Interview with Mr. Antony Tolfts | The Sydney Stock Exchange

Thursday, 10 December 2020


FEAS Secretariat spoke with the Listing Director at The Sydney Stock Exchange Mr. Antony Tolfts, about the key strategic initiatives, SSX Academy, listing procedure, the impact of COVID-19, and more. 

Armenuhy:  Hi, this is FEASTalks and I am Armenuhy Hovakimyan Deputy Secretary General of the Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges. Last month the Federation welcomed a new member Sydney Stock Exchange and today I am very happy to have our first interview with the director Antony Tolfts from the Sydney Stock Exchange. Thanks for joining me, Antony, and welcome to FEAS.

Mr. Tolfts: Thank you so much! It is an absolute pleasure to be a FEAS member. I thank you for having us this evening my time and this morning your time.

Armenuhy: Thank you. Let’s start from the Sydney Stock Exchange’s initiatives and let us know what are the key strategic initiatives the Sydney Stock Exchange is working on at this moment and what plans are for 2021?

Mr. Tolfts:  Thank you, Armenuhy. 2021 comes around quickly. The Sydney Stock Exchange is really focused on providing depth to the Australian market. We are a tier-one Stock Exchange, which means we can list companies of any size. Our focus is on those companies who are taking their first steps in the public markets. So they’re too small to list in the mainboards. And if suitable, we can help them list on the Sydney Stock Exchange. Our focus is really on making that listing process as efficient as possible, while still maintaining a suitable rigour through sort of using some clever smart technology in the background and getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Our real goal for the first half of 2021, still feels strange to say that, is just building and improving our market access now. The Sydney Stock Exchange already has over 550,000 retail investors able to access our market, we would like to see more and more of those investors able to access our markets through an online device in the smartphone or similar. 

So we’re really about helping our brokers and market participants facilitate access to our markets in an easier manner. And we’re excited, there are few projects going on that we hope will bring those goals into reality.

We’ve also recently established a board for ESG businesses. And that’s something we’re very excited about. Only recently established, some that we work together inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative. And it’s for companies who meet listing criteria as any listed company would. But equally, they meet some metrics in terms of environmental, social and governance. We have a set aside for that, that will just allow investment in those companies or allow our companies to be set aside for investment. So that’s something we’re really excited about and really passionate about at the SSX.

Armenuhy: Great, so you are mostly attracting everyone and this is good. So Stock Exchange, the main function of it to attract both issuers and the investors and good luck in this. And attractions are coming from financial literacy. As much people know about the market, they are being attracted. You at SSX have an Academy and the Academy is organizing educational courses in the financial market. So what is the impact of these courses? Who is the target group here? What about the SSX role in promoting financial literacy in your country?

Mr. Tolfts:  SSX Academy is something that’s very dear to all of our hearts at SSX. You know, we really believe in providing that introduction to financial markets or financial literacy. And the inspiration is to give very short, typically one hour, courses to people who have little or no experience in financial markets to sort of dip their toe in. And either see if they think financial markets could be a career for them. Or if they would just like more information personally, or if they’re already in the space and just looking to, you know, brush up on certain areas. There are a number of courses on our website 22-23 at the moment, and they range from real base level overview of the financial markets to exciting topics like Corporations Act, blockchain, even one on cryptocurrency, which we had last week, another sort of tech industry, and the idea is really, they can be accessed anywhere in the world that has an internet access, including any of the FEAS  other territories.

SSX would like to celebrate FEAS 25 years by offering FEAS members 25% off for SSX Academy courses. Simply hit SSX website, there’s a coupon code, just enter FEAS25 one word, and you’ll get that discount.

I wanted to mention something that SSX recently obviously joined FEAS at the 30th General Assembly, also celebrating 25 years of FEAS. Congratulations on your 25 year anniversary. We would like to celebrate your 25 years by offering FEAS members 25% off for SSX Academy courses. Simply hit our website, there’s a coupon code, just enter FEAS25 one word, and you’ll get that discount. So I’d encourage all members of FEAS who are watching us now and have access to the internet to have a look. The courses are delivered by industry experts from Australia. We can work out time zones as we have done today. And, you know, we’d love to see some global audiences attend the events. Currently, they’re very popular interstate, so across Australia, but we’d love to see some wider membership, wider attendance.

Armenuhy: Oh, this was really surprising news for me. Thank you very much. And thank you SSX for this initiative. So, FEAS25 and the coupon code is for a 25% discount from SSX Academy. Thank you very much.

Mr. Tolfts: My pleasure. I don’t know if we can keep this going all the way up to your 100th anniversary.

Armenuhy: Let’s hope that this is about sustainable development. And I hope we as FEAS and you as SSX and all our members are keen on sustainable development and we will reach 100 and more.

Mr. Tolfts:  My pleasure and we hope to see many FEAS members and community attend the events. And there are all folks coming from a range of abilities from people who are currently studying one field and keen to know more about financial markets, to people who’ve been in the game a long time and just looking for a refresher course. So everyone’s welcome to have a look at it.

Armenuhy: Thank you. And also you mentioned that in your Academy courses you have about the blockchain and cryptocurrency which I encourage and support also because coming from the traditional market, sometimes people are not that much going forward to the crypto and blockchain but this is what I also suggest to the people who will use this tool who will use the Academy courses. This is the tipping point for nowadays in the capital market and also in finance and the future of finances is a bit different rather than the classical one. 

So thank you for this. And let’s come to some interesting questions about the listing procedure at SSX. So, you are organizing this in some different way with sponsor support and with the new role of the player.  What is the role of the SSX sponsor and, please, will you tell us a bit more about the listing procedure at SSX?

Mr. Tolfts:  With pleasure. The sponsor is a role that’s targeted at providing support to companies listed on the SSX. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, our real target is for those companies who are taking often their first step in public markets, and that they probably have a good experience in running and growing their business but may not necessarily know all of the obligations that come with managing a listed company. And things like continuous disclosure, having an AGM, quarterly half-yearly updates, if applicable, and those sorts of matters, we recognize it will take time to become proficient at keeping the market updated. And for that reason, we have a good list of capable and pre-qualified market sponsors who simply hold hands-off companies for the first two years of being listed and help them through the listing process. We find that it gives our markets additional expertise. And it’s in everybody’s best interest for those companies to learn from an early stage and do the right things and become a successful listed company. 

And therein lies the six months all those details, as well as a list of SSX market sponsors, are on our website, 

Your second question, which is equally good is on the listing process at the SSX and something that we’re very proud of that we have taken great inroads to make our listing process suitable for a smaller company. And for that reason, we work towards a timeline from once all the documents are put together to list or admit the company within four to six weeks. And we do that by an outsource review process where we can have you know, we use an independent geologist, we get an independent third party to do a lot of global checking for us, as well as checking what we will do internally. But by doing that, it really allows the SSX to expedite, typically a lengthy process. 

Certainly, the stock exchange is also not a big organization, relatively speaking. And that allows us to have that efficiency of getting things processed a little bit quicker. And that’s what we’re very proud of, you know, a lot of smaller companies also have a simpler structure. And so it allows our processes to be built around those structures. So that’s a long way of saying we work hard to do things as efficiently as possible while still maintaining rigor.

Armenuhy:  Great! And the last efficient work you did. Let’s come back to them, crypto and all related to that. We are saying this is the digital revolution, I would like to say this digital evolution, continuing evolution. And you did the first crypto-fundedIPO it was live on the Sydney Stock Exchange last week. This is a huge success, I think, for your team, and congratulations on this. Tell us about this process and main challenges during this process, and how you managed all this first time?

Mr. Tolfts:  You’re very kind, I should say it’s the first known successful IPO to accept digital assets. I understand that there has been one more known unsuccessful IPO in a different country. And I think the kind of the company you’re referring to is West Coast Aquaculture. And if I could just take a moment to appreciate that the company actually did all the right. You know, governance and structures and all of the appropriate regulatory matters. They took their time and really got all the details right to allow them to successfully list. They raised sufficient monies, under their prospectus. And including all of those monies raised, the vast majority were through a digital asset called USDT, which is a digital asset linked to the US dollar. Always that gives you a certain sort of price stability. I should say, obviously, we were very delighted that West Coast selected the SSX as their listing venue, and obviously that they’ve had great results so far. I mean, the company is now listed, it’s trading in a traditional means on the SSX and obviously, all of that information is on our website. We are looking forward to them being a successful listed company. And again, I’d encourage you to have a look at their website, the digital asset piece was managed by the STAX team out of Melbourne, Australia. And they had an agile legal, I think, doing their due diligence, put a prospectus together, and in fact, will be their sponsor, for the first two years of listing on SSX.

Armenuhy:  So you use all the products and all the services that you are offering in this IPO. And again, congratulations on this. And this also was possible with the technology that you are using. So, SSX is ahead of facing new technology challenges and bringing changes to the local market. On a global scale, where is your country standing in terms of adopting new technologies and new trends in the market?

Mr. Tolfts:  Armenuhy, of course, you have a history of working at the NASDAQ. At SSX we use world-leading products and one of those is we have a traditional NASDAQ trading system, which allows all of our brokers to connect in a manner that they’re used to. SSX settles on a T+2 basis, as does the rest of the Australian market. And we’re connected to the wider information flow through Iris in Australia. 

But certainly, the SSX is always keeping an open mind to new opportunities, new technology. And we were one of the first exchanges to start playing in the blockchain space. We had a working beta testing product in 2015-2016 on a blockchain, which was a very early adopter in that space.

Armenuhy: New technologies will bring new opportunities, and I wish you also good luck with this. This 2020 was a challenging year for everyone. And you overcome these challenges and come to this successful IPO and some other success stories. Tell us how are you managing these challenges of 2020? And how are you keeping the communication with your partners with brokerage companies with your staff? 

Mr. Tolfts: Quite right. And I should say, Fortunately, the SSX has been preparing for many different scenarios over the years. And I think like many companies, thankfully, the SSX practised Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery on a regular basis. And thankfully, we did so and when the time came, we were able to work with the vast majority of staff remotely and still maintain the business. And it’s only because we’ve been practising for years beforehand that we could put those plans into place. And certainly, much like we are doing now. You know, we’ve practised using technology ahead on when we needed to use it. So, we were well prepared and well placed to switch to a digital engagement when we needed to. And it was lovely to speak at your 30th General Assembly last month through the benefits of technology as we’re doing now.

The SSX is always keeping an open mind to new opportunities, new technology. And we were one of the first exchanges to start playing in the blockchain space. We had a working beta testing product in 2015-2016 on a blockchain, which was a very early adopter in that space.

We are sympathetic to a lot of companies that have had to delay some of their 2020 plans. A lot of companies had to put their plans, to list on hold due to the pandemic. And some companies had to really scale down. But we can say that the SSX remains open for business and when the time is right, we look forward to supporting companies that we can.

Armenuhy: And my last question, in your personal opinion, what will life look like after the COVID pandemic? And what other challenges do you think that humanity will face?

Mr. Tolfts:  Thank you. I think another way of saying that is what opportunities will there exist? You know, the world has learned to do things in different ways in the past 9-10 months, and I think certainly, there’ll be some lessons learned and some differences. The SSX, like any business, is always looking at ways to do things differently. And that’s one of the many reasons why we’re so happy to have joined FEAS. Because we can have that community spirit and discuss and share best practices. We go through these things together, and we come out together stronger, hopefully, and with some new ideas. 

We look forward to engaging with FEAS in 2021 and beyond, to do things as best as possible and come up with some clever thinking together.

Armenuhy: Thank you, and I like your approach to making the challenge into possibility. Thank you, Antony, for joining me.

Mr. Tolfts: My pleasure. Thank you for having us. Look forward to speaking with you again soon.