556: Preparing Your Organization for Change | Amy Shelly, CFO, OCC

Listen to the Episode Below (00:41:30)

Among the experiences that Amy Shelly recalls as having helped to prepare her for a CFO role, the prep work for an upended IPO still looms large. Per the guidelines of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Shelly was tasked back in the late 1990s with gathering portions of the historical data that her employer—Hull Trading Company of Chicago—would need to disclose in an S1 filing prior to selling stock publicly.

“The weekend before the firm’s partners were expecting to head out on the company’s road show, Goldman Sachs came in and made Hull an offer that it just couldn’t refuse,” says Shelly, who swiftly became involved with the integration of Hull’s operations into Goldman, an effort that she says eventually led her to work herself out of a job. “It was tough at the time but it ended up being okay,” recalls Shelly, who believes that her involvement in Hull’s S1 filing documents, along with the subsequent integration into Goldman, allowed her to glean unique insights into how business functions and departments engage and collaborate with one another.

After leaving Goldman, she held positions as vice president at ABN AMRO and vice president and controller for broker-dealer Chase Investment Services Corp. before stepping into the CFO role for the first time at Optiver US LLC, a Dutch-owned options market-making firm. At Optiver, she lengthened her workdays and shortened her weekends.  Looking back, Shelly today admits that she didn’t delegate all that she should have. She explains: “You don’t have carry everything on your shoulders. You need to find people who will help you to share and transmit the vision.”

Three years into her latest CFO tour of duty with the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) of Chicago, Shelly says that she’s practicing what she preaches by empowering her team to share the vision for the business. At the OCC, this means adopting new technologies that can add some flexibility to the traditionally process-heavy organization. In the past, old systems and approaches placed limits on where and how decisions were made in the organization. Says Shelly: “I’ve always sought roles where I can help the business to make better decisions.”  –Jack Sweeney

Subscribe to CFO Thought Leader

Guest: Amy Shelly

Company: Options Clearing Corporation (OCC)

Headquarters: Chicago, IL

Connect: www.theocc.com

CFOTL: What numbers or metrics are always top of mind for you?

Shelly: Ninety-five percent of our revenue is driven by the volume that we clear, settle, and risk-manage every day, which is something that we don’t control. We charge a clearing fee for our services, and as a low-cost service provider, I can’t just charge any old amount. I’m very cognizant of how much volume we clear every day because our budget is based on an average daily volume rate. I’m also very cognizant of expenses. I’m okay with spending money, but I want to do it in a smart way. Last year, we began what we call our Renaissance initiative. It’s a multiyear, multimillion-dollar program through which we are replacing our core technologies. The system that clears, settles, and risk-manages those positions every single day is about 20 years old, so we are looking to create a more modular, more agile system whereby we can increase our processing, we can better utilize the data that we receive every single day, and we can expand upon the risk management services that we provide.

Right now, it’s currently being done on premises on a couple of mainframes. We’ll be looking to move all of that processing up into the cloud so that as our volume increases, we can expand and manage it without an issue. Now, don’t get me wrong: The mainframes that we currently have can process an exorbitant amount of volume. In 2019, I think that we had a few days where we cleared and settled over somewhere between 30 and 35 million contracts. In our 2020 (fiscal year), we are clearing and settling, on average, probably about 19.5 million contracts every single day, and the system works just fine. It’s just very cumbersome to make changes to it, and that’s another part of the reason for the drive to make a change.

*fiscal calendar years