8. What are the current developments in financial management and the securities markets?
Many of the key trends shaping the practice of financial management echo those in other disciplines. For example, technology is improving the efficiency with which financial managers run their operations. In the wake of a slowing economy and corporate scandals, the SEC assumed a stronger role and implemented additional regulations to protect investors from fraud and misinformation. A wave of merger mania hit the global securities markets as the securities exchanges themselves have begun to consolidate to capture larger shares of the world’s trading volume in multiple types of securities. Online brokerage firms are seeking new ways to capture and keep their customers by broadening the services they offer and keeping the fees they charge highly competitive. Let’s now look at two key trends in greater detail. In the era of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, CFOs find themselves balancing a strategic focus with overseeing corporate compliance with the act. The NYSE and NASDAQ are battling for supremacy as the regional exchanges look for niche markets to exploit.
Finance Looks Outward
No longer does finance operate in its own little world of spreadsheets and banking relationships. Most CFOs want the finance function to be viewed by their company’s business units as a strategic partner who can contribute to their success. Finance professionals therefore need a broad view of company operations to communicate effectively with business unit managers, board members, creditors, and investors. The goal is productive cooperation and teamwork between finance and the business units to meet corporate objectives. CFOs are more highly visible and active in company management than ever before. They serve as both business partner to the chief executive and a fiduciary to the board.
In the aftermath of recent accounting scandals and the global recession of 2008–2009, CFOs consider accuracy of financial reporting their top priority, and they also must now provide more detailed explanations of what’s behind the numbers to board members and other stakeholders. Rather than showering the board with financial reports and statistics, CFOs are crafting more focused presentations that deal with the company’s overall financial health and future prospects.27 They must also educate board members about the implications of Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation, such as Dodd-Frank, and what the company is doing to comply with federal regulations.
Vying for the Crown
The NYSE and NASDAQ continue to wage a heated battle for supremacy in the global securities markets. The NYSE fell behind its more nimble rival, which already had an electronic platform. Its answer was to make sweeping changes in its organizational structure by going public and merging with Archipelago, a major ECN, to enter the electronic marketplace. NASDAQ responded immediately by acquiring another ECN, Instinet’s INET. The NYSE then made history by signing an agreement to merge with Euronext and create the first exchange to span the Atlantic. Not to be outdone, the NASDAQ increased its ownership of shares in the London Stock Exchange to 25 percent. These transactions reduced the fragmentation in the marketplace and also eliminated many of the differences between the two exchanges.
But the competition between the two companies continued in 2017, as the London Stock Exchange looks for a buyer after the European Commission refused to allow a merger between LSE and Germany’s Deutsche Borse.28 It remains to be seen whether either U.S. exchange is ready to purchase an international exchange; however, their recent strategic moves have made them stronger and more competitive.
- How has the role of CFO changed since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?
- Describe the major changes taking place in the U.S. securities markets. What trends are driving these changes?