Tradeking – Interview with Tom Desmond

This is the first in a series of client interviews in which we ask eight questions (the same eight for each client) of a senior exec.  In this case, Tom Desmond, the Chief Growth Officer for Tradeking was kind enough to sit down with us.  Tom is a former venture capitilist, so Tradeking is his first “operating role” in a while.  He was a founder and partner at Baird Venture Partners in Chicago.  Prior to that, Tom was an investment banker and an analyst for Lehman and Morningstar, respectively.  Tom has an MBA from Kellogg, a MA from Michigan State and undergrad from Notre Dame.  He is now taking a very active roll in the technology and online marketing components of Tradeking’s business as they are key components of growth. 

Question 1

Corry:  What are the best things about working at Tradeking?

Tom:  There are a few really great things about it.  First, it is an opportunity to work in an extremely fast-paced environment within a fast-growing company.  In just two years we have emerged as one of the leaders in the space.  It is really fun to build a business this way – from scratch, the right way… it’s fun to see the success that comes from the things that you have done all around you and to know that the future is bright. 

The next thing is just working in this cross section of technology and marketing and wall street – it really feels like we are on the cutting edge all the time.

Another thing that is great about working at Tradeking is that we are pioneering some very exciting new ways to approach an established industry.  Our social media platform and some of the other things that we are doing with marketing and customer service are really cutting edge.

Question 2

Corry:  What are the worst things about working for Tradeking?

Tom:  There are none!  No, I would say that our biggest challenge and frustration is trying to find the right talent to take ownership of some key functions – and doing it quickly.  This business is growing really fast, but it could be growing so much faster if we had a few more key people in house.  That’s why I am personally so involved in recruiting – it is a true growth priority.

Question 3

Corry:  Can you describe the culture at Tradeking?

Tom:  I would say that it is a family atmosphere.  Very collegial, “open-door”… We are fun people who are passionate about what we do.

Question 4

Corry:  Can you describe the senior management team?

Tom:  Studs.  No, I would say that we have a really unique senior management team because these guys have previously built a very similar business in prior lives and they scaled it quickly and successfully.  So they are very seasoned in this space, but it is a high-tech-based business, so they are very open to new ideas and new approaches.  We are all very aggressive about growing the business. 

I would add that we are a very flat company, so the senior management team interacts daily with every person in the company.  This creates opportunities for individuals to step-up and show their capabilities.

Question 5

Corry:  How important is analytics to decision making at Tradeking?

Tom:  Analytics is the core – it is at the heart of what we do and all decisions have analytical support.

Question 6

Corry:  Why should someone work for Tradeking rather than one of your competitors?

Tom:  We are a smaller, flatter, faster-growing company – this means that we offer a better opportunity for everyone to step up into a leadership role.  We are the fastest growing company in our industry, which means that we are more willing to try new things – more cutting-edge techniques.  Career-wise that is the type of place that talented people should want to be.  It results in better experience and more money in the end.

Question 7

Corry:  What is the average tenure of your team?

Tom:  The company is only two years old, but I will say that we started as an eight person team and now we are sixty-five.  Only a few people have left in that time.

Question 8

Corry:  How would you describe the talent-level of those you work with every day?

Tom:  Extremely talented team.  I think it takes two things to win:  talent and passion.  We have a high quotient of both.

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