Field Notes The Capital Markets of 2010

Field Notes
The Capital Markets of 2010
by Paul Bates

The capital markets of the future will look vastly different from those of today. Let me be bold enough to look out to the year 2010. At a recent symposium organized by the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto, I offered the following predictions:

The individual investor will have completed the journey of being on an equal footing with the institutional portfolio manager. By 2010, not only will all information disseminated be available instantaneously to anyone with a laptop, palm-device or e-enabled cellular telephone that's turned on (on a planetary scale), but artificial intelligence software will filter, shape, and compare such data faster than you can say, "discounted dividend model."

Mutual funds will certainly be very, very, different than we know them today, if they exist at all. Funds, or Closed end Trusts (CETs) will be valued hourly, or even completely exchange-traded. Say goodbye to deferred sales charges and trailer fees. In the same way that the Internet has reshaped secondary market trading, it will have reshaped the primary markets and the trading of debt instruments. We'll have the FPO, the Fast Public Offer!

Online new issues, by the way, will not be confined to small capitalized issues; no, even the most major issues will be done this way. Indeed, the Federal Government will, in all likelihood, be a direct issuer of retail debt securities. Beyond this, way beyond this, by 2010 we'll have full reciprocity across securities commissions around the world as we discover the opportunities and the challenges of a capital market that never sleeps, let alone blinks!

That's right, forget Before-Hours-Trading, or After-Hours-Trading, and prepare for All-Hours-Trading. A market that never sleeps. Consider the challenges of just keeping the books straight in the capital world of 2010. Straight-through, real-time processing, and an order book that follows the sun will make the parochial interests of upstairs trading desks challenged, to say the least.

Our client will no longer be satisfied with getting it now. They will want it right now! Advice will be a discretely paid-for service, and will sit hand in hand with online self-managed activities. May I pose the hypothesis that today's answers to trade-based suitability judgments are likened to driving a car backwards at 120 kilometers an hour while staring at the road ahead?

So, as we prepare for the next 10 years, we must understand that our knowledge of converging voice, data and wireless technologies, together with evolving software for data analysis and portfolio optimization will be equally important to our knowledge of security and market analysis. As David Pottruck, Chief Executive Officer of Charles Schwab & Co. once said, "welcome to the world of HMO pricing in the investment business" -- The market will distinguish different levels of service and advice across numerous, scalable, price points. Further, the consumer will demand full choice in one provider, not the need to choose among different providers of "discount," or "full service," or "discretionary," or "online." With all-hours trading and a client that wants access to advice right now, how will we on the one hand integrate such technologies as co-browsing, and on the other hand provide a one-to-one relationship when required, even at 2:00 a.m.?

Finally, think about inexorable compression in the value of what we do. Think about how we must double our productivity, while the price of what we do is cut in half by market forces.

Paul Bates is President & CEO of Charles Schwab Canada.

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