When Antonio Zoido was tapped to head the Madrid Stock Exchange in 1991, Spain's largest bolsa was at risk of slipping into irrelevance. Despite a booming economy, nearly half of all trading in Spanish blue chips was taking place in New York and London.
Zoido, an ex-banker and broker, quickly sprang into action. First, he replaced the exchange's electronic trading and settlement system with a new one built in-house at low cost. It has held up well: According to brokers, Madrid's system suffers far fewer technological glitches than other European exchanges. "No one believed me when I said that volumes were going to explode and that the old trading system couldn't handle it," recalls Zoido.
Explode is right. Since 1992 annual trading volume in equities has risen thirtyfold, to $822 billion last year. Again, a lot of the credit goes to Zoido, who in 2002 moved to consolidate Spain's nine financial markets, including four regional exchanges and a derivatives market, into a new holding company known as Bolsas y Mercados Españoles (BME). Today the BME, or Spanish Stock Exchanges, ranks as the fourth-largest exchange in Europe by market cap, after London, Germany, and Paris-led Euronext -- and 65% of the BME's trades are made by foreigners. "[Zoido] is a leader who knows how to rally brokers, politicians, and businessmen around a cause," says an investment banker in Madrid. The 60-year-old executive is also soft-spoken and modest; a portrait of him by noted artist Hernán Cortés that was commissioned by the exchange is hidden away in his secretary's office.
In rebuilding the bolsa, Zoido used contacts and knowhow built up over three decades in the industry. In the 1980s, Zoido was a top exec at Banco Central Hispano, where he helped introduce financial instruments such as warrants and preferred shares to Spain. In 1999, when BCH merged with Banco Santander, Zoido was named chairman of the bank's new brokerage arm, the largest in Spain.
Spanish businesses are reaping the rewards of Zoido's reforms. Companies raised $52 billion in financing on the BME last year, more than any other market in the world after the New York Stock Exchange. An initial public offering of BME shares some time in the next year could value the company at as much as $1.9 billion. Once public, Zoido hopes the BME will play a key role in the con-solidation of European financial markets. Despite the big obstacles, "it will happen," says the Spaniard. "And we'll be ready."
By Carlta Vitzthum