Julia Kassam: A career taking flight
Head of Listings, Aequitas Neo Exchange
When Julia Kassam sees a good opportunity, she jumps on it. Her career has been driven by equal parts passion and tenacity, traits that have driven her success since working in Deloitte’s Consulting practice. She is now the Head of Listings at Aequitas NEO Exchange, Canada’s new stock exchange, where she works to build relationships with potential issuers and expand the NEO Exchange’s reach into the investment community.
The opportunity to play a part in building a Canadian stock exchange was too good for Julia to pass up. “A stock exchange is a central component of the engine that drives economic growth in Canada and we’re a part of that,” she explains. “It’s not every day a new stock exchange is developed, and it was a long and thorough process to get to where we are now.”
Since joining the team a year ago, the NEO Exchange launched its trading platform in March 2015 and its listings platform this past June. The Exchange aims to capture 20 percent of the market by trading volume within four to five years.
Julia’s role and the Exchange are dynamic, a term that could also be used to describe the highly-motivated professional. An accomplished pilot, distance runner and violin player, Julia attributes her success to “a family that accepts the discipline behind my 5:30 alarm every morning.”
A unique approach
Julia loves that the NEO Exchange brings the discussion of market structure to the broader investing public, and believes investors, advisors and issuers should know more about how an exchange works and how securities are traded. Given this approach, it’s not surprising that transparency is a foundational principle at the NEO Exchange.
Her greatest challenge is bringing creativity to a heavily regulated industry. “We’re introducing a new approach to what has been a one-way street of thinking and we’re breaking into an industry that’s not familiar with change,” she says. “We are educating, simplifying, and opening up the conversation to the complexities of the capital markets.”
Embracing new thinking is a cornerstone of the NEO Exchange’s approach. As someone who has always worked in industries where there were very few women, Julia has seen a positive shift in the success of women in capital markets. Citing her own company as an example – 40 percent of the executive team is female, as well as the chair of the board – Julia feels strongly that women in Canadian business have more opportunities than they used to.
Julia and the leaders at the NEO Exchange are very proud of the diversity at their table. It’s another way the NEO Exchange embodies one of their core values: the opportunity to succeed belongs to everyone.
Building a foundation
Julia credits her time at Deloitte for laying the groundwork for her professional success. It taught her a solid understanding of all aspects of business, and the need for companies to constantly adapt and make improvements in order to be successful in the market.
“Deloitte prepared me for two aspects of my current role. First, the NEO Exchange is a start-up, so it’s important that I understand the key components of how to build and operate a successful business from the ground up. On the flipside, I work with entrepreneurs to help them achieve a new level of success and bring them into the public eye.”
Getting personal with Julia
If you were to provide one piece of business advice for young professionals, what would it be?
Be curious, welcome uncertainty, celebrate successes and fail with grace. And always challenge the status quo.
What’s your pet peeve?
People who always start with no. Never start with no - start with yes and get to no.
Most people don’t know I…
Graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Leadership.
What’s your favourite sport?