The first female CEO of the stock exchange and the start of electronic trading

The first female CEO of the stock exchange and the start of electronic trading

For over a hundred years, March 8 as "International Women's Day" has stood for celebrating the achievements of the women's rights movement, but also for drawing global attention to existing discrimination, inequalities and the importance of gender equality. This blog article is about a woman who is a pioneer in her industry not only because of her gender. Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter (1960*) was the first female Swiss stock exchange director and achieved many things in the process. The 1990s were a phase of upheaval on the Zurich Stock Exchange.

The crash of 1987

19 October 1987 goes down in stock market history worldwide as "Black Monday". It is the biggest economic crash to date after the Great Depression of 1929 and the Second World War. The massive losses on Wall Street will inevitably be felt on the Zurich Stock Exchange a little later. The Swissindex stock market barometer at the time –  the predecessor of today's SMI – falls by 11.5 percent. The following Tuesday, there is a state of emergency on the Zurich Stock Exchange. Thanks to the telephone trading of the banks, the ring traders receive at least certain price indicators. The limits of trade "à la criée" are noticeably reached.

At the same time, Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter begins her career in finance and risk management in 1987 with a licentiate in business administration at the University of St. Gallen (lic. oec. HSG). At Bank Leu, she is initially Head of Securities Trading and Sales in the Directorate until she joins the stock exchange in 1989. From one male domain to the next: in 1989 she becomes the first representative of a ring bank at the Zurich Stock Exchange. 

I liked to walk across Paradeplatz to the stock exchange every day. As soon as you entered the room with the rings, you were seized by the air of the stock market. It was immediately clear where the prices were heading. It was about the cause, not whether you were a woman or a man. Everyone wanted to get the best stock market prices. It was intense, loud and very human.

Meanwhile, in 1988, a platform is created to combine trading in derivatives from the Swiss stock exchanges – Basel, Geneva and Zurich. At the same time, a new stock exchange building is built in Selnau in the middle of Zurich by 1992 – containing six rings. As early as 1995, the Geneva, Basel and Zurich stock exchanges merge to form the SWX Swiss Exchanges.

Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter

1987 - 1992 Bank Leu, Member of the Executive Board, Head of Securities Trading and Sales
1995 - 2001/2  Head of the Swiss Stock Exchange SWX
2001 - 2002 virt-x, Head 
2002 - 2005 Julius Baer, Head of Trading and Sales and Member of the Group Executive Board
2006 - 2014 BKW-FMB Energie AG, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors
2006 - today Forma Futura Invest AG, founding partner and CEO
2011 - today waterkiosk Foundation, Co-Founder and Vice President
2014 - 2015 Berner Kantonalbank (BEKB), Member of the Board of Directors
2015 - today Berner Kantonalbank (BEKB), Chairwoman of the Board of Directors

From trade «à la criée» to computer trading

Due to rapidly developing communication technologies and ongoing globalization, a strategic goal is achieved in 1991: the cantonal stock exchanges of Lausanne, Neuchâtel and St. Gallen are discontinued or consolidated. These smaller regional exchanges lose their appeal. Their issuers prefer to invest their shares on the national and larger stock exchanges in Zurich or Geneva. The joint project "Electronic Stock Exchanges Switzerland" is launched in 1992. There is a spirit of optimism on the European stock markets, driven in particular by the technology fever and the planning of the euro from 1996 onwards. These changes represent upheaval. Slowly but surely, stock exchanges in Europe and overseas become electronic in the early 1990s. The Swiss stock exchange at the forefront.

From telephone trading to the fully electronic system in 2002. The automation of administrative processes is not yet a major hurdle. But with regard to the heart of the stock exchange, the trade itself, the fronts are hardening. The computerization of commerce is a bumpy road, not only because entire occupational groups are fundamentally changing. The industry is facing a radical change in the entire operation. In the course of this, the last ring trade "à la criée" finally takes place in Zurich in 1996. A hundred-year era ends. After only four years at the new location, the brand-new rings in the stock exchange in Selnau become superfluous. It's getting quiet on the stock exchange.

Almost ten years after the crash of 1987, Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter became head of the SWX Swiss Exchange in 1995 until 2001/2. During this time, she contributed significantly to the new appearance of the SWX Swiss Exchange and advocated the strategy of internationalization, which has proven its worth. 

It was unique to be able to work on, shape and participate in decision-making together with my colleagues on the Executive Board, the employees and the Board of Directors. We managed to bring the then world's leading electronic exchange system, which had digitized the entire value chain for the first time, to market maturity and successfully introduce it.

Hunziker-Ebneter takes over the management of the pan-European exchange virt-x in 2001. Virt-x was a cross-border and electronic stock trading platform, active from 1995 to 2009. It becomes a subsidiary of SWX in 2009. Hunziker-Ebneter leaves the stock exchange business in 2001/2 and becomes a member of the Group Executive Board of the private bank Julius Baer. She is still CEO of the independent asset management company Forma Futura Invest AG, which she co-founded in 2006, and since 2015 she has also chaired the Board of Directors of Berner Kantonalbank. With the waterkiosk foundation, she is committed to providing access to clean drinking water in emerging countries. 

For me, digitalisation and the increasing social importance of sustainability and diversity are the most important changes of the last 20 years. In order for diversity to be further improved and to be lived in 20 years in such a way that it will no longer be an issue, responsible and energetic women and men as well as good framework conditions are needed.