Equities.com Q&A: Equities Leaders Summit’s Oliver Kirkbright

Silvia Davi  |

From December 3 - 5, 2019, buy side heads of equity trading will once again gather in Miami for Equities Leaders Summit. With over 350 attendees last year, half of them representing the biggest names on the buy side, ELS has become one of the industry’s preeminent annual events for senior buy side traders. This year, heavyweights including Blackrock’s Paul Whitehead, Pimco’s Eden Simmer and T. Rowe Price’s Clive Williams will be on the agenda to discuss the key issues impacting this industry. Oliver Kirkbright, Senior Program Director of Equities Leaders Summit, recently sat down with Equities.com contributor Silvia Davi and chatted about the growth the event has seen, the discussion topics on tap for the 2019 conference , and how ELS continues to make diversity and inclusion a major focus when programming the event.


Silvia Davi, Contributor, Equities.com: The Equities Leaders Summit is expected to be the year’s largest gathering of buy side equity traders, money managers and hedge funds. What do you hope attendees will take away from their experience?

Oliver Kirkbright, Senior Program Director, Equities Leaders Summit: Our program is jam-packed with buy-side driven content and features the top minds from across the US equities industry, providing thought leadership and setting new standards for equity trading heads. The agenda has been designed to set out the buy side roadmap for 2020 and enable attendees to set themselves up for success. We hope that this year’s summit will enable people to meet effectively, benchmark themselves against top industry performers, establish new relationships and most importantly take fresh ideas back to their desk to give themselves a competitive edge in 2020.

SD: The event is now in its fifth year. How has it grown and evolved since it began in 2015?

OK: We are delighted with the growth of the Equities Leaders Summit, particularly this year as our buy side audience has grown 65% since last year, making it our highest ever level of buy side representation. We have always focused our content and the entire event around being the essential annual gathering of the buy side community, providing them with the opportunity to meet the rest of the value chain as part of the largest Equities trade gathering in the US. As the event continues to evolve, we remain focused on buy side growth and making the event a crucial part of every equity leaders’ calendar.

SD: Thanks to regulatory action and continued innovation, the equities space has seen a number of significant changes in recent years, especially for the buy side. What trends are you seeing that might point the way to the future in this altered landscape?

OK: With much of the regulatory agenda behind us, we are now starting to see buy side leaders refocus their efforts on alpha generation and maximizing returns for their clients. This is reflected in our new-look agenda for 2020 in which there is a huge focus on innovations across the equity desk including: utilizing modern AI and data analytics to gain an edge, overcoming liquidity fragmentation and much more. In addition, the market structure evolution continues to march on where we are seeing new exchanges come into the fray and an increase in outsourced trading amongst both large and small buy side firms. When juxtaposed against the increasingly challenging macro and geopolitical landscape, it’s clear that Equities heads will have more than enough on their plate to keep them busy over the next 12 months!

SD: The program is jam-packed with panels and prominent speakers. Tell us about the factors that go into putting together the agenda.

OK: The production process for ELS starts 9 months ahead of our kickoff date. We interview over 75+ equity trading leaders (80% of these representing the buy side) to ensure we are covering the most important and current issues and build a buy side driven agenda. We also work very closely with an Advisory Board which includes senior trading heads from the most respected financial institutions including Vanguard, PIMCO, Voya Investment Management, JP Morgan Asset Management, RBC Global Asset Management, River Road Asset Management and Third Avenue Asset Management. They are instrumental in shaping the agenda, speaker faculty and experience at the summit as well as providing crucial advice on how we can improve year on year.

SD: We’re seeing an increasing number of initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. How will ELS be part of this industry-wide effort?

OK: Diversity and inclusion is an issue that ELS and our parent company, Worldwide Business Research (WBR), take very seriously. We have made a dedicated effort to improving the diversity of our speaker line-ups across all of our events, in particular by including more female leaders in our speaker faculty. We have also been working very closely with 100 Women in Finance—a non-profit dedicated to helping raise the profile of female leaders across the industry—to give their members the opportunity to join us at ELS.

We have also incorporated the topic into our program and will be leading off the conference with our keynote session dedicated to diversity that will feature senior female leaders from BlackRock and Eaton Vance. In addition, we will continue to run our ever-popular D&I working group (also on day 1) to encourage further discussion and formulate strategies for creating a more diverse trading desk.

We recognize that there is still a long journey ahead before we can claim a fully diverse speaker lineup, but we feel that these are steps in the right direction for 2020, with more to strive for in the years to come.

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Equities Contributor: Silvia Davi

Source: Equities News

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