20 years of the Swiss Value Chain — 20 years of stories

Stories bring technical and complex matters alive and make them easy to understand. To mark the anniversary of the Swiss Value Chain, people at SIX are therefore passing on their very own anecdotes and experience: stories about the stock exchange, clearing or securities settlement and custody – past and present.

 

Stock exchange trading running times

Gabriela Rytz, Head Reception Services at SIX, used to work as a fiche runner at the old Zurich stock exchange

Gabriela Rytz is Head Reception Services at SIX: she and her team ensure that customers, visitors and staff feel "looked after". They manage the reception, reserve parking spaces, connect callers and pass on written requests to the relevant departments. They field up to average 400 calls per day. Gabriela loves that. She is familiar with what happens behind the scenes at SIX, how the processes run and where to get started on things.

Back then...

Gabriela is not new to the business: in the mid-80s she did a placement as a fiche runner at the old Zurich stock exchange as part of her banking apprenticeship. The "old" stock exchange in Zurich's Bleicherweg had been the biggest Swiss securities trading venue since 1930. Securities were traded in a ring "à la criée". Gabriela ran with the trading orders received by phone to the traders on the trading floor.

This is how it worked: the trading rings were on the ground floor of the stock exchange building. The two most important equity trading rings were industry and finance. My bank had a trader at each of these rings. Today every bank can take part in trading. Back then there were A banks that were represented in the ring and B banks that had to place their orders via an A bank.

Trading rings at Zurich stock exchange

Trading rings at Zurich stock exchange

Old Zurich stock exchange in Zurich's Bleicherweg

Old Zurich stock exchange in Zurich's Bleicherweg

My bank was an A bank and had an office on the first floor of the stock exchange building. There about ten people received orders by phone: buy and sell orders from customers and from other banks that were not represented in the ring. They filled out a fiche for each order, which was transported on a type of conveyor belt to the end of the desk, where it dropped into a basket.

As a fiche runner I had to make sure that the orders were brought in time from the bank's office down to the traders in the ring. In the days of ring trading, not every stock was traded throughout the day – unlike today. I first of all had to sort the fiches: alphabetically and by industry and finance stocks. Sometimes I had to decipher the telephonists' writing first! But time was of the essence: if there were no orders for a stock, the traders went down the alphabet to the next one. It was important not to miss the time window. So I had to race down to the ring and – without anyone noticing – pass on the order to my trader. The traders on the left and right were not supposed to know what was in the order, as they would otherwise have adapted the price. Buy and sell orders had to always be submitted. In electronic trading, buy and sell oders match without buyers and sellers having to be nice. But as a ring trader, you couldn't afford to make any enemies as you otherwise wouldn't find a counterparty. This meant you had to network, demonstrate some negotiating skills and keep a poker face! Once a trade had been executed, the traders made a note of this on the fiche in question. The clerk then had to check whether the buyer had the money; the settlement team ensured that the stocks could be delivered. Everything was a still a bit hands-on in those days.

Gabriela Rytz at her former work place: in the old Zurich stock exchange building

Gabriela Rytz at her former work place: in the old Zurich stock exchange building

...and today

Electronic stock exchange trading replaced ring trading in summer 1996: fiche runners who had to flit from one place to the other and wildly gesticulating traders are all a thing of the past. Banks issue their buy and sell orders via computer; trading is carried out on electronic trading platforms that automatically match supply and demand in keeping with precisely defined rules. The ring today is only of symbolic importance in the stock exchange building of SIX Swiss Exchange, serving as a historical conference venue.

Find out more about the development of SIX Swiss Exchange

Find out more about the development of SIX Swiss Exchange