Partner and Global Head of Markets • Brown Brothers Harriman
Coming out of university 20 years ago, Christopher Remondi considered a number of firms, but in his words, “I was attracted to the culture and uniqueness of Brown Brothers Harriman. I really hadn’t come across any place like it. My first job interview was with one of the firm’s owners, and that was pretty special.” That owner was BBH partner and Global Custodian Legend, the late Stokley Towles. “The personal interaction with Stokley gave me immediate confidence that BBH was a firm I could work for and one where I could have an impact, even at the most junior level.”
Remondi cites BBH’s partnership structure, its flat organizational model and collaborative culture as the reasons he has had the opportunity to try his hand at various roles and across a range of businesses within BBH. “I have been able to work through the ranks and work closely with people in almost every one of our departments,” he says.
Today, Remondi’s greatest impact is made through his role as partner responsible for the BBH Markets businesses, including foreign exchange, securities lending and brokerage. But over his near 20 years at BBH, Remondi has also been the firm’s chief information officer responsible for systems infrastructure, application development and technology strategy, as well as the head of BBH Infomediary, a connectivity and messaging platform that provides a single connectivity point between clients and their external service providers and internal systems.
Another benefit of BBH’s partnership structure is the lack of shareholder pressure, which enables the firm to take a long-term view when servicing the needs of their clients. This long-term focus was particularly relevant when in 2001 BBH established its Infomediary business. “That was a very difficult economic year, but because the firm could look further down the road than other institutions, we made the $50 million investment that was required to start this business. We were investing with a 10-12 year horizon while most were managing by quarter,” says Remondi. “It’s proved to be a very worthwhile investment but required considerable conviction and financial commitment when the market was in a significant downturn.”
Remondi and the BBH team continue to evolve the Infomediary product. “Every time we take on a new client the application gets bigger and better because the infrastructure is shared across 250 organizations around the world,” he says. “That’s a terrific business model for us, as it allows us to grow not just the client base but also the application each time we take on a new client. We’ve grown Infomediary horizontally across our client bases. When we started the business we were really focused on trade messaging. Now we’re focused on a number of different areas, including foreign exchange and corporate actions.”
What makes Infomediary and its applications so unique, says Remondi, is that they marry technology with deep market expertise. “Looking at InfoFX for example, we took a highly operational product, Infomediary, and a highly sophisticated trading service, FX, and combined the best of both—a little like combining peanut butter and chocolate,” he says. “At many firms, the head of a currency desk may not have taken the time to work with an operational junkie like me, and that’s probably the most unique part about how this product developed. Today InfoFX is growing at over 40% per year.”
The latest Infomediary innovation, InfoAction, is a Software-as-a-Service application, which provides clients the benefits of a multimillion-dollar corporate actions system without all of the headaches of installing it and maintaining it. “Having things like a hosted corporate actions platform will be critical to BBH’s clients going forward,” says Remondi. “That’s how we’ve grown—it is really that horizontal view across all of our clients’ investment flows, message types and workflows in the market,” says Remondi. In addition to these developments, BBH has extended its interactions with industry utilities with the view of further integration, whether it’s a depositary or matching utility, he adds.
Remondi describes the horizontal approach to meeting client needs as an evolved strategy. “We run with our clients and we’ve learned with them that their requirements are more comprehensive than ever,” he says. “They are looking for more applications that leverage Infomediary technology, so we continue to work off of this base.”
As far as what is next on Remondi’s agenda, he is looking forward to what lies ahead in his new role as head of BBH Markets. “The past six months have been a great learning experience and a great opportunity to take bits of my prior roles and continue to build on them,” he says. “Markets is really all about technology right now—it allows us to redefine performance and put our ideas for improved execution, transparency, operational efficiency and risk reduction into practice. Having a technical aptitude and background is a great foundation for this role.”
–Janet Du Chenne