Maintaining Vibrant Competition Among Exchanges – A Key Driver of the Rapid Development of the Indian Financial Markets
By James E. Shapiro
When I accepted a job in the Indian financial markets six months ago, my thinking was simple. First, I believed (and still believe) that India has an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pull away from the pack and establish itself as the largest and most dynamic financial market in Asia. Second, I thought I could contribute to the efforts of my new employer to compete more effectively and grow its business.
I expected to draw on my experience working at and for exchanges in the US and Asia for more than two decades. I also expected to draw upon my training in finance and economics. What I did not expect, was that I would find myself regularly reaching back to wisdom and inspiration from books I had read in college – particularly the inspiration and observations of US revolutionaries and civil rights heroes. Let me explain.
From most perspectives, the opportunity in Indian financial markets today is spectacular. There is the confluence of factors that – unless some or all of them are seriously derailed – will allow Mumbai to emerge as a major global financial center.
First, India has the virtue of a large domestic market. In Asia, this gives China and India, a big advantage over Singapore and Hong Kong, today’s front-runners in the race to become Asian Financial Centers.
Second, the Indian economy is growing rapidly and this growth, because of India’s early stage of development, is likely to continue in the 6-8% range, and quite possibly the 8-10% range, for the next decade. Even if the size of India’s financial sector relative to GDP stays constant, it will double in absolute terms over the next decade, assuming 7% growth. A much more likely scenario, however, is that we will see dramatic financial deepening in India over this time period.
Third, India already has much of the basic financial market infrastructure in place. Admittedly, there are a few gaps – such as a vibrant “Stock Borrowing and Lending” market. And there is always room for improvement – especially when it comes to coming more into line with global best practices and standards. But, most would agree that India’s financial market “plumbing” is working well. In terms of trade processing in the equities market, for example, Indian exchanges match, clear and settle a phenomenal number of transactions each day – putting both BSE and NSE easily in the top ten globally.
Fourth, India has a reasonably effective and transparent regulatory environment – focused on investor protection and market development. Regulators are appropriately cautious in some areas. The focus has been on risk management and the gradual introduction of new products. This has generated some frustration at times for market participants who want regulatory changes to come more quickly. But, by and large regulations are evolving well, taking into account the views of the market, international practices and Indian ground realities.
Fifth, Indian financial markets are quite open to foreign participation. While there are some notable impediments — for example, restrictions on foreign retail investors – it remains true that offshore participation by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) is substantial. More significantly, if a foreign securities firm wishes to come “onshore” in India, it is to a very large extent free to compete with domestic firms. The benefits from this foreign participation, in my view, have been substantial, bringing global practices, global talent (much of it Indians working at foreign firms), and global competition into the market.
Sixth — and most relevant to my comments here – India has a competitive exchange environment that will be a critical factor in lowering trading costs, increasing liquidity and driving the development of the markets through innovation.