Peak6 was founded as a proprietary trading firm in Chicago by Matthew N. Hulsizer and Jennifer Just.
We might think of Peak6 as the firm with the most prestigious office in the financial district of Chicago, since they occupy the space that was the 1929 trading room, the old Mansfield Room in the Chicago Board of Trade Building. Their open concept office on the fourth and fifth floors of the CBOT Building looks directly down LaSalle Street, the same view CBOT members saw for decades.
But how we think about Peak6 is going to change. It is already changing because of the work of their new chief creative officer, Michael Davis, an award-winning creative executive.
Davis was hired nine weeks ago and it struck me as strange that a proprietary trading firm would hire a chief creative officer. Most of the prop firms I know are very secretive. Some make you sign a non-disclosure agreement just to walk in their offices.
But Davis was hired to tell the Peak6 story. He is not just a chief marketing officer, but is creating something bigger. Better. In fact, something excellent.
He is building a center for excellence staffed by an elite team. The people the firm is acquiring for the task of bringing focus to Peak6’s varied enterprises have a big job in front of them.
Davis is trying to help Peak6 define their purpose, which gets down to the “why” of what they do. Davis is a fan of Simon Sinek and watching his TED Talk about why some firms outperform others changed the whole way he looked at marketing.
The process of defining their purpose will help unify the Peak6 enterprises and brand. This is not your typical branding or rebranding exercise. Davis learned to think like a coder and likes to think in the spirit of beta. How do we make what we have better and better?
Creative people like Davis “live in fear,” Davis said. And “fear kills innovation,” he said. Creative types fear putting out something new and having people hate it.
Davis likes to think like a software engineer who puts out a minimally viable product and then improves it with feedback. That is the way to innovate and get rid of fear, he said.
Davis was a child of video games. He uses the skills he learned from video games to help him manage his day. He even has his office set up like a trader’s, with five different screens streaming him information.
He said it “feels like I am playing the Peak6 video game,” while helping the five different Peak6 companies find their purpose.
As a youth, Davis had a chance to run around on the trading floors of Chicago’s exchanges and he said it blows his mind that his office is the former trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.
He spent some time as a youth as a runner on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and that came full circle when he helped take the Merc public from a public relations perspective when he was with the advertising powerhouse firm of Foote, Cone & Belding, now known as FCB.
For the last seven years, Davis has worked in adtech, the advertising version of fintech.
The challenge of Peak6 is not just that of finding the purpose of a proprietary trading firm. They also own APEX Clearing and Esports, as well as National Flood Services and Peak6 Capital.
The investment in Esports is in the team Evil Geniuses, one of the most recognizable brands in the professional gaming business. Esports is a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. Peak6 also has multiple investments in the sports industry, ranging from European football teams to sports technology companies.
The “why” that Davis and his team are searching for will probably come from the idea of technology empowering people.
Personally, my money is on Davis and his team winning this game. And when they do, we will never think about Peak6 the same way again.