CEO Letter - December 2020

Published by: Nandini Sukumar, CEO, The WFE Dec 2020

Dear Colleagues
Welcome to the December issue of Focus. By every count, 2020 has been a memorable year, with both challenge and opportunity for market infrastructures.

This time a year ago, WFE members might reasonably have thought that the world-defining crisis of 2007-2008 was sufficient for one lifetime. Yet it transpired that 2020 had another waiting for us, threatening life, testing the planet in unexpected ways and – of course – enveloping the global financial system.

Events of this magnitude leave no one untouched, and so as we thought of our December year in review issue of Focus, we asked some of the leaders of our industry to reflect not only on business but on leadership, personal lessons and themes for the future post-pandemic world.

As all of them make clear, our industry is well used to leading through a crisis.

In our lead article, Ed Tilly, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cboe Global Markets and Vice Chairman of the WFE speaks of leading in the face of turmoil and unknowns and how proud he is of his team who didn’t miss a beat as one of the world’s largest exchanges transitioned to a fully remote model. In addition to rising to the challenges of the crisis – one of CBOE’s core mission’s is enabling stakeholders to manage risk and volatility – the exchange is working to enable an inclusive economic recovery gathering retail investors close and fostering diversity in the workplace.

Khalid Alhussan, Chief Executive Officer, Saudi Stock Exchange, notes that the crisis underlined the resilience of the exchange infrastructure constructed during the past decade, and that staff moved seamlessly to a new working environment even as markets continued to function, so offering reassurance to investors. He lauds the exchange's staff for anticipating events and going the extra mile to ensure smooth operations – it took less than 48 hours to get all 450 employees of the company connected and able to work remotely.

Socrates Lazaridis, CEO Athens Exchange Group, says maintaining motivation and gearing the organisation to an 80% remote operating required significant effort, but the exchange pulled through in the spirit of Albert Einstein’s words, “In the midst of a crisis, lies great opportunity”.

Having encountered the disruptive effects of the first lockdown, Rajeeva Bandaranaike, CEO, Colombo Stock Exchange, helped to spur swift action with other market participants on a digitisation strategy, which successfully hardened the exchange infrastructure to such an extent that it was more than able to withstand the second lockdown.

Samara Cohen, Co-Head of ETF and Index Investing (EII) Markets and Investments and Themba Shongwe, ETF Markets Advocacy, BlackRock, explain how the company worked closely with B3 and regulators to hugely expand ETF access for Brazilian investors, highlighting the key role played by exchanges play in expanding access to financial markets. 

Mark Peterson, Chief Executive, NZX, says that the New Zealand exchange saw NZ$5 billion of capital raised on the secondary market in just 90 days from the beginning of April, dwarfing figures from the early months of the 2008 global financial crisis. NZX moved swiftly, introducing a lift in capital raising capacity to help NZX-listed issuers weather the impacts of the pandemic.

Oscar N. Onyema, OON, Chief Executive Officer, The Nigerian Stock Exchange, says market capitalisation had risen 27% by November, indicating the new opportunities available and the resilience displayed by the exchange throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The crisis also made clear that it’s no longer a matter of wanting to move with the times, rather a matter of how quickly you will be left behind if you don’t.

Joseph Portelli, Executive Chairman, Malta Stock Exchange, says the exchange saw a number of successful corporate and government debt issuances even as new listings declined. Lessons learned included the importance of communication, and that its systems and technology were reassuringly robust. He speaks of the pride that comes from seeing the managerial team and the staff in general stepping up and coalescing as a team. If anything, productivity increased tremendously.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Focus.

Nandini Sukumar
Chief Executive Officer
The WFE