Brad Katsuyama and Ronan Ryan know what it takes to stand out on Wall Street.
The cofounders of IEX, the exchange operator made famous in Michael Lewis’ popular book “Flash Boys,” launched the company in 2012 to take on Wall Street’s old guard.
The duo, who both held top trading positions at RBC Capital Markets before IEX, told Business Insider the mindset on Wall Street has changed since they first started their careers on the Street. And, as a result, the type of person you need to be to get ahead is different from what it once was.
“It has less to do with where you went to school, and who your family is, and where your last job was,” Katsuyama said.
Today, according to Katsuyama, meritocracy reigns, for the most part at least. Ryan stressed that hopefuls need to know their stuff.
“Don’t pretend you everything and BS it,” he said.”I am a big believer in asking questions.”
Just don’t ask stupid questions, he says.
“You have to be curious,” Katsuyama added, echoing Ryan. “You have to be willing to ask a lot of questions.”
It makes sense that Katsuyama and Ryan place a high value on curiosity. As chronicled in “Flash Boys,” when Katsuyama was a trader at RBC in 2008, he set out to discover why “the market would move away from him,” as Lewis put it, whenever he would make a trade.
Ultimately, that question led to the creation of a team at RBC tasked with the purpose of finding the answer. Some high-frequency traders, according to Katsuyama, were using access, purchased from exchanges, to get information about trades before everyone else. Katsuyama and Ryan founded IEX to upend this model.