Dear Fellow Stockholders

The heart of our ICE strategy, for more than 20 years, has always been about connecting people to opportunity. We connect people to our liquid energy markets to help them manage risk. We connect people to our fixed income data to give them pre-trade and post-trade transparency. We connect entrepreneurs to capital at the NYSE. We connect participants in the mortgage space to create a more efficient workflow.

Across asset classes and around the globe, we design, build, and operate digital networks that bring transparency and efficiencies to markets. Leveraging our data, technology, and expertise, we have strategically positioned ICE at the center of some of the world’s largest markets undergoing an analog-to-digital evolution. Our successful execution of this strategy in 2021 once again drove record revenues and record adjusted earnings per share1, marking our sixteenth consecutive year of growth.

2021 Letter to Shareholders


Strong growth across all three of our business segments contributed to record net revenues2 of $7.1 billion in 2021, up 18% year-over-year. 

  • In our Exchanges segment, which includes our futures network as well as the New York Stock Exchange, net revenues2 increased 6% year-over-year to a record $3.9 billion. These results were highlighted by a 10% increase in energy futures revenues and a 7% increase in our listings business.
  • In our Fixed Income & Data Services segment, we generated total revenues of $1.9 billion. These results were due, in part, to our fixed income data & analytics business, which grew 6% year-over-year including double-digit revenue growth in our index business.
  • In our Mortgage Technology segment, revenues totaled $1.4 billion, a 17% increase year-over-year, on a pro-forma basis3, outperforming broader industry origination volumes. Importantly, these results were underpinned by strong recurring revenue growth of 31%.
On a consolidated basis, ICE’s adjusted operating income1 increased 18% to $4.2 billion, yielding an adjusted operating margin1 of 58%. In addition, free cash flow1 totaled $2.8 billion, from which we deployed $250 million to share repurchases and nearly $750 million to shareholders in the form of dividends. In April 2021, we took the opportunity to harvest a $1.2 billion gain on our stake in Coinbase, which contributed to the $2.6 billion of debt that we paid down last year.  After our $11 billion acquisition of Ellie Mae in September 2020, timely moves like selling our Coinbase investment helped us reach our target leverage nearly a year ahead of schedule.

The growth across all three of our business segments delivered another year of record adjusted earnings per share1, or EPS, which increased 17% year-over-year to $5.15. These strong results, even in a year in which Covid continued to upend traditional operating rhythms, reflect the tremendous efforts of my colleagues, the trust and expanding relationship we have with our customers, and the ability of our business model to drive growth across a variety of macroeconomic environments. 

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From our first forays into mortgage technology with the acquisitions of MERS and Simplifile, we have consistently viewed the U.S. mortgage industry as one ripe for automation. Consistent with our strategy to bring efficiencies to workflows, we are uniquely positioned to drive greater automation across this space.

With loan origination costs continuing to rise, customers are looking to streamline the extremely manual loan origination process. Our end-to-end digital solutions offer a unique value proposition by helping customers reduce the time and costs associated with originating a loan and enhance the quality of loans moving into the secondary market. Additionally, with the network we’ve built to serve nearly every market participant in one form or another, we have connectivity to a captive customer base seeking the efficiencies our digital solutions provide.

One of the key areas that underpinned our conviction to expand our presence in the mortgage market was the opportunity to drive greater efficiency within the closing process. ICE’s eRecording network now covers nearly 90% of the U.S. population. The unique data that flows through that network, and the critical infrastructure provided by MERS, give us unique assets critical to digitizing the closing and post-closing process. When we connected these assets to our leading loan origination system, we quickly brought our eClose offering to market, a leading-edge solution that provides a true end-to-end electronic closing for U.S. mortgages.

Fitting squarely with our history of innovations across our company, eClose benefits all stakeholders in the mortgage workflow by decreasing operational costs for lenders, creating additional efficiencies for settlement agents, streamlining the sale of loans to investors, and most importantly, greatly improving the overall user experience.

Another area where we continue to see untapped opportunity and early success is in our data and analytics businesses. Our solutions apply machine learning to the entire loan origination process, offering customers greater efficiencies by streamlining data collection and validation through automated document recognition and data extraction capabilities. These efficiency gains could save lenders thousands of dollars per loan by reducing manufacturing time and complexity. When combined with ICE’s core competency of harnessing raw, unstructured data to develop actionable insights, we are on course to continue executing against what we see as a $4 billion addressable market. 

Like our strategy in other asset classes, we are leveraging our data, technology, and collective expertise to bring efficiencies to the entire mortgage workflow. Our leading solutions and broad customer connectivity give us confidence we can grow a business that, at $1.4 billion today, is only a fraction of the $10 billion addressable market that is in the early days of an analog-to-digital conversion.

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The playbook we’re employing in the mortgage space is similar to our fixed income and data business. Increased automation, workflow flexibility, and passive investing continue to drive demand for our proprietary data and rapidly growing Index business. We believe the automation of fixed income markets is a data-driven trend and, as a leading data provider to the market, we are uniquely positioned to accelerate this automation.

ICE’s evaluated prices provide price transparency for nearly 3 million fixed income securities daily, supporting mission-critical processes across the front, middle and back offices. By combining our proprietary pricing data with our comprehensive reference data, we have built innovative tools and analytics that will facilitate the continued electronification and automation of the fixed income markets. Unique ICE solutions such as our Continuous Evaluated Pricing, Best Execution and Liquidity Indicators provide additional pre-trade transparency and enhance fair value. This powerful suite of front office tools grew double digits in 2021 and serve a growing demand for transparency and efficiency across one of the world’s largest asset classes.

The growth in passive investing is also proving to be a powerful tailwind for our business. ICE’s quality pricing and reference data, combined with forty years of price history, serves as the foundation of our growing Index business. Whether it’s benchmark indices, analytics or unique solutions like our custom indices, ICE serves the entire Exchange Traded Fund, or ETF, ecosystem. The advantages of our offering were never more evident than in 2021, when five asset managers transitioned over $66 billion of assets under management, or AUM, to ICE indices. Our leading technology and tools, the quality of our pricing data, and the flexibility of our offering has driven double digit revenue growth in this business for the past four years and positions us well to continue such growth into the future.

Finally, flexibility of information delivery, and the trend toward defederation of terminals, are driving growth across our network services, including the ICE Global Network and our Consolidated Feed offering.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw customers demand more flexible data delivery solutions to accommodate the work-from-home reality. This demand has not slowed, even as some have returned to office. Coupled with the surge in retail trading and increased volatility across markets, demand for capacity on our network continues to increase, growing 18% year-over-year in 2021. The same is true in our Consolidated Feed business, also benefitting from a shift toward more flexible data delivery. With content from over 750 sources and connectivity to over 150 market centers, ICE’s offering gives customers access to a broad universe of low-latency financial information with full depth-of-market data. As firms seek more high-quality data from a range of different sources in a cost-efficient manner, our competitive and comprehensive offering stands to benefit.

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Over the past two decades, ICE has strategically positioned our energy business for the energy transition. Our long-term strategic direction, and the value of the diverse, deep and liquid markets we operate, contributed to the record volumes we saw across our energy markets in 2021, including in Brent, TTF natural gas and our global environmental complex. As we look to 2022 and beyond, the breadth of our global energy platform will enable us to continue to benefit from the secular tailwinds emerging across the energy complex, including the globalization of natural gas and the inevitable transition to clean energy.

These are trends that ICE began investing in over a decade ago with our acquisition of the Climate Exchange in 2010. Today, cleaner energy sources, including our global natural gas and environmentals businesses, make up 40% of our energy revenues and have grown 15% on average over the past five years.

The global energy crisis in 2021, rooted in soaring demand and disrupted supply, was a peek into the future of what the energy transition could look like in the decades ahead. Energy consumption is expected to more than double over the next thirty years, yet carbon emissions are expected to be reduced by half. This imbalance in supply and demand will introduce additional complexity and volatility to energy markets and drive greater demand for risk management across the energy spectrum, an area where ICE excels.

In 2021, we achieved record volumes in our European gas contract, known as TTF, which increased 45% year-over-year, and drove revenue growth of 39% versus the prior year. Volatile gas and power markets drove customers to our markets to help manage their risk but, more importantly, the globalization of gas has driven TTF to emerge as a global benchmark for gas. This secular trend has contributed to strong growth across our European & Asian gas complexes including 43% average revenue growth over the past five years. As the number of participants in these markets continues to grow, we see these trends continuing to favor our growing global gas complex well into the future.

Trading alongside our global oil, gas, and power markets, our environmental markets provide customers price transparency across the energy spectrum that is critical in navigating the clean energy transition. Increased risk management in carbon pricing drove record volumes across our environmental complex in 2021, including in our EU, U.K. and California carbon allowances, as well as our Renewable Greenhouse Gas Initiative allowances. While these markets are still maturing relative to our benchmark oil and gas markets, we believe our leading position, and the breadth and depth of our broader energy platform, sets us up to continue to benefit from the trend of sustainability and net-zero carbon commitments.

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Our approach to sustainability recognizes both the risks and the opportunities across our businesses. From price discovery in carbon and renewable energy markets, to climate risk data, to helping NYSE issuers determine the right environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures for their company, we are contributing to more sustainable investment choices across our networks.

ICE also recognizes the importance of embracing sustainability in our own offices. Listed below are updates on steps we are taking to mitigate our carbon footprint and increase diversity across the company. While this only lists a few of our initiatives, I encourage you to read our sixth annual corporate responsibility report, which can be found in the Corporate Citizenship section of our website for a more comprehensive overview of our ESG efforts.

  • Environmental: Reporting standards are a critical tool to help make consistent comparisons year-to-year and company-to-company. This year, we added three additional reporting standards to enhance our disclosures. ICE has also published, for the first time, its greenhouse gas emissions, including full Scope 1 and 2 emissions and Scope 3 emissions for items where we can identify or approximate reliable data. Having established this baseline, ICE is now actively working to set reduction targets. In the meantime, we are addressing all of our Scope 1 and 2 emissions, as well as those Scope 3 emissions that we have calculated, through the purchase of verified carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates.

  • Diversity: Our approach to diversity is focused on three pillars: our employees, our Board of Directors, and our network. Throughout our ranks, we are working to increase diversity with an objective that our employee population reflects the broader communities where our offices are based. At the Board level, we continue to focus on refreshment, which has contributed to a slate of 2022 Board nominees made up of 60% female nominees and 30% who self-identify as people of color. Two other ways that we are working to increase diversity across our broader network is through the NYSE Board Advisory Council and our Entrepreneur Bootcamps. The NYSE Board Advisory Council develops and provides access to a diverse pool of CEO-vetted, board-ready candidates. We also launched our Entrepreneur Bootcamps in 2021 to support underserved communities, including Black-owned businesses, with educational opportunities and resources for growing their companies. Our ability to help increase diversity through our broader network is another example of how ICE uses data, technology, and expertise to connect people to opportunity.

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Over the past twenty years, ICE has grown from a small Atlanta-based power exchange into a global data and technology company. We’re proud of that, but we’re equally proud that our focus on our customers, our innovative culture, and our purpose of bringing efficiency and transparency to markets have remained constant, even as we’ve grown from a handful of entrepreneurs to a global organization of nearly 10,000 people. Our strategic diversification has created an “all-weather” business model that is well-positioned to continue driving growth.

As we begin 2022, we are better positioned than ever to capitalize on the secular and cyclical trends occurring across the most dynamic asset classes. This year, as always, we remain focused on investing in, and executing on, these many exciting opportunities.

I'd like to thank my colleagues at ICE for their outstanding efforts that contributed to another record year, and I’d like to thank our customers for their continued business and trust. I’d also like to thank you for your investment in ICE, and I look forward to reporting on our progress in the coming year.

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My best,

Jeffrey C. Sprecher's signature

Jeffrey C. Sprecher
Chair & CEO, Intercontinental Exchange
March 25, 2022

Adjusted figures represent non-GAAP measures. Please refer to ICE’s 2021 Form 10-K filed on February 3, 2022, and earnings supplement, for reconciliations to the equivalent GAAP measures.

2 Net of transaction-based expenses.

3 Represents revenue on a pro-forma basis as if we had owned Ellie Mae since January 1, 2020.