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Dan Royal: The Joy of Buy-Side Trading

This is the third in a series of articles profiling previous Markets Choice Award winners. Nominations are open for the 10th-anniversary MCAs program, which will be held on May 4, 2022 in New York.

Dan Royal, who won Buy-Side Trader of the Year at Markets Media’s 2018 Markets Choice Awards, has bought and sold equities for Janus Henderson, a global asset management group, for more than two decades.

Since Royal took the podium in New York to accept his award, one of the most dramatic shifts has been the industry’s response to the global pandemic.

“It’s quite amazing how quickly we all pivoted with the events of March 2020,” Royal said.

Equally amazing, he said is the transformational shift in working structure and productivity on a sustained basis that the industry has adopted.

“While return to office and face-to-face interaction appears to be broadly, and thankfully, on the horizon, the structural response from the last two years will benefit Janus Henderson for years to come,” he added.

Royal’s current role (since 2008) is Global Head of Equity Trading, where he oversees 17 traders distributed across Denver, London, and Singapore. His career began with Cargill Investor Services on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 1984, where he spent 11 years working through the ranks to eventually managing the Foreign Exchange floor operations. “With a couple stops in between, I landed at Janus in 2001 as a Senior Equity and Foreign Exchange trader, based in Denver,” he recalls.

Despite the numerous complexities that can come with the role, he said that he loves his job.

“My job satisfaction is largely driven by the incredible people I get to work with, within the department, the company, and the industry. I am truly fortunate to be working in such a dynamic ecosystem,” he said. “Every job has its downside, but small things like early mornings and the occasionally overcomplicated process are outweighed by the team and the opportunities for progress.”

Dan Royal at the 2018 MCAs

Over the years, he has experienced or witnessed several iterations of corporate and trading desk cultures. He feels that the nature of that culture greatly affects the potential for success of that firm and desk.

“What I sincerely appreciate is the culture at Janus Henderson establishes the foundation for what I believe is a truly successful global equity trading operation,” he said. “It’s the quality of this global team which makes this job so rewarding.”

He expects 2022 to be a year of transformation for Janus. The company has several large-scale technology transitions either in the mix or recently completed, including OMS, EMS and TCA applications. “Not to stop there, we are exploring better tools for portfolio monitoring and management of our Equity Capital Markets process,” Royal said.

Additionally, the firm is assessing sensible and meaningful methods of order flow automation, where practical. “With those efforts in motion, we also continually look to assess and mitigate risk within our workflows,” he said.

According to Royal, there is a constant overtone of evolution to the buy-side effort, with technology at the core.

“Whether it be our ongoing efforts to optimize our access to suitable liquidity, enhancing our measurement and reporting efforts or initiative to mitigate risk in our workflows, an ability to adapt to the changing landscape is critical to the buy-side seat,” he explained. “As much as we complain about market structure, I can say personally having spent years encouraging the Transaction Fee Pilot, that the US markets are among the best globally.”

“Sitting in this seat, we are always critical of structural inequities or conflicts of interest. That said, while the US markets are complex, they are very efficient from a perspective of price discovery and liquidity access,” he said.

He believes that buy-side equity trading is an exciting role now and going forward.

The only constant is change, he stressed, adding that identifying and adapting with those changes to serve client needs is “incredibly interesting and rewarding”.

Royal shared that his future goals are “an ongoing effort to help make this one of the best global equity trading teams in the industry”.

On the personal front, Royal is a proud father of two grown children. “One graduated from US Merchant Marine Academy and the other is hopefully bound for med school in the near future,” he said.

Outside of his career, he loves skiing, saying that aside from his annual struggle to ski the 50km of the Birkie each year, if all goes well, he’s hoping to log his third triathlon end of this summer.

Previous MCA Winner profiles:

Jennifer Nayar Tracks Evolving Fintech Space

Larry Thompson’s Career Advice: Keep an Open Mind