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Financial Markets Leaders Remember the late Magnus Bocker

I asked several leaders around the exchange world to offer remembrances of Magnus Bocker, the late former CEO of SGX. To start, I shall offer my own and add additional remembrances as they come in.

I first met Magnus Bocker at a Deutsche Bank investment banking financial technology conference in New York where I had been asked to moderate an exchange leader panel. Magnus was then president of Nasdaq OMX. Also on the panel was Larry Leibowitz representing NYSE Euronext.

Magnus was always gracious with me. He was likable, always smiling, whip-smart and well-dressed. In fact one year at the FIA’s Boca Raton International Conference I remarked in a top 10 list that Magnus and then CME CEO Craig Donohue decided NOT to open a men’s clothing fashion line together.  The two had almost appeared at the conference to be well-dressed twins in matching blue blazer, khaki pants and Gucci loafers. 

Magnus was very generous when I followed in Jeremy Grant’s footsteps and wore a kilt to the IDX Gala Dinner and raised money for Futures for Kids. I shall miss him and wish my deepest condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues.

As a leader, I had great respect for him. When he took over as CEO of SGX, he did not bring in his own people to fill the key positions. Rather, he worked with the team in place. To me, that showed great leadership skills.

Here are some of the other remembrances:

Craig Donohue of OCC:

The last time I saw Magnus was in Singapore when he was in the midst of trying to merge The Singapore and Australian stock exchanges. We had what turned out to be a very leisurely lunch and he was ebullient and excited about his job, being in Singapore, the transformation of SGX that he was leading and his efforts to make SGX a dominant regional force in Asia Pacific. I was struck by how happy and comfortable he was in this environment. Reflecting on his career, Magnus had an enviable run. He helped build and transform OMX and Nasdaq, bridging from Europe to the Americas. After the successful completion of that transaction, he took on with zeal the opportunities that were emerging in Asia Pacific.

Magnus was the consummate executive – he had the knowledge, ambition, poise and political skills to navigate any complex terrain. Most importantly, he was always someone we all liked and respected. He was always positive and upbeat and never cynical or critical: it was all about the future and what we could do. On behalf of our entire industry, I can say that Magnus will be greatly missed.

Chew Sutat of SGX wrote:

Putting SGX on the Map.

A pioneer. An innovator. Irrepressible. Leader, mentor and friend. SGX and indeed Singapore have been beneficiaries of his belief, commitment and passion for putting this little red dot on a world map. With his untimely passing, Singapore has lost an ambassador not only to the the exchange community, the financial industry, or the fintech world, where he devoted so much of his life to (before fintech was even popular – he transformed OMX), but also the deep personal connections that Magnus brought with his unique ability to touch individuals and inspire them. It mattered less whether you were for, against and which side of the table you were on, the force of personality, drive and energy always left an indelible imprint.

Early in his tenure at the SGX, I had a “development” conversation with him about executive education. Whilst the cold hard pragmatic reality and the untidiness of details are often lost on visonaries – Magnus’ who exemplifys both, response was classic. Forget about the academia and network from the classroom, lets make it real – by taking a walkabout down under with the ASX. Lucky me.

Whilst many saw the subsequent failure of the transaction – as just that – failure, and indeed the political ramifications of that haunted his remaining successful tenure against many odds, it put SGX on the world map of exhanges. A domestic stock exchnage with some historical wins in South East Asia, was transformed to truely become a fledging multi-asset Asian Gateway with wins from Iron Ore derivatives, Chinese equity index futures, to landing the port of Hong Kong to list in Singapore!

Internationally, doors opened when we knocked, and in fact for a season prospects called us. Ultimately however, the provincial domestic constituency battred by relentless industry and technology change, and the politics around it made it untennable. Even then, he stayed on in Singapore and gave his all from chairing the local investor education association, and bridging trybs’ of all shapes, sizes and colours from all parts of the world to Singapore.

It was way too brief a time, but we are all better off for the gift that was Magnus.

Michael Syn of SGX wrote:

A year and a half ago Magnus was trying to do up his shoelaces but couldn’t reach. He assumed he had been overtraining. As a former fat kid (believe it or not) he was a reform zealot when it came to running and fitness. I could tell by the way he pretended to enjoy my only remaining pre-revolution Partagas.

A few days later he was done with surgery and back on email and WhatsApp. His almost ridiculous sense of optimism was our rock and strength during his almost six years as our SGX CEO. It served him, his family and loved ones well.

Travelling with him to Boca in 2011 was a revelation. He was an operator in his element, and opened our country mouse eyes.

Magnus was the high priest of generational change for many Asian futures and stock exchanges, who electronified by adopting his OM technology. We always got a good meal when we visited – as competitors and as friends.

This is what struck me most, then in 2011. A wonderfully enlightened sense of community in the global futures village. Magnus flew the flag for that ethos, and brought it with him to Asia.

He had his idiosyncrasies. He constantly snacked on bad carbs. I simply could not understand his affection for Scandinavian “chocolates”. He couldn’t tell a good durian from a bad one.

For someone who strove to conform and perfect in lifestyle, Magnus (not actually his first name) Bocker (not actually his last name) kept faith with the originals.

We will be organising a memorial celebration soon. Those in Singapore, drop Rama or myself a line and we’ll give details when settled.

Dulce et decorum est. Rest in peace my friend .

Adena Friedan of Nasdaq wrote:

Magnus Bocker served as the CEO of OMX and subsequently the President of Nasdaq, before leaving in 2009 to become the CEO of the Singapore Exchange.  

For those of us who knew Magnus well, there are so many wonderful things to say about him.  He was incredibly vivacious, happy, and optimistic – he came to work ready to tackle any issue and ready to lift up everyone’s spirits.  He also was extremely intelligent and creative, which he applied to every opportunity and challenge that we faced.  He is the reason that OMX rose to its great heights and became a global technology player.  He was a tremendous partner to all of his colleagues at Nasdaq and helped elevate our business meaningfully during his tenure here.  He had tremendous generosity of spirit, and he would help anyone who ever asked.  He was truly a one-of-a-kind friend and colleague.  

He leaves behind three sons all of whom will carry on his wonderful personality and energy.  

Throughout his ordeal, he remained as optimistic and engaging as ever, and his spirit never wavered.  At Nasdaq, we are all truly heartbroken by the news. We will miss him very much.

Walt Lukken of the FIA wrote:

“Magnus will remembered for the flair, intellect and joy he brought to our sometimes complex and dry industry. Always quick-witted and stylishly dressed, he never lacked a vision for where he was going in life. And importantly, he always wanted to have fun along the way. While in Singapore for the FIA Asia Conference, Magnus convinced me to be the volunteer for a magic show that SGX was hosting as part of their reception. Little did I know I would be brought up on stage, asked to kneel and have the magician use a circular saw to cut off my head in front of the industry. When I survived the ordeal, there was Magnus laughing and smiling and you just couldn’t help but find his joy contagious. What a wonderful way to be remembered.”

Nandiini Sukumar of the WFE wrote:

“Magnus was optimistic, clever, diplomatic and very strategic. Many people in the industry came to him for advice and counsel and he was generous in making time. I first met him in 2000 when OM was trying to buy the LSE and then, as was his trademark during the rest of his career, he was always smiling regardless of the pressure he might be under. We are all very sad to hear of Magnus’s death – he had many friends and admirers. After the WFE told members earlier today of the news, there has been a deluge of emails expressing the industry sense of loss and paying tribute to his charisma and kindness.”

Phupinder Gill, former CME CEO wrote:

“I am very deeply saddened to hear about the death of my dear friend Magnus. From his time at OMX through his tenure at SGX, he has always been a committed “connector” and truly believed in global connectivity as a path for success. His life’s work at OMX, NDQ and SGX pointedly reflect this commitment. And he always had an optimistic view of the world and made time for a smile and drink with anybody as he did when we ran into each other a few months ago in NYC. I have been blessed to have known him – a true gentleman!”

Nils-Robert Persson of Cinnober wrote:

“I worked with Magnus almost ten years. We where both Deputy CEO at the same time at OM. We shared room for a period. Magnus was an excellent roommate, and an always positive and inspiring colleague. He was nice even as competitor. We reconnected on a personal level in the last few years when we had a dialog about developing new business ideas with IT in the financial industry. I’m missing him. All thoughts to his family.”

Terry Duffy  of the CME wrote:

“On behalf of everyone at CME Group we are saddened by the loss of Magnus Bocker. This is a loss for the industry.”

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About Author

Lothian is executive chairman of John J. Lothian & Co. and editor of the John Lothian Newsletter. He publishes MarketsWiki.com, MarketsReformWiki.com, MarketsWikiEducation.com, JohnLothianNews.com and several industry newsletters.