A Friday to Remember: 89th Annual Market Structure Conference Shines a Light on STA’s Mission

I am proud to say that STA’s 89th Annual Market Structure Conference is in the books. On behalf of our entire Board of Governors, I’d like to once again extend a sincere thank you to all speakers, sponsors and attendees who joined us in Washington DC. Year in and year out, these individuals and firms are the driving force behind our flagship event, helping us to fulfill our mission.

This year’s conference theme – The Inflection Point – underscores many of the key issues facing our industry. On Wednesday and Thursday, a long list of regulators and executives from leading exchanges, broker-dealers, buy-side firms and technology vendors took the stage to discuss topics including SEC rulemaking, payment for order flow, the retail revolution, outsourced trading and more. You can view some of the highlights on our Twitter feed.

But it was perhaps the final day of our conference – Friday – that best illustrated the purpose of STA. To sum up our mission, we often use the acronym ACES: Advocate, Communicate, Educate, Support. While our Friday agenda was abbreviated – the Acela trains fill up fast, after all – those in attendance experienced a program that exemplified all four of these core pillars. While they still got to watch experts discuss the most pressing topics facing our markets, it was also a chance to take a step back, reflect and renew their involvement in the community that makes being part of STA – and the entire financial services industry – so rewarding.

Here’s a recap of the four Friday sessions – one for each component of our mission.

Advocate: Midterm Elections Take the Spotlight

Joel Oswald and Christopher Wilcox, both of law firm Williams & Jensen, helped our attendees gain a better understanding of this year’s midterm elections, which are now less than a month away. On a panel moderated by Jillien Flores of the Managed Funds Association, they identified the key House and Senate races to watch, as well as the potential effects of a wide range of Election Day outcomes.

Keeping our finger on the pulse of the political landscape helps our organization and our members to develop more informed opinions regarding market structure and regulation, and to be more adaptable in an unpredictable environment – in other words, to become better advocates for our industry.

Communicate: Bob Pisani Shares Lessons from a Career on the Trading Floor

If you work in financial services, chances are that CNBC Senior Markets Correspondent Bob Pisani is a familiar face. For 25 years, Pisani has reported live from the iconic NYSE trading floor to give the public unique insight into not just the markets, but the people and firms that power them.

Many of these insights are captured in Pisani’s new book: “Shut Up and Keep Talking: Lessons on Life and Investing from the Floor of the New York Stock Exchange”. During the Friday program, he recapped several of the highlights, from his views on stock picking to the evolution of electronic trading to his encounters with iconic names like Jack Ma, Robert Downey Jr. and Aretha Franklin. The topics he covered were diverse, but the common thread is an abiding belief in our industry and in markets as a force for good.

“I don’t think you’re best off thinking of yourself as ‘sell side,’” said Pisani to those in attendance. “For Wall Street, we are in the dreams business. America looks to us to save for their lives and their retirement.”

Over the course of his long career in television, Pisani has consistently engaged with financial services professionals of all backgrounds and spotlighted the most essential issues facing our careers and livelihoods, exemplifying what it means to communicate within our industry.

Educate: Experts Examine the Crypto Landscape

The most industry-heavy element of the Friday program was Part II of our crypto panel, featuring Zach Dexter (FTX Derivatives), Johann Kerbrat (Robinhood) and Jamil Nazarali (EDX Markets) and moderated by Jesse Hamilton (CoinDesk). They discussed a wide range of issues facing the digital asset space, from regulation to adoption. Here, our conference theme – The Inflection Point – was on full display.

“Everyone who has spent time in DC has sensed the ground shifting in terms of regulating crypto,” said Hamilton. “There is a serious effort gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.”

The recent Ethereum merge was another key topic. In transitioning from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake, Ethereum’s energy consumption rate was reduced by about 99.95% and required no action from users.

“Ethereum’s merge was great. It now uses so much less energy and offers a yield, which makes it more attractive as an investment,” said Nazarali. “But one potential negative: it is now closer to being considered a security, because it offers a yield.”

In taking a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of a key digital asset, this panel served as a great representation of how STA works to educate its members.

Support: Catch a Lift Empowers Combat-Injured Veterans

Finally, we spent some time highlighting STA’s charity of choice for 2022, Catch a Lift Fund, which offers physical and mental healing resources to combat-injured veterans, including gym memberships, equipment, health programs and peer support networks. This began with our Friday morning 5K Run/Walk around the National Mall, which specifically benefitted Catch a Lift. In addition, President and Founder Lynn Coffland took the conference stage to explain the organization’s mission, which encompasses nutrition, fitness, emotional wellness and community.

Coffland was followed by Sgt. Jason Smith, a U.S. Army infantry veteran who was wounded in combat and now serves as a coach for Catch a Lift. Smith explained how Catch a Lift has made a difference in his life – and given him the tools to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Catch a Lift has done so much for me,” said Smith. “They helped me become certified as personal trainer, gave me a platform to advocate for my fellow veterans and gave me confidence in my abilities.”

Catch a Lift’s presence at our event is a powerful example of how STA supports causes within our community and gives back to those in need.

The Mission Continues

Just because our conference ended on Friday doesn’t mean our organization has any plans to slow down. We will continue to advocate, communicate, educate and support what matters most.

While by no means the only example, our Friday program tied it all together. If any of the above topics resonated with you, we encourage you to reach out and learn more – and to join us next year for our 90th annual conference. We sincerely hope to see you there.