Fairness in markets, equality at work: Ann Leduc’s mission

Fairness in markets, equality at work: Ann Leduc’s mission

David Myton talks to CMCRC-SIRCA’s chief of regulatory practice and head of talent, equality and inclusiveness

The professor was about 150cm tall and almost as wide, with a passing resemblance to the actor Danny DeVito. But this was no Get Shorty comedy-thriller or LA Confidential neo-noire drama.

It was a finance lecture at university and Professor Not-Danny-DeVito was talking about markets, investors, arbitragers and speculators.

“He had a chart upon the screen and was explaining how they were all working in the same market but doing different things,” recalls Ann Leduc.

“I was fascinated with this universe filled with various moving parts doing very different and legitimate things.”

And so began a journey that led from studying to doing and teaching finance at universities –including at Montreal’s McGill University– then becoming the founding Secretary General of the Canadian Securities Regulators before moving to Australia and becoming CMCRC-SIRCA’s Head of Regulatory Practice and Group Head of Talent,Equality and Inclusiveness.

She has worked, among other things, as a currency and bond trader, and held senior positions on the management and boards of some of Canada’s top financial institutions.Accustomed “to being the only woman in the room”, she is recognised as one of Canada’s leading women in finance, winning the WXN Top 100 in 2008.

Along the way, Leduc developed skills in commercialising data, data management and visualisation, regulation, compliance and market quality – and is busy applying these skills in various markets.

The fairness and efficiency of markets

One of Leduc’s core concerns is the fairness and efficiency of markets – upholding the CMCRC-SIRCA mission of “making markets better”.

Leduc says that capital markets have become much more complex in recent years, driven on the one hand by technology and on the other by competition.

The subject of market manipulation, either deliberate or unintended, is a hot topic.

‘With strong links to industry, data infrastructure and leading edge research, we are able to tell them what is happening and how any problems can be solved. That independence and credibility is a core part of the value of our expertise.’

“Someone might come to us and say, ‘I don’t think I manipulated the market – what are the parameters, how did they come up with this, what do you think?’

“Or a regulator might ask us – ‘we’ve seen this behavior and we think it amounts to market abuse, what do you think?”

Her teams access theGroup’s infrastructure, such as data science, analytics, and informatics like the Market Quality Dashboard, leading-edge technologies including the SMARTS surveillance software, to determine if, and to what extent, manipulation may have occurred.

“We are unaligned with any one party, and with strong links to industry, data infrastructure and leading edge research, we are able to tell them what is happening and how any problems can be solved. That independence and credibility is a core part of the value of our expertise.

“I don’t think that combination is available anywhere else in the world.”

‘Fairer markets are more efficient markets’

The Groups Market Quality Framework, she says, is the embodiment of the art of ensuring financial markets are fair and efficient.

“Fairer markets are more efficient markets, and markets of better quality. The trick is to get areal grip on what this means in real live markets. If unfairness is there, we can see it and we can measure it.

“I don’t know of any other institution in the world that has such a good grasp on these issues and that offers a solution that’s industry-based, coherent, complete and academically sound.”

The MQD is a sophisticated, leading-edge technology that is destined to be adopted by academics and industry researchers because it saves them reinventing the wheel’

As well as industry and regulators, the intelligence flowing from the Market Quality Framework and the MQD also informs academic research and the Group’s Industrial PhD program.

“The MQD is a sophisticated, leading-edge technology that is destined to be adopted by academics and industry researchers because it saves them reinventing the wheel- the platform is already populated with the measures they need. It’s very disruptive and academia hasn’t really seen this kind of thing before but it promises to supercharge research and push the frontier.”

Passionate advocate for equality, diversity and equity

As the Group’s Head of Talent, Leduc is a passionate advocate for equality, diversity and pay equity.

She points to the Group’s Industrial PhD Program as an example of equality and diversity in action – there are researchers from every continent except the two poles and they receive the same tax-free scholarship. 

“It’s 100 per cent equal,” Leduc says. “We pay them the same. The position drives their remuneration, nothing else.  So we focus on talent.”

She is currently leading an analysis of the Group’s staff make up – “We want to better understand our profile, see who does what and if some patterns emerge that might point to some unconscious biases that lead us to miss out on talent.”

This project is as data-driven as any other CMCRC project. “It’s the mirror image of what we’re doing with various markets and academic research. We start with the data, and then we’ll look at what the data is telling us.”

Learn more about CMCRC-SIRCA’s Industrial PhD program.