Mary Savoie was recently named executive director of the Options Industry Council (OIC). She is also first vice president, Industry Services for OCC. She spoke with JLN Options editor Sarah Rudolph about her new role and OIC’s educational efforts.
Q: How will your role change with your recent promotion to executive director of the Options Industry Council?
A: I’ll be taking on more high-level management responsibilities and be more involved in our international programs as well as overseeing continued growth in the existing programs.
Q. Can you tell me more about your international responsibilities?
Well, Gary Delany is our marketing representative based in London. He’s responsible for raising the visibility of U.S. listed options and promoting options education across Europe. I will be a bit more involved with his efforts.
Q: Will you be travelling more frequently?
A: It’s likely I will be, but I’m not certain. Gary will be reporting directly to me, where he used to report to Susan Milligan.
Q: As first vice president, Industry Services for OCC, one of your responsibilities is oversight of the annual options industry conference. I attended the recent conference in Savannah, and it was extremely well put together, so I congratulate you for a great job. Would you share some of your impressions of the conference – any differences from previous years?
A: Thank you. We had a great team — my staff as well as the host exchange, NYSE Arca and NYSE Amex. They were a pleasure to work with. This was the first year that OCC was the conference organizer working hand in hand with the host exchange.
I thought it was a great conference and the programming was terrific. We didn’t make huge changes from past years. Every year the exchange that is hosting the conference [they rotate] puts its own stamp on it, and OCC does not step on that. For example, it was NYSE’s idea to have General Stanley McChrystal as a speaker, and we supported that; we thought he was terrific.
Q. What were some of the highlights of the conference for you?
A: The Chris Nagy panel was memorable, and the night at the Fort was a unique experience.
Q: Nagy’s panel was the one with the Jeopardy theme?
A: Yes, I think it was designed to be informative while also being entertaining. A lot of that creativity came directly from Chris, and we on the OCC side helped him implement it. His wardrobe alone was entertaining. And he actually owns those clothes, he did not rent them.
Q: Are you involved in all of the OIC’s educational efforts, or do you have a focus on a particular one or ones? What are some of the newer developments in OIC’s educational programs?
A: It’s a very broad program; it’s for institutional investors, individual investors and advisors. We work on all the programs simultaneously. As a team, and for me as a team manager, I am particularly focused on financial advisors. We were excited and surprised to see from a recent study that there is much broader use of options among financial advisors than we thought. But we still think we’ve barely scratched the surface. We plan to focus heavily in building knowledge in that community.
Another thing we continue to work on is building partnerships. We create all this great education, and are fortunate to get funding from the industry. That allows us to give it away — get it out there to as many investors as possible. A great way to leverage our reach is working with partners: brokerages, exchanges, organizations like the CFA Institute. I spend quite a bit of time on those efforts.
Q: Is that the most rewarding part of your job?
A: I enjoy it on many levels. Not only because it is an effective way to disseminate information, but also I get to know so many of the people who comprise our industry, and we’ve got a great industry.
Q: Can you mention any of the partners the OIC works with?
A: All the US options exchanges are represented on our round table. We also partner with exchanges in Canada, Mexico, Thailand, India, Europe and the Middle East. We recently were asked to provide educational presentations for FINRA, and the SEC has contacted us about potential collaboration with education. Many firms are in conversations with us or already using our material on their web sites.
But we don’t enter into any exclusive relationships. What we offer to one brokerage firm we will offer to others.
Q: You studied Economics in college and received an MBA in finance and marketing from Northwestern. How did you get your start in the industry?
A: Well, I feel like I bumped into it. It wasn’t a very good job market. I applied to almost every job that had something to do with financial services. I applied for a job opening at OCC. I wasn’t really qualified for the job that was listed in the newspaper, but they liked my resume, and they told me they had another job in mind. So I became a project coordinator.
I have been with OCC my whole career. I’m fortunate to have been given a variety of opportunities in different areas. I’ve worked with OIC and in Corporate Communications for a while now, but before that I worked in business development, member services, and in new products.
Q: What are a couple of the highlights of your career in the industry? Or events that you remember most vividly?
A: This would bore a lot of people, but I enjoyed working on our new data service project in the late 1980s. It was an interesting project, because you had to test with every single member firm and exchange. It was a potentially high risk switchover from one system to another.
When I was in new products, before the euro was a common currency, I worked on a product called cross rates: for example, British Pounds vs French Francs. I created a giant spreadsheet and shared it with many other industry participants as a sort of cheat sheet for the cross rate contracts.
And of course from the beginning, OIC has been a phenomenal growth story. Seeing it grow and seeing all the changes in technology that have helped us reach more people and offer education in different formats, those have been highlights in my career.
Q: What sort of technological changes are you talking about?
A: Marketing and communications technology, as supposed to industry technology. When I started with OIC we didn’t have a web site. Nobody had a web site. It was a whole new communications channel. Our marketing and advertising was in print or TV; there was no social media. We have taken advantage of the revolution in technology and used it to expand our reach and to develop education in a number of different formats.
For example, we have an e-learning platform which is very sophisticated. It can track all of your coursework or you can choose to take a quiz and the system will recommend a learning path.
Q. Any further comments on your new role?
I’m really excited about this next phase of my career with OIC. We have done so much but we still have so much to do and our best work is yet to come.