Based on an interview with Gurinder Ahluwalia
Co-founder and CEO of 280 CapMarkets
|Value proposition:||Improves market liquidity, providing better access and deeper markets while expanding opportunities for municipal and corporate debt issuers.|
|The executive team:||Gurinder Ahluwalia, CEO
Dave Rudd, President
Prescott Nasser, CTO
280 CapMarkets is an innovation driven fixed income technology marketplace providing best execution support and price transparency to advisors, institutions and issuers. Our mission is to make the fixed income markets more efficient by empowering investment advisors and connecting market participants. 280’s cloud-native BondNav® platform improves market liquidity, providing better access and deeper markets while expanding distribution for municipal and corporate debt issuers.
Gurinder S Ahluwalia is co-founder and CEO of 280 CapMarkets. He brings over twenty-five years of operating and financial services experience with a proven track record of building, fixing and growing businesses, most recently in wealth management. Mr. Ahluwalia has provided strong leadership in varied roles including CEO and President, COO, and Chief Risk Officer. Currently, he is also an Executive Advisor to Thomas H. Lee Partners and lead director of the board of HighTower Advisors.
Previously, Mr. Ahluwalia was an Advisor at Ovo Cosmico, Inc., a VC-backed start-up with a mission of making credit affordable and accessible everywhere using the blockchain. He was also CEO of AssetMark, Inc., where he focused the company’s strategy on growth through advisor engagement, improved execution, and product and service innovations. As President and CEO of GE Private Asset Management and Genworth Wealth Management, he transformed the unit from a boutique business to one with industry-leading profitability. He previously served on the board of various mutual fund families, a Senior Vice President at GE Insurance and Chief Risk Officer at GE Edison Life Insurance.
From the business and technology perspectives, what makes 280 CapMarkets so unique? What tech and/or architecture enabled your company’s success and why?
Gurinder Ahluwalia: 280 CapMarkets (or simply 280) is a technology company transforming fixed income by delivering pricing power, market clarity, and best execution support to level the playing field for independent financial advisors and institutions.
Our innovative and patent-pending, cloud-native BondNav® technology platform serves as a marketplace which identifies the best available bond prices and aggregates offerings across numerous venues, including alternative trading systems and exchanges, inter-dealer brokers, dealers and institutions. 280 combines its tech savvy with the expertise of its full-service capital markets team to serve as a conflict-free extension of an advisor’s practice, driving profitability and growth while working to obtain price improvements and best execution on every trade.
With tech innovations happening across the entire spectrum of the financial industry, the bond market is no exception. 280 is bringing together institutional and retail offerings into one streamlined platform. 280 is the innovation leader in this space, and is dedicated to increasing pricing transparency, providing better product access and helping to ensure best execution for advisors.
Have you ever felt like you should have done something the other way from the very beginning?
Gurinder Ahluwalia: About four years ago we asked ourselves how advisors go out and procure individual bonds. Many of them are using different solutions but if they’re buying individual securities, we said, how do they do that and how has technology changed to help them with this process, and we didn’t come back with a strong answer. So that was the genesis of the business and what we’ve created is the ability to be the trading desk and service provider for the advisor. We’re on the same side of the table as them and the idea was to level the playing field using technology.
What’s more important, a quality product or excellent customer service? Giving the lockdown and current situation, are your priorities shifted to any of these?
Gurinder Ahluwalia: 280 CapMarkets’ well-regarded and experienced fixed income and technology teams were drawn together by a passion for improving the bond buying and selling experience for advisors. Our new approach to fixed income investing uniquely binds deep fixed income expertise with a sophisticated technology platform, allowing independent advisors to save valuable time, grow their business, and manage their clients’ fixed income portfolios with confidence.
How have you managed to foster your team? What’s the secret sauce?
Gurinder Ahluwalia: 280 CapMarkets has a technology-driven, entrepreneurial culture. We thrive in a flat organization with reduced hierarchy and increased engagement. Historically we have engaged in various social and community events however, during these days in a pandemic environment we have continued to excel in a remote setting while continuing to engage with our employees in regular calls and virtual meetings.
What business metrics do you use to measure your team’s efficiency (if any) and why?
Gurinder Ahluwalia: Performance feedback is continual as part of regular one on ones between a manager and his/her employee (usually every 2 weeks or so). Annual performance goals are set but often shift as priorities evolve and are treated as a guide.
280 CapMarkets has a planning process towards year end where employees can share how their goals fit within the broader enterprise business goals. We organize a set of strong alignment sessions and create a common set of shared goals. We also have a mid-year check which compares midyear performance with midyear goals and expectations. Finally, at year end we review our performance vs overall goals and company performance, which is the input for the next year.
How do you select and onboard new team members? How have you structured your teams?
Gurinder Ahluwalia: Our approach varies per business and function. Universally we are looking for people who have the drive and connect with the mission. Then, there is anatural process of meeting various team members to see if there is a mutual fit and interest. Afterall, we spend so much time with each other one way or another – it has to be enjoyable. Operationally, we make job postings available on our social media channels, website and through our networks.