NSE’s new boss wears a crown of thorns

Palak Shah Mumbai | Updated on January 11, 2018

Vikram Limaye, the new NSE Managing Director and CEO   -  Dhiraj Singh

Vikram Limaye takes charge at a time when NSE is mired in controversies

‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ is an adage that would aptly apply to Vikram Limaye, the veteran banker who takes charge as the new Managing Director & CEO of the NSE from Monday.

He will be the first outsider to head the NSE, which since its inception in 1994 largely saw only two bosses.

It is no secret that NSE, the derivative powerhouse, has an image problem as the first-level regulator for domestic stock markets. Fourteen of its key officials are under the scanner and have been served show-cause notices by the Securities and Exchange Board of India for giving brokers unfair access to the exchange’s automated trading systems.

While NSE has given a ‘clean chit’ to its own employees and even talked about settling the infamous ‘algo case’ via consent mechanism without denying or admitting to guilt, experts say it is in a tight spot.

SEBI tightened its consent norms recently to ensure no serious market manipulation or front-running cases that affect a wider section of market participants are settled without the guilty being brought to book.

In NSE’s case, the entire system was allegedly manipulated by brokers who indulged in front-running by penetrating into its servers, as pointed out by several letters from whistle-blowers, leading to at least two forensic audits of the exchange, apart from an inquiry by SEBI’s own technical advisory committee, which pointed to the possibility of human intervention or error.

EY’s report soon

While a forensic report by EY is likely to be submitted within a couple of weeks, a Deloitte report found serious lapses.

The exchange’s image took a further beating over the controversial exit of its former boss Chitra Ramkrishna in December 2016 and also due to a three-hour shut down on July 10 of its trading systems, which has been blamed on an unknown ‘technical glitch.’

An investigation has been ordered by SEBI and NSE, which has also dragged its principal IT services provider TCS into the matter.

But it is not only the colossal image makeover of the exchange that will consume much of Limaye’s time. NSE has a few nagging high-profile shareholders who have been pressing the exchange to go public and will keep Limaye on his toes; SEBI recently indicated that the exchange should file for an initial public offer only after its ‘algo manipulation’ case is resolved.

Not new to problems

People who have worked with Limaye, who is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA in Finance and Multinational Management from the Wharton School, is not new to such problems: he joined IDFC when it was a small project finance company but now has varied businesses, including a bank, an asset management company, IDFC Infrastructure Finance Ltd, and alternative asset management.

With backers such as Deepak Parekh, a veteran and institution builder in India’s financial services industry, Limaye may yet steer NSE through its regulatory issues, observers believe.

Published on July 16, 2017

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