A computer engineer and self-made billionaire by the age of 40, Jignesh Shah has carved a reputation as a leading innovator in the world of financial markets.

Technology is the great equaliser, he says, transforming the way business is transacted around the globe.

The founder of India’s MCX, the country’s largest commodities exchange, Shah has used technology to shake up financial exchanges.

In a recent talk at NUS Business School, he explained how cutting edge technologies have made markets more efficient, touching stakeholders at all levels, from investors through to farmers.

The next step, he said, will be shaped by the growth of cloud computing.

The cloud, he said, is the next “big transformation”, offering revolutionary potential for the financial world, making business transactions and trading completely global and affordable.

Next-generation exchanges

The company Shah co-founded and now runs, Financial Technologies (India) Limited (FT), bills itself as the global leader in building and operating next-generation tech-centric financial exchanges.

The satisfaction to transform life, using technology and this modern market management system is immense and technology is enabling it

Jignesh Shah

And while technology has changed the way people trade, Shah is also a firm believer in its power to transform lives, something he’s seen firsthand through a project FT has implemented in Africa.

Building a network of linked exchanges across the continent, the project aims to help integrate African businesses by facilitating trading and developing markets for African assets and around the world.

“The satisfaction to transform life, using technology and this modern market management system is immense and technology is enabling it,” Shah said.

He is a passionate advocate of technology’s ability to improve transparency and level the playing field for all involved.

“Technology ensures everyone gets the price at the same time, everybody is at the same level,” he told the audience at his NUS talk.

As a result, he said, traders no longer need to worry about collateral and risk management because exchanges handle that efficiently and seamlessly.

Technology now means numbers and prices are delivered in a millisecond anywhere in the world – and he says technology will remain the driving force in shaping how markets operate.

Shah says along with the markets comes great economic growth and societal benefits.

Price setter

Pointing to the example of MCX, launched in 2003, he said the success of the exchange had in less than a decade created one million jobs.

“That’s the power of markets,” said Shah.

Looking to Singapore, he said the city-state was in a unique position to harness the power of global markets and become a price setter, but the window to grab that opportunity is small – perhaps just a few years.

“We feel Singapore has a god-sent opportunity,” said Shah. “Such an opportunity comes once every 100 years.”

“For quite some time, Amsterdam – a small city – was ruling the oil markets. It shows that no matter the size, if you create a powerful market it spurs economic growth to the highest level.”

Shah is behind the recently established Singapore Mercantile Exchange. He says he’s been in discussions with those who have the power to push Singapore to the next level and says the signals are encouraging.

The goal could be achieved in five years, but only if Singapore is able to execute and move from being a price taker to a price setter by being more active and assertive in the markets.

“Any grand vision with no implementation is an illusion,” Shah told the audience at NUS.

“No vision with great implementation is also an illusion. Great vision and great implementation is a masterpiece. And one of the masterpieces, that’s Singapore.”