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Australian stock exchange picks India’s TCS to rebuild software

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Australian stock exchange operator ASX said it has hired Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to overhaul its clearing and settlement software, opting for a route that will take less customisation after ditching a much-criticised blockchain-based effort.

The choice is a major departure from its decision in 2017, announced with much fanfare, to be at the vanguard of adopting blockchain-like technology for use in critical financial architecture, an attempt that resulted in repeated delays before it was shelved in 2022.

It also represents a more cautious approach: ASX will switch to the new software in stages, rather than the “big bang” changeover that its users considered risky. That will, however, take time, with the overhaul now expected to finish in 2029, some 13 years after it began.

India-listed TCS’ software is used by exchanges around the world, including in Finland and Canada, for functions it would be expected to perform for ASX’s Clearing House Electronic Subregister System, or Chess, the Australian exchange said yesterday.

TCS has “a mature product and technology” that it uses to support quite a lot of customers, ASX chief information officer Tim Whiteley said on a call with analysts and media.

ASX will switch to the new software in stages, rather than rapid changeover that its users considered risky. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

“The amount of customisation is minimised,” he added.

The failure of its blockchain-based project came after an external review found that much of the code had to be rewritten. Digital Asset, the New York start-up it hired at the time, declined to comment yesterday.

The failure also resulted in an AUD176.3 million write-down and had shaken market participants’ trust in ASX, the world’s 17th biggest exchange, which hosts companies worth a combined AUD1.6 trillion.

It also prompted the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) to open an investigation into the exchange’s disclosures about the project.

“This is an important decision by ASX, but there is still a long way to go to deliver a Chess replacement,” Asic chair Joe Longo said in a statement.

“It will be critical for ASX to now focus on engaging with the market on the detailed design of the Chess replacement programme with a realistic and achievable timeline for implementation,” Longo added.

ASX shares closed 1.17 per cent higher yesterday. Analysts welcomed the project reset despite reservations.

“While this decision marks a positive strategic step forward for ASX, the lengthy implementation timeframe and lingering uncertainty over medium-term operating cost and capex implications continue to cloud the cost outlook,” Jarden analysts said in a client note.


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