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Magnus Bocker, ex-SGX CEO, dead at 55

Industry veteran led mergers of Nasdaq, OMX, then helmed post-financial crisis SGX

Magnus Bocker, who led the Singapore Exchange (SGX) after the global financial crisis and sought to modernise it, has died from cancer at 55.

Magnus Bocker, who led the Singapore Exchange (SGX) after the global financial crisis, has died from cancer in the United States, the Business Times has learned.

He was just over a month shy of turning 56.

Mr Bocker, who ran private investment firm Blibros following his departure from the exchange, passed away in St Louis, Missouri in the United States on Wednesday local time, said Jonas Lindstrom, Mr Bocker's partner at Blibros. Mr Lindstrom told the Business Times that Mr Bocker's family had no comment.

Mr Bocker, who was born in Sweden, made his name on the global stage as a savvy dealmaker who helped to create the Nordic exchange group OMX, then led its eventual merger with Nasdaq. After a short stint as president of Nasdaq, Mr Bocker was lured to Singapore in 2009 to take over SGX from outgoing CEO Hsieh Fu Hua.

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Mr Bocker’s tenure at SGX was characterised by his goal to raise the exchange into a best-in-class platform in Asia, but also by his inability to replicate his dealmaking success in Singapore.
Most notably, Mr Bocker led an attempt to merge SGX with the ASX, the Australian stock exchange, in 2010. That merger had support of management teams on both sides and the Singapore government, but eventually fell to political opposition in Australia.

SGX was later also reported to be a suitor for the London Metal Exchange in 2012, but lost out to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

Mr Bocker ran SGX with his sights firmly set on the global arena. He envisioned SGX as an “Asian gateway”, providing a miniature version of New York or London in this timezone. But that often involved making changes to the status quo to match global trends in the securities industry.

As the consummate engineer of markets, Mr Bocker was known for his deep knowledge of all aspects of operating an exchange. He invested heavily to upgrade SGX’s trading engines and technological infrastructure, and grew the derivatives business into a significant counterweight to the securities market.

He also charged his risk and regulatory units to be early adopters of international standards following the global financial crisis, burnishing Singapore’s reputation as one of the best regulated exchanges in the region.

Mr Bocker was a firm believer in corporate governance and responsible investing. Under his watch, the exchange developed guidelines for sustainability reporting, and he was the first chairman of the Diversity Action Committee, which seeks to improve board gender diversity in Singapore. After leaving the exchange, Mr Bocker took up the chairmanship of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), a shareholder advocacy group.

But some of Mr Bocker’s changes rubbed the local industry the wrong way. His courtship of algorithmic traders as a way to boost liquidity raised concerns about a level playing field in the market by remisiers.

The remisiers also mounted a long and high-profile campaign to protest Mr Bocker’s decision to take away the lunch break and shift SGX toward all-day trading. Continuous all-day trading was essential, he had argued, to reduce gap risk and gave investors more hours to trade.

Mr Bocker in 2015 chose not to seek a renewal of his contract. That decision came as SGX was under fire for a number of serious trading outages.

A charismatic man with a quick wit, Mr Bocker made Singapore his home following his SGX appointment. Even after leaving the exchange, he continued to live in Singapore, where he ran his family’s investment office.

Read more stories on Bocker:

Bocker had 'gift of building industry-defining businesses': Blibros

Bocker 'was a driving force for change': SGX