Excellence in Buy-Side Technology: Julia Sears, TIAA

Terry Flanagan
This entry is part 16 in the series Markets Choice Awards: Women in Finance 2016


Julia Sears was recognized for Excellence in Buy-Side Technology at the 2016 Women in Finance Markets Choice Awards.

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

Julia Sears, TIAA-CREF

Julia Sears, TIAA

I was an early adopter of mobile and cloud technology, my team and I designed the top-rated financial Qfolio application at the request of Apple for the first iPad launch, developed the award-winning Market Replay, patented the technology for board-book-digital-distribution Directors Desk and revamped Nasdaq’s Global trading front-end systems. Before I was the head of the Risk Management for cloud solutions, I completed the merger and acquisition for Sharespost secondary market and led the launch of the Global Index platform and market data distribution across 45 countries.

This enabled me to be prepared for my current role at TIAA where I am an executive technology leader responsible for digital technology and services at TIAA, a provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. I manage TIAA’s institutional client digital offering. Since joining the organization in 2013, I have contributed to the 13 spot climb to #1 on both TIAA’s Participant and Plan Sponsor websites, ranked by Dalbar. In both 2014 and 2015, TIAA received a combined total of 12 awards from Corporate Insight, with 7 ranked in the gold category – the most of any financial institution in the retirement plan space measured in both years.

What do you — and by extension, your team and organization — do to achieve excellence in buy-side technology?

Over the years my philosophy is to connect development teams directly to client needs. Once teams know the goal, I believe in standing up a great lean process to showcase those delivery results to the buy side clients in a rapid, simple and visual way so everyone can see progress and iterate on it together. Vision and execution are key to that success. I also believe 1) how you do anything is how you do everything and 2) finding spark in your team members individually is critical.

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?

My advice is to not let gender hold you back – be who you are. I once received great advice when having my first child. I was nervous about how it would affect my career and was told, “If you were good before, you will be good after.” I believe if you are objective and confident about your skills and abilities that doors will keep opening up for you.

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