Thursday, October 16, 2008

Possible Future of Stock Exchanges

Investments & Trading

Possible Future of Stock Exchanges By J. Foley

With the electronic age firmly entrenched and the Internet and basic computer usage a fact of life, many people are taking a look at how computers are changing the workplace. Where most elementary schools may have had one or two computers in an entire school, some schools now have a laptop for every student. And while the average workplace use to have slow and clunky terminals, they have now been replaced with lightning fast machines capable of running a dozen complex programs at once.

One workplace that has been somewhat shielded by this evolution is the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Some consider this to be highly ironic, since the floor of the exchange is where the shares in the very computer companies that seem like they are taking over the world are traded.

The recent expulsion of Richard Grasso as head of the NYSE was seen as an ominous move by many specialists who work at the exchange. Grasso, while far from an ideal leader, was famous for trying to keep the individual traders employed when they could most likely be replaced by a newly designed computer system.

With the appointment of new exchange boss John Thain, a possible revamping of the entire trading system is expected, but how many jobs will it cost and what will it look like?

A major sign of impending change happened in April of 2005 when a company called Archipelago Holding merged with the New York Stock Exchange and the two became a publicly traded company. Archipelago is an electronic trading network, and it’s thought by many who work on the floor of the NYSE that this merger is the final nail in the coffin for the hundreds of people who carry on the tradition of floor selling that has been going on for over 200 years.

The possible evolution of the NYSE may not even be up to those that run it. As other markets across the world in places like Hong Kong, Frankfurt and London upgrade their trading methods and begin to phase out trading by people in favour of computers, an upgrade may become necessary to just keep up. Since the computer can process trades significantly faster than a human, the NYSE may have to do away with the traditional floor trader just so that the exchange remains competitive and relevant.

While the constant sea of change is inevitable, the future of the floor trader at the NYSE looks bleak. It is not known if there will still need to be traders to input the trades into the computers or if that phase of the trade will somehow be automated, as well. The only thing that is known for sure is that change will continue to happen and unless we learn to anticipate it, those that don’t will be left behind.

Article Written By J. Foley