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July 31, 2004

From Citi to Polishing BRASS

By Peter Chapman

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Jim Leman used to concern himself with only one broker's trading technology.

Now he has about 200 brokers to worry about. That's how many customers are using the BRASS order management system, a product of SunGard Trading Systems (STS) where Leman is now president. He joined SunGard in April, following his dismissal from Citigroup Global Markets.

After spending 22 years at Citigroup, developing all sorts of systems for electronic trading, Leman was shown the door in January. His responsibilities were transferred to another executive in a reorganization officially aimed at making the bulge-bracket firm more competitive in the electronic executions game.

At STS, Leman becomes one of four divisional presidents reporting to group chief executive Ron Lang. Leman is responsible for equities; the others sell into the derivatives, fixed income and foreign exchange markets. Leman replaced Tom King, a BRASS veteran. King is said to be "exploring opportunities" with STS sister company SunGard Brokerage Services.

The reorganization that brought Leman on board began last fall. That's when STS's direct market access system, Broker Direct U2, was officially separated from BRASS. Cindy Foster became product manager for BRASS. Mark Clark became manager for Broker Direct U2.

Leman is, of course, legendary in the equity trading technology sphere as one of the founders of FIX. The communications protocol was developed in the mid-90s by Citigroup precursor Salomon Brothers and Fidelity Investment Management to permit the sending of trade messages electronically.

At STS/BRASS, Leman presides over a 260-person organization whose heyday may be long past. BRASS was one of the first order management systems to be adopted by Nasdaq market makers nearly 15 years ago. Its developer subsequently landed most of the 200 or so Nasdaq dealers of any consequence as customers.

Now, though, newer systems are pushing BRASS aside. Just last month STS lost 11-year customer J.P. Morgan Securities to OMS upstart Lava Trading. SunGard is slowly, but surely losing most of its larger customers, leaving it with smaller firms with fewer users.

Technology editor Peter Chapman sat down with Leman to discuss his plans for SunGard.

Traders: What is your mandate at SunGard?

Leman: SunGard wanted someone who has a lot of market experience and who understands program trading, electronic trading as well as connectivity. They wanted someone who has connections to the buyside and the sellside. They told me I would be able to make an impact not on one firm, but on many firms. SunGard also wanted someone to represent the interests of the sellside a little more clearly from the perspective of someone who was a user of those kinds of services. And it wanted someone to pull other things together, such as different parts of the SunGard organization and other vendors, express a vision and lead these guys into a more aggressive posture with more products.

Traders: What does the future hold?