Connamara Technologies Co-Founder & CFO, Maureen Downs, Interview with Smarter Markets at FIA Boca

While attending the FIA Boca Conference 2024, our Co-Founder & CFO, Maureen Downs, was tapped for an interview with Smarter Markets alongside other thought leaders who provided valuable insight on seizing future opportunities within the industry.

…Now there’s an opportunity to introduce those folks to a range of new products in the futures world, in the derivatives world, in options. Those people are primed to be the next generation, but those folks are going to want technology. They want frictionless trading, they want it to be fast, easy, 24/7. The next generation who have had a taste of trading how can bring us our market into the futures market that is safe, secure, and developed.

— Maureen Downs on the changing landscape of trading.

Watch the interview or find the transcript below.

Maureen Downs Smarter Markets Interview TRANSCRIPT

David Greeley: Welcome back to SmarterMarkets. We’re at FIA Boca, and I’m joined by Maureen Downs, co-founder and CFO of Connamara Technologies. Thanks so much for taking some time to sit down with us, Maureen.

Maureen Downs: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

David Greeley: Absolutely. And I was hoping for our listeners if you could just take a few minutes to tell us a little bit about Connamara and how you see your role in the markets.

Maureen Downs: Sure, Connamara Technologies is a provider of exchange technology for new markets, for emerging markets, for established marketplaces. It’s an end-to-end, fully integrated platform solution.

David Greeley: That’s terrific. And who are your customers?

Maureen Downs: Our customers, it’s a broad range. You know, there are so many new asset classes that are emerging. So we think about crypto, think about carbon, think about events. So many of our clients are in new asset categories. Other clients are emerging markets, particularly Eastern Europe, South America, Africa. So emerging markets where markets unlike here, where markets are highly developed, their markets are just in the nascent stage. And then of course we have established exchanges, there are many exchanges around the world who are broadening their market access, broadening their customer bases, broadening their product markets. So it’s a very wide range of customers.

David Greeley: And am I right that part of what you provide are like the matching engines that enable exchanges to function in these different asset classes?

Maureen Downs: Absolutely, we have a matching engine that is just the start of it. Of course, there is market surveillance, there’s risk management, there’s banking, there’s settlement, there’s clearing, there’s all the elements that from the start of the trade all the way to the clearance and settlement and movement of the money of the trade. That’s our solution.

David Greeley: And I wanted to ask you, because my understanding is you’ve been coming to Boca since 1996, is that right?

Maureen Downs: Since years began, with one. Yes, I think my first year was 96 or 97, but it’s one of those two.

David Greeley: So you’re not one of the come latelys, that’s for sure. But I have noticed there’s a lot more technology companies, I think here over the last few years than there may have been earlier. Is that true? Is that your experience? And how do you see that having developed over the past couple of decades?

Maureen Downs: Well, absolutely. I mean, when I first came here in the late ’90s, technology was really not a factor at all. I mean, at that time, the CME and the CBT had global backs and their technologies, exchanges themselves had technologies, but there was not a wide range of front ends, back end technologies, risk management technologies. They just weren’t there. Now, as we all know, those have developed in great measure over the past 20 years, particularly because of the issues they address. It’s market access, it’s risk management, it’s compliance, all those issues that are so important. And over the years, are the issues that when you come here to Boca, the people are talking about.

David Greeley: And who are the people you find are most engaged in those conversations? Because there’s a lot of talk obviously of wanting to move everything digital, processes that are maybe very human intermediated and require a lot of paper, trying to get to solutions that are a little bit more streamlined, a little bit more efficient. Who are the folks that you find are most engaged with technology right now?

Maureen Downs: You know, it’s interesting and why it’s so important to come to this conference because whether you’re a regulator whose job is to make sure that our markets are safe and secure, whether you’re an exchange who also has an interest in making sure that there’s adequate risk management, adequate monitoring of trading, of manipulations, whether you’re a brokerage firm who is looking for solutions to make the experience better for their customers or more cost-effective for their customers, whether you’re a thought leader thinking about how all these markets, how they change over time, how they can provide better access, better experience, better safety for customers. So, it’s extremely wide. And that’s why it’s great to come here. And no matter who you sit and talk to, no matter what end of the industry they come from, we’re going to talk about technology at some level.

David Greeley: That’s great. And for people who are able to come to the conference, is there anything you’ve overheard this week that you were like, “Oh, that’s interesting, that’s new”?

Maureen Downs: Of course, there’s a lot of talk this week about AI, and not just in this industry, in every industry. But one of the conversations I’ve had multiple times this week is about thinking about the growth of the retail customer in futures. And part of that growth started with crypto and part of it started during COVID. So, a whole generation of people who had never traded anything before were introduced during COVID to the world of trading through crypto. And so, that whole generation of folks who’ve never experienced trading, now there’s an opportunity to introduce those folks to a range of new products in the futures world, in the derivatives world, in options. Those people are primed to be the next generation, but those folks are going to want technology. They want frictionless trading, they want it to be fast, easy, 24/7. That next generation who have had a taste of trading, how they can bring us our market into the futures market that is safe secure developed. A great range of products.

David Greeley: It’s a really fascinating point, right? Because these people that are new to the market, they might be new to the futures markets, but they’re also very technologically sophisticated. They’re used to things working very well, very seamlessly, as you said. And when you look around at the state of the technology in the futures industry, like what do you think we as an industry need to be doing to bring our technology up to the level of expectations and needs that this new group of investors is looking for and accustomed to?

Maureen Downs: I think certainly it has to be frictionless and seamless. And I think one of the challenges we have as an industry is many of our technologies were developed for single purpose. They might have been for the purpose of market surveillance, or risk management, or they might be front-end trading systems or analytic systems. They were built for single purpose and sometimes they don’t work easily together. They’re bits and pieces that you put together, but that next generation of trader, they want all that in one place, they can pick and choose and in a single application. So, I think we’re going to have to get better and think about how to integrate our various technology systems, all the way through payments and clearing and margining and all those things. They can exist as separate systems, but they do today, right? And thinking about the opportunity that’s there relative to what you’ve seen, the opportunities for the use of technology over the past 20 years, what do you see as the big opportunities moving forward? Is it being able to bring in that whole new group of traders into futures markets, or are there other opportunities that you see as well?

Maureen Downs: Oh, I think that’s a great opportunity. But I think there’s also an incredible opportunity in two areas. One, when we think about emerging economies, and that is large parts of South America, Africa, Asia, some of those markets who are just nascent, they look to developed markets and say, “There’s an opportunity to grow our GDP, there’s an opportunity to raise living standards for some of our producers, some of our farmers, some of our miners.” And markets can do that. I’m a big believer in exchanges because they bring price transparency, liquidity. They will have the opportunity to tighten spreads. And I think that increases the wealth for everyone. And I can’t tell you how I think that is a grand opportunity for our industry. And we at our company, we see the demand coming from all over the world to come into markets.

David Greeley: That’s terrific. Thank you so much for sharing your time, your insights, your experience with us today. Really appreciate you coming by and talking with us on Smarter Markets.

Maureen Downs: Well, thank you so much for having me. [Music]

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