Duncan Niederauer, the new leading man presiding over the world's most famous trading floor and first transcontinental stock exchange, is not a household name on Main Street.
But the man promoted from within to replace John Thain as the new CEO of NYSE Euronext nyx suddenly finds himself among the elite Wall Street powerbrokers.
Niederauer, 48, whose Wall Street pedigree includes 22 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs, has broad experience trading stocks and is a proponent of electronic trading. The ex-chief operating officer, who joined the exchange in April and was viewed as a likely successor, is now responsible for building on the massive modernization and foreign expansion the exchange has undergone under Thain, who was named CEO of Merrill Lynch Wednesday.
Wall Street analysts say the new NYSE chief has the vision, smarts and drive to continue the exchange's push to diversify its products and move into new markets.
"Duncan's a very sharp guy, a big-picture thinker who understands the constituents in the trading community," says Michael Vinciquerra at BMO Capital Markets.
"He's a doer," adds floor broker Doreen Mogavero, president and CEO of Mogavero Lee & Co. "Duncan has been very well received by the floor since the day he got here."
For the past 18 months, Niederauer has been guiding the iconic NYSE trading floor through a turbulent transition toward electronic trading. He is credited with working with securities regulators to get rule modifications that will improve the profitability of floor traders, many of whom have seen their roles and profits dwindle due to the competition from computers.
"Thain was not loved by the guys on the floor who lost their jobs due to the changes," says Patrick Healy, CEO of Issuer Advisory Group. "Niederauer has come across as the guy trying to help them out."
In the past three years, the NYSE has gone from a non-profit club dominated by floor traders to a powerful, publicly traded electronic exchange with global reach. The NYSE went public in March 2006, after buying Archipelago, a leading electronic exchange. Three months later, the NYSE merged with Euronext, a major European exchange.
Niederauer hinted Wednesday that he will continue the vision outlined by Thain. "We have a well-defined business strategy in place," he said in a statement. "Expect more of the same," he told CNBC.
Analysts say it is critical that Niederauer continue to extend NYSE Euronext's reach around the globe, including Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The new CEO must also seek acquisitions in faster-growing derivatives markets, such as the Nymex, which trades energy and commodities.
Even though Niederauer is considered qualified, analysts expect the company to hit some rough patches in the transition. "Duncan … will have to grow into the role as statesman, ambassador and global spokesman," says Richard Repetto, analyst at Sandler O'Neill.
Big acquisitions are likely to come at a slower pace under a new leader, adds Dan Fannon, analyst at Jefferies & Co. "It will take a little more time to get things done."
Healy says that the biggest challenge will be multitasking: fixing what ails the floor; integrating new technology; and keeping expansion plans on track. "This is like a 747 going through the air; they don't have time to land the plane."