Six months a long time for BSE’s Kannan

November 24, 2009

When 36-year old Madhu Kannan took over the reins at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) earlier this year, he was faced with the task of turning around Asia’s oldest bourse, which had lost market share to tech-savvy new rivals.

Kannan, the youngest-ever CEO at the 134-year-old exchange, also had to gain acceptance from his employees in what had until then been a largely hierarchical firm.

He went as far as to stop gelling his hair to reveal more grays and look older, but at the Reuters India Investment Summit on Tuesday, the gel was back.

Kannan said he had become a lot older with his hair streaked with several more grays in the past six months, during which he moved out of a 26th floor office with sweeping views of Mumbai to a smaller office to be closer to his employees.

The old office is now a conference room.

But Kannan has a lot more to do if he wants to turn around his firm, something he hopes to do by more innovation to transform “what was essentially a single-product exchange to one which offers tradable products across all asset classes.”

He sees similarities between the current challenges facing the BSE and what his former alumnus, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), faced earlier this decade.

One of Kannan’s recruits to a seven-member top executive team that possibly seeks to emulate the NYSE’s successful turnaround includes James E. Shapiro, who worked at the NYSE for 16 years in several senior management roles.

At NYSE, Kannan was part of a top team that oversaw the purchase of an electronic trading system and a subsequent IPO.

In a move that invites comparison to his past, the BSE under Kannan has bought a financial technology services firm, Marketplace Technologies, and is in a preparatory stage for a listing.

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