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U.S. stock exchanges are constantly innovating, and this evolution shifts the world of finance at large.

The U.S. financial exchanges have long been the world’s largest: every single day, hundreds of billions of dollars change hands through the NYSE, Nasdaq ($NDAQ), Intercontinental Exchange’s ($ICE) and other smaller players in the country – there’s even a new platform on the cards for Texas. And for the past century, investors have been rewarded for backing U.S.-listed companies.

Returns, however, only tell part of the story. One of the key elements that allowed American exchanges to take such a prevalent role on the global stage was the evolution of financial products to cater to new trends, ideas and demands. 

These developments weren’t always straightforward though – innovations were sometimes met with suspicion. Futures contracts were viewed as blurring the lines between hedging risk and speculation for many decades. The methods behind options pricing were seen as vague and required the work of Nobel prize-winning economists to be made clearer. Despite occasional false starts, the growth of more complex instruments and services impacts the whole economy, including many businesses beyond the financial industry. 

Today there are no signs of a slowdown for this evolution. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission was just recently discussing the legal status of prediction markets, ultimately advised against it. The ongoing debate about how to safely provide access to Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies also shows that American regulators and exchanges are keen to continue innovating and remaining worldwide industry leaders. 

Keep in mind that exchanges are businesses that need to consider their customers, market demands and pressure from regulators. The likes of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ($CME) and Chicago Board Options Exchange ($CBOE) are even listed companies themselves. 

Their trading floors have also changed significantly from the chaotic arenas seen in films, with employees using hand signals, yelling and darting about to communicate. Technological advancements resulted in high amounts of automation (cut to last month and Wall Street could even reduce the settlement time for trades from two days to one).

This digital shift is what really opened the doors to retail investors, for whom there was little room before. The launch of online trading by Charles Schwab ($SCHW) in 1996 was a game changer, even if a small step compared to the opportunities offered via today’s mobile apps. Some 25 years later, individuals could make a real impact on the stock market from the comfort of their homes, as we’ve seen from the meme stock phenomenon during the pandemic (and beyond). 

Retail investors accounted for a record 23% of volumes in late January 2023, which suggests their presence – our presence – isn’t a fad. But it’s thanks to a constant evolution of the system, and it’s exciting to see where things might be headed next.


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Stakeshop Pty Ltd, trading as Stake, ACN 610105505, is an authorised representative (Authorised Representative No. 1241398) of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 337927) ('Sanlam') and an authorised representative (Authorised Representative No. 1241398) of Airwallex Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 487221) ('Airwallex'). Stake is not authorised by Airwallex under Airwallex’s AFSL to arrange for clients to be issued with securities as Airwallex is not authorised under its AFSL for this purpose. Stake is not authorised by Sanlam under Sanlam’s AFSL to arrange for clients to be issued with a non-cash payment facility as Sanlam is not authorised under its AFSL for this purpose. Stake SMSF Pty Ltd (‘Stake Super’) is not licensed to provide financial product advice under the Corporations Act. This specifically applies to any financial products which are established if you instruct Stake Super to set up a self managed super fund (‘SMSF’). When you sign up to Stake Super, you are contracting with Stake SMSF Pty Ltd who will assist in the establishment of a SMSF under a ‘no advice model’. You will also be referred to Stakeshop Pty Ltd to enable your trading account and bank account to be set up in order to use the Stake Website and/or App. Stakeshop Pty Ltd will also run marketing and promotions to you under. For more information about SMSFs, see our SMSF Risks page.The information on our website or our mobile application is not intended to be an inducement, offer or solicitation to anyone in any jurisdiction in which Stake is not regulated or able to market its services. At Stake and Stake Super, we’re focused on giving you a better investing experience but we don’t take into account your personal objectives, circumstances or financial needs. Any advice given by Stake is of a general nature only. As investments carry risk, before making any investment decision, please consider if it’s right for you and seek appropriate taxation and legal advice. Please view our Financial Services GuideTerms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy and Disclaimers  before deciding to invest on or use Stake or Stake Super. By using our website or service in any way, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions. All financial products involve risk and you should ensure you understand the risks involved as certain financial products may not be suitable to everyone. Past performance of any product described on this website is not a reliable indication of future performance. Stake and Stake Super are registered trademarks in Australia.

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