Each to Their Own Design: A New Direction for Exchanges
Liquidnet’s Seth Merrin shares how exchanges can develop a global strategy to compete today.
Following a year of failed crossborder mergers, exchanges are at a crossroads. They have worked in siloes within their respective countries but now have to create their global strategies. To move forward, there are lessons for the exchanges to learn from another industry that followed a very similar trajectory more than a decade ago—the airline industry.
Airlines share many parallels with exchanges—a strong nationalistic sentiment, a highly competitive environment driven by the entrance of low cost carriers, and a record of unsuccessful M&A activity. So what steps did the winners in the airline industry take in order to beat out the low cost competition, how did they achieve global scale and what can exchanges learn from this?
Airlines tackled the fundamental evolution of their industry by focusing on three key areas: diversification of revenue by selling more to their existing client base, differentiation of their offering by focusing on a premium customer, and development of global alliances to expand their geographic reach.
Let’s first take a look at revenue diversification and how exchanges can take a similar approach. Airlines realised they had a captive audience with their customers and once they had these customers in their seats, they could sell them more products. As a result, the airlines introduced paid-for services in coach and new premium products and services to all customers. Who hasn’t been on an aeroplane and paid for food, extra space, or, picked up an ever-expanding catalogue of duty free items?
Historically, exchanges have had two primary streams of revenue: company listings and trading. Today, these revenue streams constitute only a minor component of total revenue as exchanges have placed more emphasis on their ‘premium offerings’. The NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq, both of which have faced significant competition sooner than many of their peers, recognised that they had a captive audience in their listed companies and expanded their offering by selling premium services such as new technology offerings and premium data products and services. Today, both of these exchanges have multiple revenue streams and no single business comprises more than 20% of their overall revenue. What they have left to do—and what virtually no other exchange has done—is to develop a premium class of customer.
The entrance of low-cost providers, such as EasyJet and Ryanair, in the airline industry commoditised the price of an airline seat. As a consequence, airlines (particularly the established players) could no longer compete on price alone and needed to diversify their offering. So they went upscale, choosing instead to focus on high margins and higher value offerings, which their discount counterparts couldn’t match. While discount carriers charged for pillows, winning airlines created a premium offering and experience for their business and first class travellers. It’s not surprising that these premium passengers were willing to pay significantly more for steak, champagne, and lieflat beds because of the ultimate experience these airlines provided.