ICE’s Sprecher Talks Equity Market Structure

Terry Flanagan

IntercontinentalExchange is one of the most influential market operators in the world, and chief executive Jeff Sprecher is by extension one of the more influential individuals. ICE’s roots are in commodity futures, but the Atlanta-based company has had a seat at the table of U.S. equity market structure since its November 2013 acquisition of NYSE Euronext, owner of the New York Stock Exchange.

“We continue to take a leadership role to advocate on behalf of our listed companies for the importance of an improved market structure,” Sprecher said Thursday on a conference call to discuss ICE’s second-quarter earnings.

“We unilaterally began reducing complexity and filed with the (Securities and Exchange Commission) last month to remove 12 order types and to harmonize all remaining order types at our three venues,” he said.

Sprecher founded ICE around the turn of the century and built the company from an obscure commodity-futures exchange to a global powerhouse with one of the strongest brands in finance. Colleagues and competitors see him as a mover and shaker who wasn’t going to buy the iconic NYSE just for its stable cash flow.

“We are generally entrepreneurs,” Sprecher told Markets Media in a January interview. “We like to be where there is change going on, and I just sense that the market is ready for change.”

U.S. equity market structure has changed dramatically over the past decade, as trading venues proliferated, execution speeds compressed to less than a blink of an eye, and high-frequency trading emerged as a substantial, and highly controversial, market constituency. Now much of that is under review, and market participants and observers expect changes from regulators as soon as later this year.

Sprecher and NYSE Group head Tom Farley have testified on market-structure matters and they will continue to have the ear of regulators, “to ensure the debate is balanced from an issuer perspective,” Sprecher said on the earnings call.

“We’re working with the SEC and with peers to ensure we’re taking positive steps to improve market structure and reduce the complexity market participants are faced with today.”


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