Outlook: Stock Exchange

Outlook: Stock Exchange

THERE WAS a time when for the London Stock Exchange to announce it was ending its mutual status, breaking the ancient link between stock exchange usage and ownership, would have been front page news. Sadly not today.

The only surprising thing about this statement is that it has taken the Exchange as long as it has to agree such a course of action. The Exchange's path from City club of narrow self and vested interest to a fully competitive exchange selling its services to customers of all types, has been a long and tortuous one.

Technology and globalisation has made its monopoly of share trading in London increasingly precarious, while the diversity and self interest of its members has deprived it of the speed and flexibility needed to survive in a fast-changing world. It took years even to agree to change from a quote to an order-driven trading system. Members still find it hard to agree on anything.

But as Brian Williamson at Liffe has already demonstrated, changing the ownership structure is no panacea in itself. The competition has become fierce and many-headed and for the time being, there is only one way the London Stock Exchange is going - and that's down.