The WFE's Women Leaders 2021 - Helen Lofthouse, Executive General Manager, Derivatives & OTC Markets, ASX Limited

By: The WFE Focus Team Mar 2021

Nominee’s name: Helen Lofthouse

Member: ASX Limited

Nominee’s job title: Executive General Manager, Derivatives & OTC Markets


1. - Brief description of nominee’s role/job:

Helen Lofthouse is the Executive General Manager for Derivatives and OTC Markets at ASX Limited. Ms Lofthouse joined ASX in September 2015, moving from London to Sydney to take up the role. She is responsible for the largest business unit at ASX, which includes the listed derivatives markets, together with the OTC Clearing and ASX Collateral services, ASX Benchmarks and the Austraclear central securities depository.

2. - Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):

Prior to joining ASX, Ms Lofthouse was a Managing Director at UBS in London for four years. She was globally responsible for the OTC Clearing and Fixed Income Prime Brokerage business at UBS, and was Head of Clearing and Execution Sales in London. As well as driving revenue and profitability growth in those businesses, Ms Lofthouse also led industry advocacy with regulators on the impact of Basel 3 on clearing, culminating in global regulators adjusting the Leverage Ratio rules for clearing.

Prior to UBS, Ms. Lofthouse worked at JP Morgan in London for 14 years. She had a range of roles in her time there, including setting up and heading the Derivatives Prime Brokerage business, and European head of Fixed Income Prime Brokerage.

She enjoys bushwalking, spending time with her family (her husband and two boys), and skiing.

3. - What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2020?:

Under my leadership, the Derivatives & OTC Markets business at ASX has developed into a well-diversified, resilient business. When the COVID-related market volatility struck in March 2020, ASX’s markets stood up extremely well, providing customers with price discovery, transparency and risk management capabilities in the most extreme trading conditions, with the operational resilience to support that. Whilst the OTC government bond market’s functioning was significantly impaired, ASX’s markets, and the bank bill market, continued to provide liquidity; and the ASX teams worked closely with customers to support them in a difficult time.

ASX then pivoted – fast – to deliver what customers needed in utterly changed market conditions. In particular, we launched a brand new contract – the ASX 5 Year Treasury Bond Future – in record time. The RBA’s monetary policy actions included Yield Curve Control out to 3 years for government bonds, whilst the Federal Government started issuing large quantities of new government bonds, mainly in the 5-10 year maturity bucket. That completely changed customers’ product needs, and we responded quickly.

The new contract launched on 30 November 2020, with strong market maker support, and has grown rapidly since then, breaking through the crucial 50k barrier of open interest (contracts) in early February, and still growing from there.

We have also been instrumental in transforming BBSW, the main benchmark interest rate used in Australia. After regulatory action in 2016-2018 around some banks’ activities in bank bill market, confidence in BBSW had been undermined. In 2017, ASX on took the responsibility for setting BBSW, and worked to transform the methodology and market confidence in the rate, successfully transitioning BBSW to being a transaction-based benchmark. In 2019, ASX gained the first Australian Benchmark License under new benchmarks regulation. In the challenging conditions of 2020, ASX worked closely with the market again to further adjust the methodology and ensure that the rate continued to be robust, as well as expanding the use of transactions for setting the rate. This work on BBSW has given the Australian financial markets confidence in BBSW, and saved the industry from a costly and resource-draining exercise of having to move away from the Australia’s primary interest rate benchmark.


4. - What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success:

I grew up in a family where money was tight, but with encyclopaedias on the bookshelves. The resulting combination of curiosity and a desire for financial independence, together with a love of maths, probably set me off on a path towards technology and financial markets.

I love learning, and I enjoy working with smart, nice people. And, at the risk of sounding dull, I really enjoy working – there is great satisfaction in setting an objective, working across complex organisations, teams and customers to get it done, and then to look back and see what you have all achieved. In the job I do now, it’s an enormous privilege – as well as a great responsibility – to be working across the whole range of participants in Australia’s financial markets, and trying to ensure that the markets and infrastructure achieve the best possible outcome for the economy as a whole.

One person who stands out during the course of my career is Tim Frost, who was a manager during my time at JPMorgan. Tim is unique, and I really enjoyed working with him. He is endlessly curious and full of ideas, funny, kind, generous with his time, and also pretty quirky – and is all the more impactful and successful for that. I learned a lot from his entrepreneurial, creative thinking; but also that bringing your whole self to work – being uniquely your own person — can be a huge positive. For me, that was an important realisation, and something that I’ve tried to role model ever since.

5. - What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions:

First – be curious, and keep asking questions. That includes speaking up when something doesn’t make sense or isn’t right.

Second – treat people with respect, thinking carefully about how you would like to be treated, and remember too that as you get more senior, your behaviour – positive or negative – is magnified in terms of its impact on other people. What you do often matters even more than what you say.

Third – great people around you are the key to success. Find talented people, support them, encourage them, give them scope to solve problems, credit for their hard work and plenty of opportunities and exposure. It’s such a delight when your people have ideas you would never have dreamed of, or deliver things you just couldn’t do. And yes, sometimes that means cultivating great people and then seeing them go to opportunities elsewhere, but there is a lot of joy to be had in seeing those talented people succeed.