Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman angles for a running start out of the gate

The first woman to lead a major U.S. stock exchange calls for a "balance of regulations" with the incoming Trump administration and gives PRWeek a deep dive into Nasdaq's corporate solutions suite.

You started as an intern at Nasdaq. Did you ever think then that you would be CEO?
Definitely not. When you start as an intern, you’re just trying to understand all the nuances of the business and hope you have a full-time job at the end of it.

You’ve been called the first woman to lead a major U.S. stock exchange. Does that put you under added pressure?
Nasdaq operates as a meritocracy, so I’ve never felt that being a woman ever set me apart or gave me any sort of advantage or disadvantage. I don’t see myself that way — obviously, I’m a woman, but gender never played a role in any decisions I’ve made or decisions made about me. Continuing to think that way will be the healthiest way to take on this job.

What are the comms challenges in a leadership transition like this?
I have the advantage of having been here and knowing a lot of people. But it’s harder to step into the role and change how people see you and how you see yourself. The challenges are making sure I elevate the way I communicate to our employees, clients, and investors, and that I take on a more strategic viewpoint in how I communicate our message to all constituents. And there are going to be more interviews and making sure I articulate the business.

How does Trump ascending to the presidency and regulatory issues being back on the negotiating table affect the transition process?
[The election result] was unexpected but certainly welcomed by the markets. Some important regulations in the capital markets after the credit crisis helped safeguard the industry. But other regulations have held back some key participants, particularly large banks, from offering liquidity into the market.

There’s a great opportunity for the new administration to examine those regulations and the modifications we can make to free up the capital and allow for more liquidity in the market. We see this as having the potential for what I will call a "balance of regulation" in our industry and the industries of the companies we serve.

What is Nasdaq’s story? What does it stand for? And how do you tell that story?
We are here to provide the most efficient and effective capital markets available, for ourselves, our clients, and other exchanges around the world, which we power with our technology. Our corporate solutions offering helps public companies navigate those capital markets efficiently and effectively. We communicate that story primarily through social media channels. We also do some advertising on corporate-type TV channels such as CNBC.

Nasdaq resonates with millions. You can go through the streets of China and say the word "Nasdaq" and they at least know it’s a place where the coolest companies go to list.

How did Nasdaq’s corporate solutions develop?
In 2005, Reg NMS, which defines market structure and cash equity trading in the U.S., forced the NYSE into an electronic stock exchange structure. When that happened, [then-CEO] Bob Greifeld wondered how we were going to differentiate ourselves and broaden our partnerships with our corporate clients. So, initially, we bought small services that were critical components for a public company, including PR and board portal. Then three years ago, we bought the Thomson Reuters corporate solutions business, which grew corporate solutions into what it is today.

[Greifeld] had the vision 10 years ago to transform our relationship with our corporate clients. I intend to continue that transformation.

If tech is driving opportunities for exchanges, how is tech driving opportunity for PR services?
We provide a suite of solutions to more than 18,000 clients worldwide that are focused on communications and intelligence. That includes web-hosting platforms, media newsrooms, IR web-hosting, corporate websites, webcasting capabilities, and our PR distribution platform, which we got through our Marketwired acquisition.

In terms of technology and PR, there are two things. One is the incredibly fast growth of social media and its relevance in PR and how you leverage technology to drive your message into those social channels.

The second is the intelligence side. This means having an instant understanding of how your messages are being received, who’s receiving them, who’s forwarding them, whom you should target on social and traditional media channels, etc.

How does your PR platform allow you to target influences?
The Marketwired acquisition gave us new social media assets in what we call GlobeNewswire Influencers. It’s essentially an intelligence suite that gives you a target list of people who are the best at making your messages resonate. We already have that kind of service for traditional channels.

It’s been almost a year since Nasdaq bought Marketwired. Since then, it launched IR Insight and added Nasdaq Influencers to its GlobeNewswire product. Is Nasdaq going to add any new tools to that suite of services in 2017?
The corporate solutions space is going through its own transformation in terms of how data and content are brought together. The big thing for 2017 is bringing all of that content together to make it more relevant for the C-suite, to make sure they can take all their IR messaging, understand how the investors and the public have received it, and come up with a high-level strategic view of how comms and IR programs are being managed and measured.

So this would be a unified platform?
It will be a unified platform. First, we’re going to build out a dashboard that allows the C-Suite to pull all of the assets together. We’re building out an integrated platform in the process as we upgrade all of our systems.

How do you build the platform in such a way that it has depth and can service all client needs while remaining intuitive and user-friendly?
We’re focused on mobile. We have a dedicated user design team that is focused solely on what users’ workflows are, their challenges, how we help facilitate addressing those challenges.

The platform work includes how we ingest data, managing data taxonomy, making sure content can be served up across multiple platforms, having a single sign-on, entitlements, and authentication. And that it can be done in a unified way.

We’re also serving a product or solution that meets a specific need of a client, whether that be an agency head, IR director, or CEO. They all have different needs, so we’re devoted to use that integrated platform but with specialized services or offerings.

How significant are those PR services in Nasdaq’s revenue?
I don’t think we separately break out the corporate solutions revenue streams. Corporate solutions overall, however, is about 15% of our revenue.

Do you have a PR AOR?
We have a team of 20 internally that manages our comms efforts worldwide. But we’re just going to say we work with an outside firm.

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