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Time for SGX to show the numbers

There is a lot of anger following the afternoon shutdown of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) trading systems on Nov 5. Somebody even started an online petition to remove SGX chief executive Magnus Bocker.

In a way, the shutdown was a catalyst that precipitated a lot of frustration among trading professionals about the lack of activity in the markets this year, so not all of the antagonism is a direct result of the market disruption. But SGX has not done itself any favours by keeping its operational statistics behind a shroud of secrecy.

At a press briefing, I asked what kind of a threshold SGX has in terms of uptime and downtime. Surely they have some kind of standards against which to measure how well their systems are run and maintained? SGX assured us that they do have thresholds, and that these thresholds are very stringent. Well, so what exactly are those thresholds and how well has SGX done against those benchmarks?

That's where SGX would not offer more details. But it should. When market stakeholders are questioning your competence, your word on your own competence isn't going to carry much weight with your critics. If you have data to answer that challenge, set that data free.

In fact, given the public interest aspect of operating a financial market, the regulators should consider making those statistics updated and available. This is by no means a radical suggestion - the Land Transport Authority, for example, publishes statistics on train delays. It would also not take a lot of extra work, because SGX already maintains those numbers internally.

The public would benefit from these statistics in a few ways. The first is that it would keep SGX on its toes. Given that SGX has a virtual monopoly on the stock market business in Singapore, increasing public scrutiny sounds like a step in the right direction.

The second benefit is that we will finally have a comprehensive picture of how well the trading systems are being run. We all know when a major disruption happens, but what about the smaller ones that are not reported?

SGX could also benefit from the increased transparency. The next time there is a major market disruption, if SGX has been doing its job well, it can always rebut its critics with the numbers.

Set that data free.