Ashley Serrao remembers always being fascinated with the art of business, and while at Bates College, that passion led him to join the investment club. “This enhanced my stock market knowledge and my appreciation for its role as the ultimate real-time barometer of the value a business creates,” he says. “I was intrigued by how various financial, political, social, and emotional factors blended together to drive a stock’s performance and create a larger narrative.”
His first role after graduation was as an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse, where he worked for nine years and was recognized as one of the top 10 stock pickers in the U.S. by Thomson Reuters StarMine, a Rising Star by Institutional Investor, and one of America’s best analysts by Bloomberg.
As someone who is always looking to try new things, Serrao transitioned into corporate development and investor relations when he joined the electronic trading platform Tradeweb as a director. Today, he’s the Managing Director, Head of U.S. Corporate Development and Global Investor Relations there and has been recognized by Business Insider as a Rising Star for playing a key role in Tradeweb’s 2019 IPO.
Serrao shares what he’s responsible for in his role, the most exciting project he’s working on now, and how Tradeweb hires with diversity in mind.
What inspired you to transition from being an equity research analyst to working in corporate development and investor relations?
I have always had an interest in pursuing new experiences. When I was in equity research, I gradually evolved from researching brokers, exchanges, and asset managers to researching trust banks and financial business services companies. While critically observing from the outside how multiple companies operate across various financial sectors, I became curious about what it would be like to get involved on the inside. My desire to better understand the inner workings of a company and learn something new that leveraged my skill set led me to transition into corporate development and then into investor relations a few years later.
What led to your job at Tradeweb, and how did you know it would be a good fit?
Of all the financial sectors I covered as an equity research analyst, I found the exchange and market structure landscape to be the most interesting and dynamic. As a student of the industry, I had a front-row seat to various secular and structural trends that unfolded over the years, such as the demutualization of exchanges, the growth of the futures market, the intensification of competition in the equities market, the boom and bust of the retail foreign exchange market, the rise of non-bank market makers, and the shift in company strategy from single to multi-asset class and from trading to data.
The one trend that I was always fascinated by was the electronification of the fixed-income market. Having covered a competitor as an equity analyst, I first met the Tradeweb management team when I hosted an investor lunch to learn more about the company. This experience was then followed by a visit to their headquarters to learn more about the expansion into U.S. credit. Little did I know at that time, a few years later I would be sitting in the same room working for Tradeweb.
When the opportunity arose, I thought it would be a great place to apply many of the skills I cultivated during my role in equity research to grow with the company, pursue my interest in market structure, and potentially be part of an IPO.
What are you responsible for in your role?
I am responsible for Tradeweb’s U.S. business development strategy, including M&A, partnerships, and competitive intelligence. I am also responsible for managing communications with equity investors and sell-side analysts that follow Tradeweb’s stock.
How does your experience exemplify the company’s commitment to employee growth and career advancement?
I joined Tradeweb as a director in 2017 and have been given an amazing set of opportunities thanks to the support of the executive management team led by our CEO Lee Olesky, President Billy Hult, and my direct manager, Simon Maisey. During my first couple of years at Tradeweb, I was promoted to managing director, invited to join the operating committee (a group of Tradeweb’s senior most leaders), and took on the additional responsibility of leading our investor relations effort when we went public in 2019. It has really been amazing to be part of such a great culture and a true meritocracy. I was humbled when a colleague remarked that seeing my career trajectory at Tradeweb as a person of color gave him hope that he could advance his own career as a person of color here, too.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
I have been busy helping shape our environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) external communication strategy. This effort was born out of investor relations, and has risen to prominence across the firm as our clients are increasingly asking us about our strategic ESG efforts and goals. The concept of ESG has existed at Tradeweb for a long time but was never formally reported prior to our IPO. Most recently, I worked alongside our Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG Steering Committee to launch Tradeweb’s inaugural corporate responsibility report. Similar to my initial interest in the stock market, I found the multi-dimensional nature of ESG to be exciting and also a great opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of a business—from our carbon footprint and energy consumption to employee benefits, talent development programs, and governance.
Tell us about your role as the co-head of Tradeweb’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. What are some of the committee’s long-term goals?
DEI is an issue that has always been very important to me as an immigrant and person of color. As an operating committee member and founding member of Tradeweb’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, I work alongside our executive management team and more than 75 employees globally to drive Tradeweb’s DEI efforts. The committee’s motto is “valuing our differences,” and our main goal is to raise employee awareness across a range of DEI issues including race, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, and religion, to name a few. We have also partnered with our HR team to raise Tradeweb’s profile and attract diverse talent into our internship and experienced hire programs.
Two long-term goals are to positively challenge our employees at all levels—from junior to senior executives—and to advocate for more opportunities for diversity in the hiring process both at Tradeweb and in financial markets and technology more broadly. We aim to do this by cultivating a work environment where our employees feel empowered to speak up about DEI issues and drive change within our organization and the broader industry.
How has Tradeweb empowered employees to speak up?
In our effort to raise awareness around DEI issues during the height of COVID-19, we created the One Tradeweb Series where we invite employees to share their experiences—both the good and the bad—so that other employees can listen and learn from them. The raw and genuine nature of these panels has been both eye-opening and inspiring, and has given employees another avenue to feel comfortable sharing their experiences. In these sessions, we also feature guest speakers and DEI experts to open the conversation and challenge our ways of thinking and interacting.
What are some other DEI initiatives at Tradeweb?
We recognize and celebrate various festivals across different regions and religions with formal email greetings and learning sessions. I fondly remember one employee responding to our Holi greeting thanking us for recognizing the festival and applauding us for being the first firm during his career to actually acknowledge this holiday.
We have also identified various philanthropic and recruitment initiatives where the DEI committee plays an instrumental role in creating impact within Tradeweb’s offices and in our communities. On the business side, two great examples have been onboarding minority broker dealers and investing in a veteran-backed money market fund.
How does Tradeweb hire with diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind?
Tradeweb continues to seek out partnership opportunities with organizations that have a direct influence on diversifying our hiring pools, including organizations like Women’s Bond Club, Black is Tech, Hiring our Heroes, Jopwell, Workforce Opportunity Solutions, and Women Impact Tech. Through these partnerships, Tradeweb is able to connect with candidates with diverse backgrounds and reach people who may never have heard of our opportunities had it not been for the organization.
Tradeweb also regularly reassesses our campus recruitment schedule to target schools who value diversity, and we work closely with philanthropic partners on anything from career development training to teaching students about Tradeweb and the financial technology industry more broadly. Our partnerships with these philanthropies are invaluable, and ultimately feeds into our competitive intern and associate program.
What have been the keys to your success throughout your career?
I have always aimed to produce the best product, pay attention to the details, learn from criticism, and actively look for new experiences to broaden my skill set. I have never let my job description be a limiting factor. There is always an opportunity to contribute and learn something new.