Jen Just Tells Financial Industry Interns: “There must be a better way”

Thom Thompson

Thom Thompson

Editor

The kick-off speaker at Wednesday’s MarketsWiki Education World of Opportunity (“WOO” – woo! woo!) was Jennifer Just, a co-founder of Peak6. Located in the CBOT building, Peak6 is an investment and trading company built with a focus on disruptive technology. Just talked about how one statement, “There must be a better way!” has motivated her intellectual and professional development. Key parts of Peak6’s brand are curiosity and flexibility.  

Just spent her first day at O’Connor, one the first great listed options trading firms, sitting on the sidelines on the Cboe trading floor as traders digested the failure of Drexel Burnham. She ended that day smitten with the options trading industry, about which she still really knew nothing. 

But she learned and tried to be ready for opportunities as they came along. When Chicago’s Loop flooded in 1992, disrupting access to offices and trading floors, and O’Connor staff were temporarily relocated to the company’s offices on the coasts, Just got the chance to stay back in Chicago and reconstruct the company’s positions by hand. Her diligence then let her impress company managers who supported her transition into the OTC business, and that transition eventually led her to acquire the skills and experience to co-found Peak6. 

Peak6 started out trying to support OTC equity options trading but different opportunities offered themselves over the years and taking advantage of them has often moved the company in unexpected directions, Just said. When Penson, Peak6’s clearing firm, was failing, the company temporized for almost two weeks before taking it over. Years later, it is known as APEX Clearing and serves the majority of fintech trading firms.  

While Peak6 began with a business plan that it still hasn’t gotten around to implementing, it has been acquiring and selling businesses while it disrupts financial technology, Just said. She is still committed to finding the better way to do things. 

Just said Peak6 thinks there are ways to disrupt workforce development by being proactively inclusive. One initiative, Poker Powher establishes poker clubs for girls and women so they can gain experience with strategy, cost benefit assessment and risk taking. Seeking to be more proactive about including Black professionals in the financial industry, Peak6 has established Fintech in Action. A deliberate and intentional approach to fighting systemic racism, Fintech in Action is working with the Greenwood Project to improve the pipeline of well-qualified Black applicants for jobs in the financial industry. 

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