The WFE's Women Leaders 2024 - Catherine Addona-Peña, Global Chief Risk Officer of Nasdaq

By: The WFE Focus Team Mar 2024

Name: Catherine Addona-Peña

Organisation: Nasdaq
Job Title: Senior Vice President, Global Chief Risk Officer 


1. Brief job description.

Catherine serves as senior vice president, global chief risk officer and head of Group Risk Management at Nasdaq. She’s heads Nasdaq’s Group Risk Management functions, including Enterprise Risk Management, Financial Risk Management, Clearing Risk Management, and Corporate Insurance, and is responsible for improving risk culture awareness across the enterprise and effectively managing the company’s risks.

She is a member of the board of directors of Nasdaq Clearing AB, which provides oversight and governance of the Nasdaq’s clearing house offering clearing across multiple asset classes and the Nasdaq Foundation, which promotes and provides opportunities that support and deliver educational programs and charitable activities supportive of Nasdaq’s mission.

She also serves as chair or co-chair of the following Nasdaq committees: Group Risk Management Committee, AI Strategy & Governance, Digital Asset Oversight Committee, Supplier Risk, and Business Continuity.

Catherine is also the executive sponsor of Adelante, Nasdaq’s Hispanic and Latinx employee resource group, and an active member of Nasdaq’s Employee Networks Mentoring Program, for which she was named one of the company’s Outstanding Mentors for 2023.

2. Short biography

Catherine has more than 25 years of leadership experience across audit, risk management, and technology transformation roles. Prior to joining Nasdaq in 2022, Catherine held several senior management positions during her 18-year tenure at Goldman Sachs. Most recently, Catherine was the chief Digital transformation officer and managing director for engineering at Goldman Sachs and was a member of the company’s Engineering Risk Committee.

Throughout her career, Catherine has focused on empowering her colleagues and creating professional development opportunities for her peers. While at Goldman Sachs, she founded the IMD Engineering Diversity Recruiting and Retention Program, which focused on creating a more diverse pipeline of engineering talent for Investment Management Engineering and helping accelerate the careers of diverse engineers at Goldman Sachs, as well as Women in Tech Audit, an affinity network a focused on advancing the career trajectory of women auditors at the firm.

Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Catherine served as an international consultant and IT program manager in the pharmaceutical industry.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Marymount College of Fordham University and a master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in finance and development from Columbia University.

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

2023 presented us with a unique set of risks and challenges stemming from increased regulations, growing geopolitical conflicts, increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, and the fallout from the Silicon Valley Bank failure. Nasdaq’s risk management function played a significant role in the company's success as we navigated an unpredictable operating environment.

We were proud to have spearheaded the creation of Nasdaq’s AI governance framework in partnership with our engineering team, establishing a set of controls and principles that will help our business safely mobilize an ambitious AI strategy. Nasdaq has always been a technology pioneer, and having robust risk management and governance policies in place enables us to leverage emerging technologies to deliver unprecedented value to our clients in a manner that protects our business, our employees, and our customers.

In 2023, Nasdaq completed the $10 billion acquisition of Adenza, a provider of mission-critical capital markets and regulatory solutions to the financial industry. This is a transformative acquisition what will further Nasdaq’s credentials as a leading technology provider to the broader financial ecosystem, and our team was proud to work with our business partners to ensure Nasdaq was able to make this acquisition from a position of strength.

My team works in close partnership with our key business and technology stakeholders globally to thoughtfully advise on strategic initiatives and execute our due diligence to support Nasdaq’s robust products and services offerings. For example, in 2023, we actively contributed to the firm’s market structure initiatives, including the migration of our US options markets (GEMX, MRX) to the AWS Outpost and launch of new and differentiated products and services to our clients like Dynamic Melo (D-Melo), the first exchange AI-powered order type approved by the SEC. We also actively support Nasdaq’s Crypto Index, designed to measure the performance of a significant portion of the digital asset market and to provide a benchmark for institutional investment in this new and emerging asset class. The Index is specifically designed to be dynamic in nature, broadly representative of the market, and readily trackable by investors, which is why effective risk management is so important in this space.

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

Joining Nasdaq as chief risk officer in 2022 is something I’m deeply proud of – this role is a culmination of more than 25 years of learnings from the worlds of internal audit, change management, and engineering. It has allowed me to leverage my diverse skillsets acquired from the various positions I’ve held over the years while consistently providing new opportunities to learn and grow.

One major accomplishment I’m particularly proud of is the evolution of our risk management operations at Nasdaq. We are constantly identifying ways to enhance the way our risk teams operate to ensure that we are optimizing the deep subject matter expertise and talent in the risk function so that we can maximize the impact of our contributions to the company. Our focus is to continually promote a proactive culture of risk management across the company, that enables us to better support new product launches, geographic expansion, and M&A, as well as our existing businesses.

While at Goldman Sachs, in partnership with engineering leadership, I helped launched the Digital Transformation Office in the office of the CIO. Under our leadership, the Digital Transformation Office established a digital strategy that refocused engineering workstreams to take an ROI-centric approach to project management. It enabled Goldman Sachs’ engineers to act as strategic stakeholders, giving engineering teams a seat at the decision-making table and enabling them to take a client-centric approach to the firm’s engineering projects.

I am also a big believer in the power of networks and mentorship. I am passionate about empowering my colleagues and supporting them as they work to achieve their goals, which is why being named one of Nasdaq’s Outstanding Mentors in 2023 was a great honor.

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

I am constantly inspired by the possibility to ignite change and the opportunity to drive the evolution of processes and practices within a business.

On a related note, the leaders I find to be the most inspiring are the ones who use their seat at the leadership table to speak up, drive change, and transform businesses. They are authentic and committed to advocate for the right approach even when it might be the more difficult path because they are committed to excellence. They do not have room for complacency.

Most importantly, the leaders who I have seen make the biggest impact in large organizations and who can build and support strong teams that take ownership for the firm have EQs as highly and developed as their IQ, which means that they are open to learning, listening, and making informed decisions that aren’t based on ego.


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

I view setbacks as an opportunity to assess how we can improve our current way of doing things, because setbacks typically happen for valid reasons that aren’t always obvious in the moment. While disappointment is a natural response, I believe setbacks are an important reminder to recalibrate and to approach the path forward with an open mind. Setbacks are a chance to adopt a different, more innovative and dynamic approach to your remit and to your career. I believe that to truly take advantage of a setback, you must avoid complacency, ignore your ego, and really understand why things went wrong so that you can find the right path forward. Most importantly, to accelerate your growth, you must embrace change because change always brings opportunity.

Looking back, I’ve come to realize that the setbacks I have faced were necessary for personal and professional growth. The way that we respond to disappointments and challenges in our professional lives is so important. I’ve worked with and observed many leaders throughout my career, and the best of them show up during the most difficult and stressful times with grace and vision. When you invest your time in developing the skills and expertise needed to grow and overcome the most challenging setbacks, you emerge as more well-rounded leader who leads their teams to ultimate success.

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

  1. Build a Strong Foundation: It’s so important to build your career from a strong base – take the time to invest in your skills and expertise and become a subject matter expert in your field.
  2. Grow Your Network: When you’re building that foundation, don’t keep your head down and grind away – make sure you’re expanding your network, meeting leaders in different parts of your own business, and building relationships with your managers and leaders. Having these connections will help you identify new skills to build, find new opportunities for growth, and ensure you’re getting the support you need at every level of your career.
  3. Be Open to Change: Change provides opportunity. Be flexible and open to new opportunities, not afraid of them. Embracing change helps you stay sharp and avoid being complacent.
  4. Take Your Seat, Use Your Voice: When you are in the room where decisions are being made, be authentic and have your own point of view. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at in your career – use your voice to influence outcomes so that when you’re not in the room, people notice your absence.
  5. Embrace Standing Out: As a woman with experience who has spent her career in finance, tech, and engineering environments, I understand how intimidating it can feel to be in a male-dominated environment. But when you’re the only woman in the room, so to speak, your voice matters so much more in that moment than you can imagine. I have also found that when you speak up in these situations, express your opinion, and demonstrate your expertise, you will see that peers appreciate your unique perspective. Making sure we use our platform will lead to more women being welcomed to the decision-making table.


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.