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The trading floor for securities, the backbone of Wall Street for generations, may eventually be replaced by a computer and screen, says Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman David Ruder. However, Ruder, in testimony before a Senate subcommittee on securities, made it clear that he had some concern about how such a system might work.

He told the subcommittee, which is examining the globalization of securities markets, that the biggest question facing regulators is how to make more capital available during times of market stress.Asked if trading floors like the one at the New York Stock Exchange were doomed and would be replaced by a computerized system, Ruder said, "Probably, eventually, yes."

In a wide-ranging discussion on the shape of securities markets and how the United States should respond to increased competition from overseas, Ruder repeated the SEC's position that commercial banks should be allowed to trade securities for customers as long as that activity is regulated by the agency.

At the same time, he said, the United States was looking at ways to relax the system of disclosure to accommodate foreign companies.

Foreign companies have often been reluctant to have their securities traded in the United States because of the vast amount of corporate information that must be disclosed under the American regulatory system. But because of increased competition from foreign markets, the United States has been moving to relax the requirements.

"We're fiddling with this system, not trying to trash it," Ruder said.

He said that sometime in the future, the 24-hour marketplace for securities would be put in place with trading in major stocks taking place at any time of day or night.

The question, he said, was "who is going to regulate these markets."

For all of this, he dismissed the notion that the markets had grown so complicated that the small investor would do well to give them wide berth.

He said individual investors should acquire stocks for the long term, an investment approach which he said could lead to substantial financial success.

"It is not possible to have strong leadership with an acting chairman," he said.