356 billion electronic messages. Activity at this level had never been seen in the years prior to the pandemic.

Building systems capable of handling all this represents something of an engineering marvel. More than just speed and capacity, the NYSE’s Pillar trading engine, for example, exhibits remarkably little variance from transaction to transaction. This quality, known as determinism, allows traders to place orders more confidently, knowing exactly how long their money will remain at risk before their trades are completed. Traders measure this in microseconds. In today’s market environment, every microsecond represents an opportunity.

Keeping such systems running smoothly requires time and attention.

At about 8 p.m. as after-hours trading ends, the exchange’s systems finally come offline with additional activity ahead. For the next couple of hours, Sheynkman’s team starts preparing for the next trading session. After that, the systems enter their maintenance window, when a variety of changes and updates take place.

“We target to finish all our activities by 11 o’clock at night,” he says. “So, we do sleep.”
But only for an hour or so. Shortly after midnight, the NYSE begins to wake again as a new trading day arrives.

This story was initially published on the NYSE website.