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The Inflection Point: Industry Leaders to Convene at STA’s Market Structure Conference

In autumn tradition, the kids are back to school and the adults are back to work. Those who work in financial services have their own autumn tradition: Security Traders Association’s Annual Market Structure Conference, now in its 89th year of bringing together senior leaders from brokers, exchanges, buy-side firms, technology vendors, government entities and more to discuss the most important issues facing the industry.

This year’s event will take place on October 12 – 14 at the JW Mariott in Washington, D.C. – and for the hundreds of speakers and delegates who plan to attend, both in-person and virtually, it’s safe to say that the changing leaves won’t be the only transformation on their minds.

Kate McAllister, STA Chair

“It’s hard to think of any subset of our industry that hasn’t been affected by significant or unexpected trends in the past few years, whether those relate to business, technology or regulation,” said Kate McAllister, STA Chair. “When we thought about the most important topics of discussion among our members – from the deepening relationship between digital assets and traditional markets, to the increasing impact of retail investors, all the way to the midterm elections that will take place less than a month after our event – we realized that the current moment is a critical one that could define the future of many facets of our market structure. That quickly led us to the title of this year’s conference: The Inflection Point.” 

Fireside speakers that have been revealed to date include senior regulators (Hester Peirce, SEC; Robert Cook, FINRA), exchange leaders (Michael Blaugrund, NYSE; Ed Tilly, Cboe) and other senior business executives (Douglas Cifu, Virtu; Dan Gallagher, Robinhood) in the industry. In addition to these one-on-one interviews, the program will include a wide variety of panels featuring several speakers apiece, each one bringing their own perspective to the issues that will set the tone for the year ahead and beyond.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Digital Assets Take Centerstage

Digital assets are no longer a new topic in market structure circles, but growing adoption, market turmoil and increasing regulatory scrutiny mean they have taken on greater importance than ever before. This year’s STA Conference will see Dmitri Galinov (24 Exchange), Brian Mulcahy (StoneX Digital), Craig Salm (Grayscale), Jamil Nazarali (EDX), Zach Dexter (FTX Derivatives) and Johann Kerbrat (Robinhood Crypto) sit down to discuss the key questions facing this emerging asset class, including how it will reflect and coexist with traditional markets. Our nation’s capital will serve as a fitting backdrop for the conversation. In May, the SEC announced its plan to nearly double the size of its Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit to support its increasing focus on regulating digital assets – a commitment that Chair Gary Gensler reaffirmed in a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Panelists will also discuss some of the unique characteristics of digital assets (such as decentralized finance), the ongoing migration from traditional to digital assets (in terms of both business strategies and individuals’ career paths) and more.

Listed Options Brace for Change

Over the past two-plus years, the rise of retail trading has been a case study in the power of the collective. By themselves, these individual investors comprise only a tiny fraction of the market, but together, they have made their impact known, resulting in a host of unforeseen consequences from the rise of meme stocks to scrutiny of payment for order flow, gamification and more.

These dynamics have been particularly pronounced in the options market, where many retail investors dedicate most of their focus. With options trading up 35% year-over-year in 2021 – and approximately one-quarter of that volume originating from retail investors – regulators have turned their eye to this asset class with a renewed vigor. At the STA Conference, Anthony Denier (Webull), Stino Milito (DASH Financial Technologies) and Erik Swanson (Simplex Trading) will discuss this new regulatory environment as well as wider market structure issues and the overall investor experience in the listed options market.

Buy-Side Innovation Moves Ahead

Amid these shifting landscapes, the buy side continues to drive innovation in our industry. As cost and technology pressures ramp up, these firms have embraced new and emerging ways to gain an edge on the competition, including outsourced trading, multi-asset strategies, ESG and more.

STA will provide representatives from some of the industry’s most prominent buy-side firms – Ashley Banfield (Fidelity Investments), Bojan Petrovich (J.P. Morgan Asset Management) and Tammy Wiggs (T. Rowe Price) – a forum to discuss these trends, their business impacts and key innovations that have been developed to navigate them smoothly.

Furthering the Mission

STA’s mission is not just to educate its members, but also to effect positive industry change and give back to the community. To that end, as with past STA Conferences, this year’s program will also include elements designed to highlight charitable causes or promote diversity and equity within financial services.

The conference will play host to the 7th Annual STA Women in Finance Symposium, a limited-seating session where attendees can gather to exchange ideas about advancing inclusion in the financial services space – and hear from women who are blazing the trail. This year’s keynote speaker is Erin Gibbs (Main Street Asset Management). Finally, this year’s STA Charity of Choice is Catch a Lift Fund, which helps combat-injured veterans regain their mental and physical health through gym memberships, in-home equipment, personalized fitness and nutrition programs and a peer support network. As it has done throughout 2022, STA will provide a platform for Catch a Lift to speak on the importance of these issues and encourage attendees to lend their support.

It’s all in store at this year’s STA Market Structure Conference. While U.S. market structure may be rife with uncertainty, one thing is clear: providing a forum where the people who shape this system can share their views, answer questions and advance new ideas will lead to a better, more informed industry, no matter where one sits. To register for the 89th Annual STA Market Structure Conference, click here.