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Now the real work starts

With the euro and Y2K safely hurdled, the securities industry is sizing up straight through processing as the next obstacle to creating a more efficient global market. The unification of exchanges and clearing and settlement platforms, which should enable this to happen, remains stymied by political manoeuvring. But market forces, aided by technological advances are set to force change. While the front offices of investment managers have been eagerly seizing the distribution opportunities presented by the internet, their back offices have plenty of catching up to do. Those that rise to the challenge will pull ahead of the pack. Julian Marshall reports

Stephen Smit has a vision for how he would like to see securities traded in the future.

The model which Smit, a managing director in Europe of State Street's proprietary custody system Global Link, puts forward is radical only in its simplicity. New technology, he says, should allow for a cross-border equity transaction to be completed in four clicks of a fund manager's mouse.

The process would run like this: A portfolio manager sitting in his or her office develops an investment idea and decides to buy, say 100,000 shares in a given company.

Click one: inputs the order into the trade order management system and routes the instruction to the equity blotter within the system on the buy side trader's desk.

Click two: routes the equity trade to either the broker of their choice, the exchange floor, or an alternative trading venue (for example an electronic crossing network).

As information on that equity fill flows back electronically, the trade order management system strips out the foreign exchange trade required to settle the transaction.

Click three: routes the foreign exchange trade to the counterparty bank of choice and as information on the foreign exchange fill comes back...

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