One reason little has been done is that bourses have been coping with so many reforms at home. Many wanted to push these through before thinking about Europe. But there is also atavistic nationalism. London, for example, is unwilling to give up the leading role it has acquired in cross-border trading between institutions; and other exchanges are unwilling to accept that it keeps it. Mr. Theodore says there is no future for the European bourses if they are forced to row in a boat with one helmsman. Amsterdam's Baron van Ittersum also emphasises that a joint European market must not be one under London's control.
Hence the latest, lesser notion gripping Europe's exchanges: bilateral or multilateral links. The futures exchanges have shown the way. Last year four smaller exchanges led by Amsterdam's EOE and OM, an options exchange based in Sweden and London, joined together in a federation called FEX In January of this year the continent's two biggest exchanges, MATIF and the DTB, announced a link-up that was clearly aimed at toppling London's LIFFE from its dominant position Gerard Pfauwadel, MATIF's chairman, trumpets the deal as a precedent for other European exchanges. Mr Breuer, the Deutsche Borse's chairman, reckons that a network of European exchanges is the way forward, though he concedes that London will not warm to the idea. The bourses of France and Germany can be expected to follow the MATIF/DTB lead.
It remains unclear how such link-ups will work, however. The notion is that members of one exchange should be able to trade products listed on another. So a Frenchman wanting to buy German government-bond futures could do so through a dealer on MATIF, even though the contract is actually traded in Frankfurt. That is easy to arrange via screen-based trading: all that are needed are local terminals. But linking an electronic market such as the DTB to a floorbased market with open-outcry trading such as MATIF is harder Nor have any exchanges thought through an efficient way of pooling their settlement systems
In any case, linkages and networks will do nothing to reduce the plethora of European exchanges, or to build a single market for the main European blue-chip stocks. For that a bigger joint effort is needed It would not mean the death of national exchanges, for there will always be business for individual investors, and in securities issued locally Mr Breuer observes that ultimately all business is local. Small investors will no doubt go on worrying about currency
risk unless and until monetary union happens. Yet large wholesale investors are already used to hedging against it. For them, investment in big European blue-chip securities would be much simpler on a single wholesale European market, probably subject to a single regulator
More to the point, if investors and issuers want such a market, it will emerge-whether today's exchanges provide it or not. What, after all, is an exchange? It is no more than a system to bring together as many buyers and sellers as possible, preferably under an agreed set of rules. That used to mean a physically supervised trading floor. But computers have made it possible to replicate the features of a physical exchange electronically. And they make the dissemination of prices and the job of applying rules to a market easier.
Most users of exchanges do not know or care which exchange they are using: they deal through brokers or dealers. Their concern is to deal with a reputable firm such as S. G. Warburg, Gold-man Sachs or Deutsche Bank, not a reputable exchange. Since big firms are now members of most exchanges, they can choose where to trade and where to resort to off-exchange deals-which is why there is so much dispute over market shares within Europe This fluidity creates much scope for new rivals to undercut established stock exchanges.
6.2 Europe, Meet Electronics
Consider the experience of the New York Stock Exchange, which has remained stalwartly loyal to its trading floor. It has been losing business steadily for two decades, even in its own listed stocks. The winners have included NASDAQ and cheaper regional exchanges. New York's trading has also migrated to electronic trading systems, such as Jeffries & Co's Posit, Reuters's Instinct and Wunsch (a computer grandly renamed the Arizona Stock Exchange).
Something similar may happen in Europe. OM, the Swedish options exchange, has an electronic trading system it calls Click. It recently renamed itself the London Securities and Derivatives Exchange. Its chief executive, Lynton Jones, dreams of offering clients side-by-side on a screen a choice of cash products, options and futures, some of them customised to suit particular clients The Chicago futures exchanges, worried like all established exchanges about losing market share, have recently launched "flex" contracts that combine the virtues of homogeneous exchange-traded products with tailor-made over-the-counter ones.
American electronic trading systems are trying to break into European markets with similarly imaginative products Instinet and Posit are already active, though they have had limited success so far. NASDAQ has an international arm in Europe. And there are homegrown systems, too. Tradepoint, a new electronic order-driver trading system for British equities, is about to open in London. Even bond-dealers could play a part. Their trade association, ISMA, is recognized British exchange for trading in Eurobonds; it has a computerized reporting system known as TRAX; most of its members use the international clearing-houses Euroclear and Cedel for trade settlement. It would not be hard for ISMA to widen its scope to include equities or futures and options. The association has recently announced a link with the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
Electronics poses a threat to established exchanges that they will never meet by trying to go it alone. A single European securities market (or derivatives market) need not look like an established stock exchange at all. It could be a network of the diverse trading and settlement systems that already exists, with the necessary computer terminals