Bull Rider

Amy Butte, CFO of the New York Stock Exchange, on deal making, change, and getting to ring the bell.

Amy Butte

Chief Financial Officer, New York Stock Exchange

This year's biggest deal on Wall Street? It's the New York Stock Exchange's agreement to merge with electronic trading firm Archipelago and go public. Amy Butte, 37, helped engineer that transaction — and has had a central role in the exchange's restructuring over the past two years. Here, she talks about creating change, the importance of understanding the past, and why her golf game is suffering.

I love seeing the impact of change. I have a high energy level for change.

It's one thing to do a deal. I have done a lot of deals. It's another thing to do a deal when you are making history. With Archipelago, we are making history for the exchange, for the way markets are structured, and for the way we will trade in the future.

Making change can often be difficult and unpopular. There are a lot of people who really embrace it; we're trying to become more public-company-like, and people are responding very positively. But I also see resistance. You have to explain why things have to change, talk about how the change will happen, lay out the benefits and advantages — not only for the business, but for their jobs — and then lead by example.

Every deal is unique. This deal takes a 213-year-old institution and generates a growth story.

I was very surprised by the lack of automation here. When I arrived, I found boxes of paper, floor to ceiling, in the finance department. Our procurement system was a typewriter, and we were still hand signing more than a hundred checks a day. The NYSE was best in class when it came to the technology on the trading floor. We weren't when it came to the technology that we used to operate our business.

One of the first things I did was take everybody down to the floor. Many of our people — some who had been here 20 years — had never been down there.

There's never enough time to spend on the floor. I'm close to the market, but sometimes I feel pretty far away from the markets.

I waste the most time reading email chains. I am copied on everything.

The old-boys network is always there. The nice thing is, we are forming an old-girls network every day.

Focus on the future, but understand the past.

Find something you are passionate about, and focus. My goal was to be a part of Wall Street. My passion has brought me as close to Wall Street as you're going to get.

People think I get to ring the [opening and closing] bell all the time. I don't. I've been on the podium, but I haven't been sole bell-ringer. I was there with the New York City Ballet [on whose advisory board she serves], and I got to ring the bell with the Sugar Plum Fairy. It doesn't get much better than that.

Have a goal. You can always change direction, but by having a goal, you keep moving forward. It keeps you more directed and makes you more effective.

I envy pro golfers and anyone else with a low handicap. I wish I had more time to work on my game.

And it would be awfully nice to have more time to walk the dog in the park and take a breath. The last 15 months have been busy. The last three, even busier.

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