Here is the rich history of the ASX, all the way back to the 19th century!

Nick Sundich Nick Sundich, September 2, 2023

The history of the ASX began in 1987 when half a dozen state-based stock exchanges amalgamated into one via an Act of Australian Parliament. But its origins go back several decades more and we thought we’d give our readers a little history lesson.


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History of the ASX


19th century

Stock exchanges started being formed in the 1850s in major cities and regional centres. Very few of them lasted long. Most of the early exchanges began in Victoria but Sydney’s Stock Exchange began in 1871. The first companies included AGL and Westpac (then the Bank of NSW), both of which still remain listed today.

The 1880s saw the other capital cities form their own exchanges for the first time (or last in the case of Melbourne – in the sense that it lasted unlike previous iterations). All of these operated independently but held their first conference in 1903.


The 20th century

After 3 decades or so of these conferences, the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges (AASE) was born. The state exchanges operated independently, but they gradually bought in common listing rules and uniform brokerage.

Up until 1959, all exchanges operated with an auction-based call system. This was replaced with the post-trading system where brokers gathered at posts to deal in specified stocks. This enabled trading throughout the day. Sydney started first, but others adopted it quickly.

The 1960s saw several innovations including formal qualifications, three-letter company codes, the first computer (which was so big, it arrived in 7 sections) as well as the electronic price dissemination system Stockmaster. The Sydney Stock Exchange welcomed its first female member in 1975 in Jean Gordon. Two years later, Mary Vernon became the first woman to win Stockbroker of the Year Award.

The foundations for unified ASX were set up in the 1970s with joint exchange trading beginning in Sydney and Melbourne. On April Fool’s Day 1987, the ASX was formally incorporated with the amalgamation of the six independent stock exchanges that operated in capital cities. The innovations continued in the 1990s with the CHESS system being introduced (believe us, it was a big deal at the time) not to mention the exchange demutualising and listing its own shares.


The 21st century

This millennium, the ASX has welcomed a diversity of new asset classes including ETFs, REITs and LICs. It has also evolved some of its technology, launching a new trading platform for its derivatives market and in new data sets. But its efforts to replace CHESS have been…let’s just say, a work in progress taking longer than we all anticipated.

All things considered, there is more good than bad in the ASX’s history – otherwise it would not have lasted as long as it has. It has been the vehicle for substantial growth in wealth for many brokers, traders and companies for several decades.


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