The JSE’s Tebalo Tsoaeli finds discomfort remaining in a comfort zone

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Transforming a 136-year-old organisation, according to the CIO, makes the job challenging yet exciting.

Tebalo Tsoaeli, CIO at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), exemplifies the pursuit of opportunities beyond one’s homeland, and the rewards that can come from broadening one’s horizons.

He was born and raised in Lesotho, educated in South Africa and found success in Johannesburg: today, Tebalo is responsible for the development and implementation of current and future technology portfolio solutions and initiatives at the JSE – the largest stock exchange in Africa.

However, while this all appears simple on paper, the reality is somewhat different. “What I enjoy the most about my role is being in a new environment and going through the learning curve,” he says, “being thrown into the deep end, and working on exciting, stimulating challenges, and most of all getting to interact, collaborate and share ideas with new colleagues.”

Tebalo was introduced to programming in his second year of high school (Grade 9), and his inquisitive nature led him to write his first piece of code. He never looked back. He went on to complete a bachelor's degree in computer science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of the Free State.

Modernising a legacy organisation

Tebalo says one of the most significant projects he has worked on in the past is the core legacy modernisation space, where the focus was on modernising the JSE’s technology estate to drive cost optimisation, reduce risk, enable efficiency, and lay the groundwork for fast flow and agility, and cloud adoption as one of the most exciting projects for the future.

As the JSE moves toward cloud adoption, data security is vital, especially during power outages, as these involve rigorous planning and execution of back-up strategies. Rest assured, he says, “as an exchange, the JSE provides a secure, resilient, and highly available marketplace for trading, post-trade clearing, settlement, and market data to the wider capital markets in South Africa.

“We are also acutely aware of our responsibility as a financial market infrastructure. We focus on providing appropriate, secure, and robust technologies that fulfil the expected levels of service, and continue to invest in both our on-premise and cloud infrastructure to ensure high availability of our markets,” he adds.

Keeping up with trends, but investing where it matters most

The exchange is also keeping up with the newest technology innovations to increase overall market efficiency, which is critical to achieving peak operational performance. According to Tebalo, the JSE’s long-term performance averaged 99.83 percent between 2008 and 2022, demonstrating the operational resilience it has achieved through technical proficiency, improved business processes, and management.

“We launched the JSE Private Placements, which offers services to private entities looking to raise debt or equity through an automated and digitised platform. The online solution connects private companies and issuers directly to investors, enabling private capital formation in a more transparent, efficient and accessible manner.

“In 2022, we deployed an innovative information service, JSE Trade Explorer, leveraging big xyt’s Liquidity Cockpit for security analytics. Using the Trade Explorer’s unique peer group rankings, trading firms can explore their market share, examine how they interact with the order book, and view their trading performance,” he continues.

The JSE has also recently announced a collaboration with Beeks and IPC to develop an advanced managed infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution that would provide cloud-based colocation services to JSE clients. This new solution is Colo 2.0 which offers on-demand computing and analytics, allowing the JSE to provide with clients a cutting-edge IaaS solution with a fully built, pre-installed environment.

Finding inspiration to ease the pressure

Tebalo admits that there is a massive amount of pressure on CIOs to always deliver, which continues to increase as the opportunities to use technology in business becomes more prevalent and more competitive. As a result, when ideas are running thin and the pressure to manage expectations is on, one must find some form of inspiration. For Tebalo, that inspiration is in the form of his latest read, The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing: A Machiavellian Strategy for Successful IT Leadership by Tina Nunno.

“As CIOs often find themselves at the centre of business conflict, they must not only familiarise themselves with Machiavellian tactics as a defensive weapon, but also learn to use them as an offensive weapon in extreme situations so that they can increase IT’s contribution to their enterprises,” he explains. It’s a book that he enjoys reading while enjoying a glass of his favourite wine or whisky. In fact, he describes himself as a wine and whisky connoisseur.

Indulgences aside, Tebalo is a family man through and through, and a proud parent. Time away from work is well spent with his family and two young daughters, aged 10 and four.

However, nothing beats the fresh air of the great outdoors. “While I love quality time with my two little girls, I also enjoy those random road-trips to the bush every now and then, especially over a long weekend. Time out of bustling city life is something I find quite refreshing,” he concludes.

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