2016 Individual Achievement: Sophia Lee, IEX Group

Terry Flanagan
This entry is part 1 in the series Markets Choice Awards: Women in Finance 2016


Sophia Lee was recognized for 2016 Individual Achievement at the 2016 Women in Finance Markets Choice Awards.

Describe the highlights of your career to date and your role/responsibilities at your current firm.

As the General Counsel at IEX – America’s newest stock exchange – I’m responsible for all of the company’s legal matters, which means advising on everything from corporate governance, transactions and intellectual property matters to compliance and securities regulatory matters.

Sophia Lee, IEX

Sophia Lee, IEX

Prior to joining IEX, I was Deputy General Counsel at Liquidnet, where I served as liaison with global regulators and set up new trading venues around the world. Before that, I was at ITG, overseeing acquisitions, corporate governance and public company filings, and law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, as a mergers and acquisitions associate. I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to work in a broad range of roles doing different kinds of work – it has allowed me to build up different areas of expertise that I can bring to bear on my work at IEX.

What did you do to achieve the Individual Achievement Award?

While I led the exchange application process with the SEC and this award is around individual achievement, I really see it as a recognition of the accomplishments of our whole team at IEX, particularly my talented women colleagues. IEX is dedicated to leveling the playing field in the financial markets by eliminating unfair advantages, and the traction we’ve gotten validates our perspective that investors’ interests should be protected in the market.

In particular, this past year has been an extremely exciting one for us. Our exchange application, which we filed publicly in September 2015, was highly debated and scrutinized, and I’m proud that we garnered so much support from a broad spectrum of market participants and earned a historic approval. The day we officially completed our launch as an exchange on September 2 of this year was the culmination of an extremely complex process and also the beginning of our next challenge in growing our exchange.

What is your perspective on being a successful woman working in financial markets, and what is your advice to those who may strive for this?

It’s no secret that finance, like many areas of business, is a male-dominated industry. I’ve been in situations myself when I’ve been the most senior person walking into the negotiating room and had my counterparts assume a male colleague was in charge.

That being said, we’re making progress, and a lot of that is due to companies like IEX coming in with an understanding that diverse viewpoints and experiences make for more effective teams. I was one of the first women to join IEX and since then, we have hired women into key roles throughout the organization, like Claudia Crowley, our Chief Regulatory Officer, and Sara Furber, who recently joined IEX to lead our Listings business.

My advice to women who are building their careers is to make sure you that when you are accepting new roles, to consider whether or not the environment is conducive to diversity and if not, ask why.  In addition, I think it is key to surround yourself with people who support you and will give you their honest perspective when you most need it. I have been lucky to have a number of people in my life who have filled this role, both men and women. Then find a challenge that you are passionate about and that gives you many, many opportunities to learn and grow, and say yes to these opportunities, even those that may take you out of your comfort zone.

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