Many in the Oslo Børs VPS organisation were reluctant to see Euronext take over as owner last year. Yet from the post-trade perspective of the CSD division VPS – and its head Audun Bø – the joining could give the Norwegian entity an attractive key role on a full European scale.
“Before acquiring us, the post trade area made up 13 percent of Euronext’s business. With us, this proportion is up at around 20 percent,” says Audun Bø, CEO of Norway’s central securities depository VPS.
He details how this harmonises with the realigned strategy of the Paris-/Amsterdam-based exchange group, to increase its weight on post-trade activities:
“Coming from being an operator of exchanges as such, Euronext now states its strategy in terms of ’building the leading pan-European market infrastructure’,” says Audun Bø.
At the heart of CSD transformation
We meet at the PostTrade 360° Stockholm conference in late February (after which Audun Bø was scheduled to give the opening keynote at PostTrade 360° Oslo on 25 March – an event eventually cancelled due to the corona outbreak). The landscape of the world’s CSDs is clearly in transition – from one of national monopolies to one of commercially owned competitors who battle it out in the open market. This could hardly be demonstrated more clearly, anywhere in the world, than it is at Audun Bø’s Oslo office these days.
“Before Euronext came in, we were a small Nordic CSD considering how to protect our national position. With Euronext we can think larger than that.”
In total, Oslo is now the third-largest site for the Euronext group, and the largest post-trade entity. For possible growth ambitions across the Nordic region, this makes Oslo the evident base under Euronext, Audun Bø points out. With Nasdaq, which runs its large Nordic business with Stockholm as its main centre, Oslo would not have had such a role.
No looking back
It is a poorly kept secret that most of Norway’s financial community were favouring Nasdaq to become the new owner of national exchange/CSD Oslo Børs VPS – rather than its rival Euronext, who eventually won the bidding game triggered by the latter at Christmas 2018. Sensing this, Euronext was quick to declare to its new employees in Oslo that it would prefer all bygones to be bygones.
According to Audun Bø, employees viewed it positively that Oslo would become the Nordic centre for their owner. Even so, he acknowledges that the organisation, including himself, is negatively touched by a mandate to downsize the activity. Across the Oslo Børs VPS business, including the exchange operation, headcount should be down from about 250 to 210 by the end of 2021.
In the meantime, there will be a high work load both with the group integration and with the efforts to become licensed under CSDR. The application deadline for the CSDR license is 30 June this year, and Audun Bø expects the final authorisation during the first half of 2021.
As head of VPS, Norway’s CSD now acquired by Euronext, Audun Bø is at the centre of the industry’s transition from national monopolies to open-market combatants.
(Photo: Alexander Kristofersson)