Robert Greifeld, chief executive officer of Nasdaq OMX Group, at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 27 2010
Robert Greifeld, head of Nasdaq

For a man on the front lines of speedy global trading markets, Robert Greifeld takes it a bit slower in his free time. At his New Jersey mansion, the chief executive of Nasdaq OMX is known to put on overalls and boots to spend time with a collection of turtles that roam both indoors and around the compound. When asked by a local paper what was behind his fascination with the reptiles, he said: “I must identify with them in some strange way.”

Well-known for running Nasdaq in an efficient manner, Mr Greifeld is criticised by some current and former executives who say that this shows he shares a certain “coldbloodedness” with the animals. When he arrived at Nasdaq in 2003, it was reeling from the fallout of the dotcom bubble burst.

Mr Greifeld, who worked to put himself through school before building a reputation as a pioneer in electronic trading technology, narrowed Nasdaq’s focus and in the process developed a reputation as an aggressive cost cutter. In subsequent years, its market share of US stock trades and initial public offerings grew substantially. So did its profits.

His management style, however, has won mixed praise. The business developed several talented executives but few have stayed. Mr Greifeld, who has a contract until 2017, believes he can rebuild once more. “Our management development is better than GE’s,” he says.

Others say the problem is that he is overly concerned with winning small tactical battles rather than achieving big strategic victories. He is said to liken Nasdaq to a “single-cell organism that must react to stimuli”. Some current and former colleagues wish the pace of decision making was a bit more turtle-like.

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