'If I lost it all tomorrow, I think I could be totally happy with my life.' The CEO taking on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq won't let Wall Street define him

Business Insider/Jessica TylerBrad Katsuyama is the cofounder and CEO of IEX.
  • Brad Katsuyama worked as an executive for the Royal Bank of Canada. Instead of retiring from the RBC, he decided to launch his own company, the Investors Exchange (IEX).
  • As the cofounder and CEO of IEX, Katsuyama is determined to build a company he’s proud of, but not one that defines who he is.
  • He said he’s learned to differentiate personal and professional success.

For 12 years Brad Katsuyama had worked as an executive for the Royal Bank of Canada. Instead of retiring from RBC, he decided to launch his own company, the Investors Exchange (IEX).

Katsuyama founded IEX as a stock exchange that thwarts predatory high-frequency trading, and had the idea while still working at RBC. He had seven jobs during his time there, and hadn’t ever considered himself either a born financier or a born entrepreneur, he said in an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success.”


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He may not have gone into finance out of a passion for the field, but he turned out to be great at his job, and only left it to take a major gamble on his own business because he felt morally driven to combat what he considered a rigged trading system. His career path, he said, has given him a certain peace of mind he thinks anyone could benefit from.

“Knowing the risks we took to start IEX, I think partly is grounded in I don’t feel that working on Wall Street identifies who I am,” Katsuyama said.

“So if I lost it all tomorrow, I think I could be totally happy with my life, from that point forward, and I think a lot of people over-identify with their jobs. I don’t really feel that way,” he said.

Read more: IEX CEO Brad Katsuyama talks about life after ‘Flash Boys’ and how he’s taking on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq

There’s no doubt about Katsuyama’s dedication to his company and its mission. But he’s learned to separate the company he cares deeply about from his personal identity.

At the end of the day, he said, “It’s a business. But it’s not the only thing in my life. It’s certainly not the most important thing in my life.” In fact, if it turns out Katsuyama isn’t the best leader for IEX one day, he’d happily step down, he said.

Katsuyama said that while some people judge their success by how much money they’re making, “I could not tell you if you asked me, if you had a gun to my head right now and said, ‘What’s the value of your stake in IEX?’ I would miss it. I would be wrong. I don’t know. So that tells me it’s not about money.”

“I think people equate success to work. I actually don’t, and I learned the lesson early that identifying yourself too much with one thing in a way sets you up to be dramatically disappointed at some point,” he said.

You can subscribe to “This Is Success” in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, and listen to the full episode below:

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