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
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].