Tagged: best bid or offer

Spread Too Thin

What if?

Those two words branded with a question mark may rank 2nd all-time behind “what is the meaning of life?”

What if…public companies could set spreads in their own trades?

Before we ponder that, let’s tip hats to IROs Moriah Shilton at Tessera Technology (TSRA) and Kate Scolnick at Seagate (STX), who demonstrated such adroit command of market structure in yesterday’s NIRI webinar on why trading matters in the IR chair (replay available for NIRI members). Expertise like theirs is the future of our profession. Knowledge, as always and ever, is power.

Speaking of knowledge, the SEC yesterday convened a round table on price-spreads in trading, commonly known as “tick-size.” On the panels were finance professors, representatives from major exchanges, venture capitalists, folks from Fidelity and Invesco – and thankfully, David Weild at Grant Thornton/Capital Markets Advisory Partners, and Pat Healy from Issuer Advisory Group, both strong advocates for the interests of public companies.

But there wasn’t a CEO, CFO or IRO from a public company (Moriah Shilton and Kate Scolnick should be on these panels!).

Here’s the issue. Ever since increments between the best prices to buy and sell shares were set by law in 2001 with Decimalization, trading volume has exploded but ranks of public companies and broker-dealers have fallen. In 1997, there were 7,500 public companies. Today there are 3,700 in the National Market System.

At the time, a belief prevailed that small investors couldn’t get a fair shake because brokers and specialists controlled prices in stock markets. So the SEC mandated that prices be set in penny increments. No more trading in eighths or sixteenths of a dollar.

In 1983 there were roughly 450 IPOs in the USA. Thirteen years later in 1996, about 700. The last year US markets remotely approached “hundreds” of IPOs – and thus, hundreds of IR jobs – was in 2000, right before Decimalization. (more…)

We’re back from NIRI National!

Orlando sweltered like you’d expect a swamp in central Florida in June might. We heard 1,300 were on hand, up triple digits from last year. There were new faces in the crowd and new vendor names, though big ones were absent too because exhibit costs go up while things like annual reports and total public companies decline.

We were tethered to the booth mostly but I sat in on the session about how equity markets work. Rich Barry from the NYSE, John Adam of Liquidnet, and Brian King at BATS paneled, and well. Our client Moriah Shilton at Tessera moderated like a pro.

The room was packed to standing-room-only. In the two years since I sat in Moriah’s seat on the stage, how markets work and what to do about them continues to populate the thoughts of IR folks, clearly. They streamed to the mics throughout with queries.

Karen and I nudged each other and shook our heads at this one: “How can we understand where our shares trade and for what reason?” (more…)