US companies plan upstart stock exchange

The leading stock exchanges in the US are about to face new competition.

A group of nine financial companies has announced plans to launch their own trading market, dubbed the Members Exchange, aiming to bypass the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq.

They said their goal is to reduce costs and simplify trading.

The plan is backed by firms that include Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investment, UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The firms, which will own the new exchange collectively, said they would file papers for the new exchange with the US market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, early this year.

Approval is not expected until at least 2020.

Douglas Cifu, chief executive of another firm involved in the Members Exchange, Virtu Financial, said: "The launching of MEMX is a testament to the market-wide demand for competition, innovation, and transparency."

Data has gained industry importance as analysis gets easier and algorithms are increasingly used to guide investor activity.

Some information is public. But traders and brokers have complained for years about the fees they are charged to access additional data. In some instances they have asked regulators to intervene.

In a statement on Monday, the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), which represents companies that operate exchanges, defended the current system, saying exchanges create the data and set fees based on its value to the customer.


Earlier efforts

It's not the first time investors have sought to shake up the industry.

In 2008, investment banks in Europe set up an exchange called Turquoise, in a similar effort to increase competition.

Although loss-making, it gained a 7% share of the market before being getting taken over by the London Stock Exchange.

In the US, the IEX Group launched a new national stock exchange in 2016. That exchange, known as the Investors Exchange, currently claims about 2.6% of the market.

Three big companies dominate the rest of the market: the Nasdaq; the Intercontinental Exchange, which runs the New York Stock Exchange; and the CBOE, which focuses more on options contracts and currency exchanges.

Shares in Intercontinental Exchange fell more than 2% after the Members Exchange announcement on Monday.

Shares in Nasdaq sank 2.6% while the CBOE dropped 1.9%.