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Nasdaq, Inc. (NDAQ - Free Report) named Adena Friedman as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective Jan 1, 2017. Friedman – who is currently the president and chief operating officer of Nasdaq – will become the first woman to be at the helm of a major U.S. stock exchange.

Friedman will succeed existing CEO of the exchange – Bob Greifeld – who will become chairman of the board. Borje Ekholm will step down from his position as chairman of Nasdaq on Dec 31, 2016, and will remain on the board of directors.

Ekholm mentioned, “Naming Adena CEO represents the successful conclusion of a rigorous, multi-year succession planning process," further adding “Adena is uniquely qualified for this role. For nearly two decades she has steadily risen through the leadership ranks, beginning as a Nasdaq intern.”

Nasdaq Grew from $600M to $11B Under Greifeld’s Leadership

Greifeld took his position as the CEO of Nasdaq in 2003, when the firm’s main business operated just a single U.S. stock exchange. Under his leadership, for the past 14 years, Nasdaq has grown meaningfully, to expand itself in both exchange as well as technology sector, providing trading, listing, intelligence, and public company services across 26 countries.

During his tenure, Greifeld led Nasdaq through a number of strategic expansions, including the exchange’s combination with Stockholm-based OMX AB and several acquisitions, including the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, the Boston Stock Exchange and Europe's largest power market – Nord Pool.

Ekholm stated in the release, “Bob had the vision to reimagine Nasdaq as a financial technology company, and navigated the organization through a period of tremendous innovation and diversification. This resulted in delivering incredible client and shareholder value -- increasing the company's market capitalization from $600 million in 2003 to $11 billion today.”

What Lies Ahead for Friedman

From an intern in Nasdaq in 1993, Friedman’s responsibilities gradually expanded to several leadership roles, including Head of Data Products, Head of Strategy and Chief Financial Officer. In 2011, she joined The Carlyle Group as its CFO and oversaw the firm’s initial public offering in 2012.

In Jun 2014, Friedman rejoined Nasdaq as President and later, in Dec 2015, she took up her additional role as Chief Operating Officer of Nasdaq.

While Nasdaq’s growth prospects look encouraging with diversified portfolio and strong franchise, Friedman inherits the tasks of dealing with several challenges faced by the company, such as stiff competition, expense pressure and regulatory issues. Nevertheless, we look forward whether the new CEO keeps the growth momentum alive for Nasdaq.

Regarding potential regulatory changes under President Trump’s administration, in an interview with Bloomberg, Friedman stated, “There’s some opportunity for deregulation, and modifying regulations that are in place,” adding further, “Our role is to make sure we provide fair and efficient markets and equal opportunity. We have always done that.”

Currently, Nasdaq carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Stocks to Consider

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Vantiv, Inc. (VNTV - Free Report) : Over the last 30 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year increased 1.2% to $2.57 per share and inched up 1% to $2.93 for 2017. The company carries a Zacks Rank #2.

WEX Inc. (WEX - Free Report) : The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2016 moved up 5.5% to $4.24 per share for 2016 and 2.6% to $5.09 for 2017, over the last 30 days. The company carries a Zacks Rank #2.

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