The WFE's Women Leaders 2024 – Hester Serafini, President of ICE Clear Europe

By: Hester Serafini, President, ICE Clear Europe, Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. Mar 2024

Name: Hester Serafini 
Organisation: Intercontinental Exchange, Inc.
Job Title: President, ICE Clear Europe 

1. Brief job description 

Hester is responsible for running the largest clearing house within ICE, ICE Clear Europe, which is one of the biggest clearing houses in the world, clearing multi-currency and multi-asset class futures and options across commodities (energy and softs), environmentals, interest rates and equity derivatives, and the largest clearing house in the world for clearing energy.

2. Short biography 

Before becoming President of ICE Clear Europe, Hester served as President and COO of ICE Clear US. Prior to joining ICE in March 2016, she was European Head of OTC Clearing and Intermediation at J.P. Morgan, where she led the OTC clearing and intermediation business for credit, FX and rates derivatives in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Hester started her career at Goldman Sachs, where she held several positions, including Chief Risk Officer of the Equities division, Chief Risk Officer of Fixed Income Prime Brokerage and US Head of the Structured Equity-Linked Notes business. At Goldman Sachs, she was also a member of the firm-wide and equities risk committees as well as the global compliance and control committee.

She holds a PhD in Mathematics from the Courant Institute at New York University and a Masters in Applied Mathematics from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. As a Dutch and Italian native who grew up in Luxembourg, Serafini speaks French, German, Italian, Dutch and English.

3. What were your professional highlights and challenges in 2023?

Under my leadership, ICE Clear Europe (‘ICEU’), whose clearing members include some of the biggest banks in the world, successfully provided reliable clearing risk management tools to customers navigating financial and commodity market volatility spurred by geopolitical conflict and global inflation.

With capital strains impacting markets, I led our team through efficient management to address market risk via appropriate frameworks for operational risk, credit and liquidity risk. 2023 witnessed monetary policy tightening by central banks not seen in decades, which was particularly challenging to ICEU as home to clearing benchmark UK and EU interest rate derivative contracts including SONIA, Euribor, Swiss SARON and ESTR – all traded on ICE.

Despite these macro headwinds, including rising interest rates, the US regional banking crisis in March 2023 sparking contagion fears globally, and regulatory challenges such as the extension of the EU Market Correction Mechanism (or TTF natural gas price cap) following the 2022 energy crisis, under my oversight volumes and open interest, key metrics of liquidity, have continued to steadily grow, which is a testament to the market’s confidence in ICEU’s risk-management capabilities.

Average daily volume in ICE’s interest-rate complex is up 25% year on year with a series of volume and open interest records hit in Euribor futures and options in 2023; ICE’s energy complex is up 22% with record average daily volume in 2023, showing the core role ICE’s derivative markets, cleared at ICEU, play in helping our global customer base manage their risk in the face of ever more complex supply chain dynamics.

In the meantime, I am also championing a key transformational project through the implementation of ICEU’s new Risk Model, from the current IRM 1.0 to a portfolio-based VaR model, called IRM 2.0, including launching new tools for the industry via ICE Clearing Analytics (ICA). ICA is ICE’s new web-based platform for calculating IRM 2.0 initial margin and related margin add-ons for ICE’s futures and options complex. ICA offers a rich set of features for calculating margins and managing risk. The new model will provide enhanced accuracy and capital efficiency, as well as responsiveness, stability and simplicity.

In addition, ICEU is spearheading the development of innovative solutions in the carbon markets, including Nature Based Futures, the expansion of carbon certificates, and carbon credit auctions, among others.

4. Tell us about a few of your key achievements? 

I am part of the ICE Group Executive Management Team, leading ICE Clear Europe, which is ICE’s largest clearing house and the largest business of the group in Europe both in terms of people and revenues. ICEU’s annual revenue is about $1.5 billion.

I am regularly asked to participate in discussions with regulators and policy makers providing advice on proposed new policies and regulations, including the Bank of England, the European Securities and Markets Authority, the UK Treasury and the European Commission on regulatory developments and initiatives key to markets functioning smoothly.

Prior to running ICE Europe, I was President of ICE Clear US, our American clearing house. During my three-year tenure, I completely restructured the team and key processes, including risk management, treasury and operational processes. By focusing on bringing in new talent, I was able to create a culture of high performance and innovation, enabling the group to concentrate on proactive instead of reactive risk management and robust liquidity management. All of this without impacting the operation of the business.

During my time at Goldman Sachs, I played a big role in developing the credit default swap (CDS) and interest rate intermediation business. I worked to design innovative margining methodologies for this business, which was new at the time. I’m particularly proud that the methodologies I was involved in designing have become industry standards.

At Deutsche Bank, when regulators first mandated client clearing for CDS and interest-rate products, I was a key member of financial community that helped design the risk, operational and legal models and standards used until this day for CDS and interest-rate client clearing. I was involved in many industry panels and forums during that time as my opinions were sought by clients and regulators alike during the period of transition to client clearing for CDS and interest-rate swaps. I was also involved during the execution of some of the first cleared CDS trades executed by clients.

5.  Who and what inspires you to achieve your professional success?

I thrive on intellectual challenge and have always felt the desire to keep my brain thinking creatively. I’m happiest when I can contribute ideas and make a difference, so I’ve always gravitated towards challenging areas where change and innovation were happening in the market.

I am naturally curious and enjoy understanding all aspects of a problem, ranging from quantitative to legal, to operational, commercial as well as sales and people aspects of a project. This is why I have always chosen to take on roles that allow me to be cross disciplinary and use my broad skill set by combining my understanding of financial markets, legal and operational issues and the ability to develop and execute sales strategies and commercial innovation.

I genuinely enjoy what I do, and I think that’s one of the main reasons I’ve been successful. It’s not a job, my work is something I love and am passionate about.

6. How have you overcome setbacks, and what have you learned from adversity?

I would start by saying never let anyone tell you what you can and cannot achieve.

Believe in yourself and never give up. Try different avenues when you get stuck or when you encounter obstacles. When you encounter setbacks it is important to evaluate whether the setback is due to things you could have done better or differently and learn from your mistakes. Evaluate whether the role you are in plays to your strengths. If it does not, make a change. If you are in a role that plays to your strengths, accept that there will be occasional setbacks, learn from any mistakes that may have contributed to them, don’t give up, continue to leverage your strengths, continue to do good work and success will follow.

7. What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions?

Trust that you can do it and never give up. There will be setbacks but get up and keep going. Develop your own style. Don’t try to be like men. Be yourself and embrace and leverage your unique strengths as a woman.

A career should be fun, enjoyable and rewarding. Find a field and a firm where you enjoy the work so it is not just a job or a step in your career, it is a passion and then success will follow. I don’t mean that every day will be easy, but overall it should be interesting and fun so you want to keep coming back for more.

I think that you can only ever be really good at something when you enjoy it and want to do it. Take risks and bring passion to your work.


The views, thoughts and opinions contained in this Focus article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the WFE’s policy position on the issue, or the WFE’s views or opinions.