How did stock exchanges move from trading securities through face-to-face interactions to anonymous, digital systems operating in fractions of a millisecond?
The vast and rapid automation of financial markets has inspired several prominent studies by economists, legal scholars, and historians, with accounts that stress one of two forces of change: either economic pressures to reduce transaction costs or political and regulatory battles to transform the workings of finance.
We were “fundamentally […] sort of plebs”
In Automating Finance, I propose an alternative explanation. Automation, I argue, was the process of a gradual, piecemeal process of organizational change driven not by upper managers or regulatory imperatives, but by the creativity, resilience, and grit of otherwise ‘invisible’ market engineers. By tracing the trajectories, struggles and contributions of the technical experts hired to take care of the first initial generations of clearing and settlement technologies, I show how these otherwise invisible actors charged with tweaking, maintaining, and slowly expanding the similarly invisible infrastructures of the marketplace, grew in number and status to capture their organizations to eventually convert the fields of finance.
Automating Finance offers the first account of how technologies were developed within stock exchanges, neither as cost-saving innovations nor as reactions to political constraints but, more saliently, as part of larger processes of organizational change.