In the second installment of JLN’s Unsung Heroes series, CME Group’s COO Julie Holzrichter responded to questions about what it’s like managing operations under the unusual conditions brought about by the coronavirus.
SR: What Is different about the environment you are working in now, in this time of self-quarantine? Who is working from home and who is coming into the office?
JH: I think the main difference is that we all miss being able to meet with each other and our clients in person. We’ve had to find new ways of communicating, brainstorming, and solving problems virtually. Internally, I’m proud of how our global team has been able to address these challenges without missing a beat in terms of productivity and performance. Technology has been key in helping us do that and making telework successful for CME Group.
We do have a very small crew of employees in our offices for functions like our clearing house, Global Command Center, facilities and data centers. But, like most companies, most of us have been working remotely for several months now. We announced that our Eurodollar Options trading pit in Chicago will reopen in August, which will require some of our employees to return to the trading floor. In accordance with regional guidance, we will take a phased approach to bringing more employees back into our offices, but most will continue to work from home for several months.
SR: Have your daily tasks become more difficult since the advent of the coronavirus?
JH: In most ways, my daily tasks have not changed dramatically as my team and I are still meeting with clients regularly. In addition, I’m also very focused on checking in on how everyone is doing in this environment. It is more important than ever to reach out and stay connected. Undoubtedly, this situation has been incredibly hard on absolutely everyone. The past few months have tested us in ways we have never seen or expected – and in many ways all at once. Things we took for granted just a few months ago have changed completely. In addition to the impact of the pandemic on the health of our families and communities, we also had to adjust to an entire workforce working remotely across the globe, as well as managing truly unprecedented volumes and volatility. That required so much from our team, but the fact that our systems have been so resilient is really a testament to our industry and employees.
SR: How has communication with the back office changed?
JH: We’ve had to change the way in which we interact with our back-office clients and all customers – we meet virtually now to check in on how they are doing and how we can help their business during these uncertain times. Our client meetings have actually increased during the quarantine, which has provided us the feedback pipeline we rely on to anticipate the needs of our market participants and grow our business.
I think that collaboration across all of our businesses has been the most critical tool through this crisis. I can’t stress enough how important communication has been and will continue to be. Everyone is managing uncertainty together, whether that is related to managing risk in our markets or regarding how we will return to the office safely. We are communicating through multiple channels every day to ensure that our systems continue to function successfully, but also so that our employees stay informed and engaged through challenging times for everyone.
SR: How has the climate of high market volatility affected operations at CME Group?
JH: Our employees have worked incredibly hard to help our customers and partners navigate through uncertainty in the marketplace, and because of that our systems performed extremely well. We had very consistent response times, even during peak order traffic. I really want to thank all of them for stepping up to the challenge and delivering for our clients. We certainly haven’t reached the end of this crisis, but our resilience has been remarkable.
Risk management didn’t stop because of the pandemic; it became more important than ever. We did see record volumes in February and Q1 especially, and we continue to work to provide the benchmark products that our clients need to manage their risk around the clock and around the world.
SR: How do you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on? Do you use Zoom, Slack, any other programs to connect to staff?
JH: As a global company, we have made investments in tools like Webex, Teams and other virtual platforms that have enabled us to interact with our clients, our regulators and industry participants. We are leveraging these tools every single day to maintain those personal connections for our meetings and other interactions as a company. While we look forward to gathering face-to-face again, I think we will continue using these tools in innovative ways as we interact with each other in the future.
SR: How do your colleagues respond to your leadership when working from home?
JH: The virtual meeting technology and other communications tools has allowed us to stay connected with our individual teams and the entire company. I am talking to everyone on my team more than ever before, not just about their work but checking in to make sure everyone is doing ok. We recently held an all-employee meeting where employees could submit questions on anything – from how we are handling the pandemic response to how the business is performing, and I could tell that our employees are as engaged and energized as ever. Collaboration across the organization has been as good as I’ve ever seen it, and we are able to continue to innovate and develop new products and services – all to benefit our clients around the world. That is really to the credit of the leadership we have across our entire company.
SR: Have there been any upsides to the new working-from-home climate?
JH: Absolutely. We have proven that we can be successful working from home, which will give us a greater range of options in the way we work moving forward. I don’t think remote work will ever fully replace the office environment, but I do expect that more flexibility will become the norm. Our proven ability to work effectively remotely is allowing us to take a cautious approach to returning to the office. This is a fluid situation and the information changes on a daily basis. Having a successful, safe model in place that works really well has been a huge upside for us.