Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) today published the results of a major global survey across the post-trade ecosystem, including over 300 decision makers from exchange groups, custodians, brokers, and other service providers. The report was produced in partnership with the ValueExchange.
The landmark study reveals that 78% of Financial Market Infrastructure (FMI) investment budgets are dominated by maintaining and upgrading legacy technology platforms. Simply keeping the lights on is taking up 44% of infrastructures’ investment capacity, whilst a further 34% is allocated to the transition and replacement of these systems. Alongside intense regulatory oversight and mandated change, operating models are being pulled in multiple directions. This is leaving very little scope for spending on growth initiatives and highlights an ever-increasing risk for the industry.
Roland Chai, Executive Vice President and Head of Marketplace Technology at Nasdaq, said: “Over decades technology debt has built up amongst infrastructure providers across financial markets. With more than a third of firms planning a major system overhaul over the next five years, alongside responding to an unprecedented wave of regulation, the need for refreshing core technology is a challenge that is core to most industry participants. As the backbone of the industry and global economy, operators must differentiate themselves and remain relevant for the next generation of investors.”
This spending constraint is leading to a substantial difference in investment allocations between FMIs and their participants. For example, for over ten years Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been proving highly effective in facilitating the quick and tactical automation of core processes and yet today only 4% of FMI spend is on RPA and AI initiatives, compared with over 28% by market participants.
Ageing platforms require major system overhauls
A third of firms surveyed operate with legacy platforms more than ten years old, with 37% of respondents planning a major system overhaul in the next five years. The need to undertake significant projects is particularly prevalent in the post-trade space where 47% of clearing firms expect to trigger an upgrade, while in settlements 44% of firms see a transition as imminent. This comes at the same time as they look to remove time from their processing and increase their settlement efficiency, meaning an inevitable ‘distraction effect’ at a critical time.
Regulatory change is the central concern for FMIs
The study finds the reach of mandatory regulatory change is the central concern for 64% of our respondents. As the global securities industry continues to contend with the impact of the Shareholder Rights Directive II and Central Securities Depositories Regulation, project teams are now faced with the added complexities of the transition to T+1 settlement cycles in North America in May 2024.
In parallel, The UK Securities Financing Transactions Regulation has forced the securities finance firms to profoundly rationalize and accelerate their data reporting capabilities - as will the Securities Lending Transparency: Rule 10c-1 in the USA. Considered in the context of multiple local market regulations centered on client asset segregation, client monies and other areas, the regulatory agenda is increasingly requiring significant, enterprise-wide change across the entire trade cycle.
“Across our client base there is an increasing recognition of the need to undertake major change programs, having adopted a patchwork approach for decades,” said Magnus Haglind, Senior Vice President and Head of Products, Marketplace Technology at Nasdaq. “The need to respond to regulatory change is also seen as significant factor, which increasingly demands re-engineering entire platforms, rather than tactical initiatives. This underscores the importance of modernization initiatives across infrastructure operators, where growth should form a key part of legacy upgrades.”