Role of the exchange in the fight against Covid-19

By: Pakorn Peetathawatchai, President, The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) Apr 2020

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) recognises the impact of the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic on exchanges across the world, and has done as much as we can to support our stakeholders, the economy, and society. SET has monitored the situation closely and proactively collaborated with all market participants since the beginning of February 2020.

As a result, after the government announced the state of emergency decree on 26 March 2020 and the curfew (from 10.00 p.m. - 4.00 a.m.) on 3 April 2020, SET has been able to operate as usual, while liaising closely with regulators, industry bodies, and other market participants for possible further actions.

During this crisis, SET has implemented comprehensive and systematic Business Continuity Management (BCM) covering a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), to ensure trading, clearing & settlement, and other service systems, focusing on availability, stability and resiliency, across all the platforms. Necessary precautions and measures have been exercised to minimise market volatility, ensure market stability and maintain investment confidence. While supporting our listed companies and member firms, we strongly focus on the welfare of our staff in this difficult time.

To ensure the market stability and build investment confidence on a continuous basis, SET has announced a few measures as follows to ensure non-interrupted trading, clearing and settlement systems and to calm down market volatility and investor panic by
(1) allowing only uptick short-selling effective since 13 March 2020 (the afternoon trading session); (2) adjusting ceiling and floor of individual stocks; and (3) changing circuit breaker (temporarily halt in trading) rules for the index, effective from 18 March 2020 onwards, that will last no longer than 30 June 2020.

To support our industry, SET has launched a relief package to lessen the financial burden, cut operating costs, and boost business liquidity to a certain extent. The measures are (1) For securities issuers: to lower 20% annual registrar fee for members of Thailand Securities Depository Co., Ltd. (TSD) and to reduce the annual fee for listed companies joining the quarterly investor meeting programme, or “Opportunity Day”; (2) For securities companies: fee cut for derivatives product transactions by 30%, registration fee cut for derivative warrants (DW) issuers by 50 – 65%, and free of charge service of increasing trading channel and linkage between brokers and retail investors; and (3) For depository members: a waive of 20% depository fee until end of 2020. The value of these aid packages is quite substantial and will certainly lessen the burden of our stakeholders. In addition, SET will not post suspension (SP) signs on coronavirus-affected listed securities allowed by the SEC for their late submission of financial statements.

To protect the welfare of our staff, SET has assigned 80% of staff to 'work from home' by systematically using technological tools and digital media to ensure effectiveness of the practice. All employees have to register their health status every day through an internal application, and are also prohibited to travel abroad or to upcountry since the middle of February unless formally approved by the management. Thanks to the digital era, we ensure speedy communication during the crisis among staff via various electronics means. We have also arranged a special virtual 'Executives meet Employees' session by creating a private Facebook group to communicate with all staff weekly via live broadcast. In addition, during the work from home period, we provide online training applications to encourage employees to enhance their skills.

For those 20% who still work at our premises, we are in compliance with the international standard of physical distancing and workplace hygiene. All staff and visitors have to declare travelling activities and have their temperature taken to comply with the official health screening process before entering the building. Our non-core exchange operations are temporary closed. Public seminars and events are organised via online only. Offices and common areas are sanitised regularly and alcohol gel is provided on each floor.

In fighting this pandemic, we are working to ensure an adequate supply of hospital facilities and medical equipments. The SET foundation, on behalf of the SET group, has already donated 5 million baht (approximately 161,290 USD) in supporting Thammasat Hospital to build an emergency hospital to treat patients infected with the coronavirus and 500,000 baht (approximately 16,129 USD) for Rajavithi Hospital to purchase ventilators for Covid-19 patients.

SET will continue to monitor the situation and support capital market stakeholders in all dimensions, in alignment with the government policies to overcome this crisis as quickly as possible, to return to normalcy, stability and growth for the betterment of the economy and society in Thailand and globally.