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Rouse in Profile: Jarron Stephens

Published on 30 Apr 2024 | 4 minute read
Energy, talent and chutzpah guarantee an intriguing career path

Jarron, currently based in Hong Kong, is Rouse’s Chief Information Officer.  From 2015 to 2018 he was Head of IT and now both supports local technology teams and provides strategic IT support to the Board during a period of growth for the firm.

Jarron certainly had loads of energy and talent when he was growing up in Sydney, Australia, and as his career began to develop it was obvious that he had a certain amount of chutzpah as well.  The combination has served him well and guaranteed an intriguing career path.  While in Hebrew and Yiddish the word ‘chutzpah’ has largely negative connotations, in English it has acquired a more positive meaning.  A well-known UK advertising consultant defines it as ‘ the refusal to be limited by imaginary boundaries’.  That certainly captures an important element of chutzpah – and it’s particularly true of Jarron.

His energy and talent for technology emerged early.  At the age of about 12, he had begun writing software and created a video game along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons.  This was unusual for a child of that age at the time. but for him seemed to come naturally; perhaps, in part, because he had virtually grown up with computers.  His father, who taught economics and business studies at a technical college, had been interested in computers from the outset and made a room of the family home available for an academic friend’s mainframe computer.  Then, as soon as computers got smaller, he bought the parts and built a computer himself.  Jarron was absorbing all this and in the process acquiring a knowledge of technology and software skills beyond his years.

He wasn’t, however, thinking about a career in technology at that stage.  While still at school, he was seduced by the glamour of the financial world.  His plan was to work in the finance industry, and have a business of his own.  During the ‘80s stock market boom, he did work experience with one of Sydney’s leading stockbroker firms, Jacksons Ltd, and was impressed by the swaggering brokers, with their fast cars and elegant clothes.  Then came the crash and he arrived at work one day to find chains across the office doors:  Jacksons was no more.  For an ambitious 15 year old, the buzz and drama of it all was irresistible and, with great enthusiasm, Jarron decided to enrol in a Bachelor of Business (Finance and International Business) course.

When he graduated, he worked as a bond trader with the Financial Services section of Westpac Banking Corporation.  During his first year there, while still finding his way round, the market started to move to electronic trading.  The noisy and volatile physical trading floor would soon be a thing of the past.   There was, however, no infrastructure in place, no systems, and there were no established vendors. For Jarron, it was a perfect opportunity.  For some years he had been developing and playing around with trading algorithms so he put his hand up for trading technology work.  He was confident he could do it, but still it was a bold step, certainly requiring a degree of chutzpah.   It paid off, however, and almost overnight Jarron went from what he calls a ‘junior nobody’, to the guy who understood technical IT issues. 

But he wasn’t going to stop there.  He and a friend from university, Martin, decided they would start up an algorithm trading business. They began by travelling round Australia trying to drum up business, but weren’t having much success when the opportunity arose to travel to Chicago with Martin’s father arose.  They decided to try their luck there.  They were more successful than they could ever have imagined, establishing what ultimately proved to be a very successful business, acting for major banks and investment funds.  Jarron attributes the initial success, in part at least, to the fact that at the time the Australian film Crocodile Dundee was wildly successful in America and his Australian accent was then much stronger then than it is now.  This opened doors for them to some of the biggest companies in America – people just loved hearing them talk! “Can you do this?”, “Can you develop that?” they would be asked, and the answer would always be “Yes, we can”.  Again it required a degree of chutzpah, but they could, and they did - even if it meant hardly sleeping for a week.  

After four intense, hectic, and highly successful years, which included fulfilling a contract to build the Australian Electricity Exchange, Martin met a girl who was happy to marry him, but not the business.  It was obviously time to move on!  The business was sold, Martin got married, and Jarron, with a healthy bank account, decided to go on an extended backpacking tour of Asia.  It was a marvellous experience and the beginning of his love affair with Asia.  But, inevitably, after several years he was ready to get back into things.  He returned to Australia, with an interview lined up on the day he got back.  He went direct from the airport, tanned, long-haired and wearing a borrowed suit that was too big for him.  Not a promising beginning!  He discovered during the interview that they were looking for someone to build the Australian Derivatives Exchange and when asked if he could do it he took a deep breath and said “ask me tomorrow!”  They obviously liked the answer because he got the job.  Eleven months later, he and the young team he had put together, had completed the contract and delivered the electronic stock exchange. It was a major achievement and, as a result, Jarron had now become what he calls ‘semi-famous’ in electronic stock exchange circles. 

He could have stayed on to maintain and develop the exchange, but, looking for further challenge and excitement, he decided instead to move to Asia as a Technology Consultant, working on large scale projects for major clients such as the Asia Development Bank.  Later, he moved to Hong Kong to work for the French international banking group, Crédit Agricole, managing, among other things, a huge integration project following the bank’s merger with CITICS, China’s largest investment bank.  These and several other large projects over the years kept him very busy professionally, but somehow he managed to find time for study and during this time obtained both a second degree in finance and an MBA in Electronic Commerce.  He also found time to marry Ivy who he had met in Sydney.  Ivy, who is Chinese Malaysian, but grew up in Australia, obviously shares Jarron’s entrepreneurial spirit and for the last 20 years has established and operated a successful online grocery business, importing products from the West to Asia.

Jarron’s particular combination of energy, talent and chutzpah ensured an unusual, but exciting and fulfilling, career path.  It probably also ensured that it was only recently that he and Ivy got round to thinking about children.  But for them the timing has been perfect.  One year old Ignatius (Iggy) Wong Stephens is the light of their lives.

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Chief Information Officer
+852 23020832
Chief Information Officer
+852 23020832