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History of the Stock Exchange

Early manifestations of stock exchanges existed in the 13th and 14th centuries, first in the larger cities of northern Italy, later - after the discovery of the sea route to India - in trading towns along the coasts of Holland and Flanders. In time, the informal gatherings of merchants developed into actual stock exchanges with lively trading in goods. In Antwerp, spot and futures transactions were concluded at a very early date, i.e. in the early 16th century. These transactions were initially subject to unwritten trading customs; later on they were governed by formal rules issued by trade associations. In the early 17th century, Antwerp was replaced by Amsterdam as the home of the most important commodities exchange. When Amsterdam's exchange introduced trading in the shares of the Dutch East India Company, it became the prototype for today's securities exchanges. From the first half of the 16th century, exchanges were founded in all major trading cities, including London, Paris and the trading cities of Germany.

The old German term for stock exchange "bourse" is supposedly derived from "van der Beurse", an ancient patrician family of Bruges. The family had a square named after it where, as early as the 14th century, money-changers and merchants met to trade and to conclude money and exchange transactions. Another theory states that "bourse" is derived from medieval "beurse", meaning "association".

The Swiss stock exchange looks back on 150 years of dynamism and excitement, highs and lows, change and innovation.

The SIX Swiss Exchange was founded in 1993 as "Schweizer Börse/Bourse Suisse/Borsa Svizzera/Swiss Exchange". It introduced electronic trading in 1995/1996. But its roots stretch much farther back into the past.

The earliest traces of a financial marketplace in what today is Switzerland date back to the 13th century and are found in Basel; slightly newer traces are found in Geneva. The stock exchange has its origins in the 17th-century brokers called Sensale. The first set of rules for mercantile brokers (Sensalenordnung) was introduced in St. Gallen in 1639. Securities exchanges appeared in Switzerland from the mid-19th century. The first was founded in Geneva in 1850. By the early 20th century, exchanges had been founded in Basel (1866), Lausanne and Zurich (1873), Bern (1884), St. Gallen (1887) and Neuchâtel (1905). The exchanges of Basel, Geneva and Zurich were subject to cantonal law.

Since the 1970s, there have been radical changes to Switzerland's stock-exchange structures. Turnover increases required greater stock market capacities and hence new exchange buildings and technologies. The four smaller stock exchanges discontinued floor trading, the three larger ones replaced it with an electronic trading system, and the Stock Exchange Act replaced cantonal laws.

Reference for translation: Handbuch des Geld-, Bank- und Börsenwesens der Schweiz, Ott Verlag Thun

More information on the History of SIX Swiss Exchange[pdf].