Nasdaq’s trading chief Noll leaves exchange for job as CEO

Departure is called 'surprise'

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.’s Eric Noll, who oversaw the exchange’s U.S. trading business during a period when its reliability was criticized, left the company to become chief executive officer of ConvergEx Group LLC.

Noll, whose title was executive vice president of U.S. and U.K. transaction services, had joined the New York-based exchange owner in 2009. Nasdaq plans to fill his job by the end of March, according to a statement today.

The executive’s decision comes three months after a technical malfunction at Nasdaq, the second-biggest U.S. stock exchange operator, caused a three-hour trading halt for thousands of companies. Nasdaq’s U.S. market also mishandled Facebook Inc.’s initial public offering in 2012, prompting a fine and millions of dollars in claims from investors who said they lost money.

The departure is a surprise, said Richard Repetto, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP who covers exchanges. “He has a lot of credibility, and he was the public face,” said Repetto, who added that Noll was viewed as Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld’s top deputy.

Noll joined New York-based Nasdaq four years ago from Susquehanna International Group LLP. Nasdaq’s share price has about doubled since then, twice the gain in the Bloomberg World Exchanges Index of 26 bourse operators.

Noll’s Deputies

During Noll’s tenure, the company continued to expand beyond its original business of trading U.S. equities. This year, Nasdaq got into the Treasuries market with the $750 million purchase of ESpeed.

Nasdaq is “reviewing our strong bench of internal candidates as well as external candidates” to replace Noll, Greifeld said in a message sent to clients today.

Noll’s deputies at Nasdaq included Thomas Wittman, who was promoted to run U.S. equities this year; Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of futures market Nasdaq OMX NLX; and Joe Noviello, who manages strategy for ESpeed.

This wasn’t the first change in senior management at Nasdaq this year. Less than a month ago, Nasdaq said Bradley Peterson, its global chief information officer, would report directly to Greifeld instead of one of his deputies, Anna Ewing.

Peterson’s promotion reflected further evolution in the role of Ewing, who was chief information officer before Peterson was hired from Charles Schwab Corp. in February. She, along with Greifeld and Noll, had her cash compensation reduced after the Facebook IPO in May 2012.

‘Great Opportunity’

ConvergEx, which provides trading services to institutional investors, withdrew plans earlier this year for an IPO filed in early 2011. A sale agreement that year with CVC Capital Partners Ltd. was terminated amid a regulatory probe of trading practices at ConvergEx’s Bermuda subsidiary.

ConvergEx said Noll joined the company immediately as president, and will transition to the CEO job by the end of 2013, according to a statement. The current CEO, Joseph Velli, will stay on the ConvergEx board.

“It’s a great opportunity, and the company has a great opportunity for growth,” Noll said during an interview today, referring to ConvergEx. “It’s a cutting-edge platform. It has a global client base.”

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