Expand our horizons, says ASX boss

The chief executive of the stock exchange says Australia has been mired in introspection over the past three years and needs to focus on boosting its global competitiveness as the resources boom wanes.

The chief executive of the stock exchange says Australia has been mired in introspection over the past three years and needs to focus on boosting its global competitiveness as the resources boom wanes.

ASX managing director Elmer Funke Kupper also called for a "mix of experience" to be involved in the Abbott government's financial services inquiry, recommending people who have worked in highly regulated industries that have experienced significant change, such as energy, telecoms and infrastructure.

"You probably want to have a few people on there who have dealt with the big structural questions, industry reform," Mr Funke Kupper said of the looming inquiry, which is tipped to be headed by former Commonwealth Bank boss David Murray. "You want people who say, 'You know what? We dealt with those questions in the past 15 years. Here's the mistakes we've made, here's the things we got right, here's how we compete globally.'

"When you think about boards of directors, of companies, you bring together a range of experiences. Why wouldn't an inquiry do the same thing?"

In a speech to the Australian British Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne, Mr Funke Kupper said the inquiry must look at whether Australia's financial system can withstand another shock and the value it provides to customers.

And he told reporters the local bourse does not have a "particular ambition" to merge with another bourse, after the federal government stopped an $8 billion merger proposal for the ASX from the Singapore Exchange in 2011 on national interest grounds.

"We don't have any pressures, and nor do we have plans," he said. "What I'm highlighting, of course, is that the world around us is consolidating, but it's really right now a North American and European phenomenon, because the pressure's there to create scale."

The ASX was rocked recently by the resignation of two directors whose US-based hedge fund was caught up in a share trading scandal. Mr Funke Kupper said the ASX was making progress on replacing Russell Aboud and Shane Finemore, whose hedge fund Manikay Partners was fined $US2.6 million ($2.7 million) by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

And he expressed confidence in the regulation of dark pools and high-frequency trading in local markets, which each account for about 25 per cent of turnover. Dark pools are anonymous trades conducted off public markets; fast traders trade throughout the day but don't hold stock at the end of it.

"It's been a real challenge around the world," he said. "I'm a tremendous fan of the work that [regulator] ASIC has done in this space."

An Australian report released earlier this year found that public concerns over high-frequency trading were "overstated" and rejected claims that it exacerbated market instability.

The Gillard government in February deferred a decision on stripping the ASX of its monopoly on cash equities clearing services.

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