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Stock exchanges have faced "multiple revolutions" in the past four decades, according to Attia, including the dematerialization of shares, the move to electronic trading, and the globalization of networks. The pace of transformation continues today, and Attia has led the French exchange through a series of digital developments the past six years. "It is in Euronext's DNA to adapt," he says.
Attia, who was named chief executive of Euronext Paris at age 39, has launched Euronext's market for technology companies, the European Tech SME initiative; was influential in the creation of LiquidShare, a blockchain startup for small and midsize enterprises designed to improve access to capital markets and secure their post-trade operations; and most recently led the development of the OPTIQ platform, which powers Euronext’s cash equities and derivatives markets in Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, and Lisbon as well as Paris. OPTIQ facilitates the integration of large and small exchanges with multiple asset classes and absorbs extreme volatility and market volumes such as those experienced since COVID-19.
“One of the engines of our successful model is our in-house trading technology,” he says.
Attia is working to create an efficient network of post-trade central securities depositories, or CSDs, across Europe. He sees CSDs as the last part of the value chain that still faces extreme fragmentation, despite their role as critical infrastructures.
As Europe's financial center of gravity disperses away from London following the UK's departure from the European Union, Attia says Paris can play an important role in the industry's future.
"The French financial ecosystem is one of the most diverse in Europe: a nice mix of large and small listed companies, asset managers, strong banks, skilled regulators, as well as leaders in innovative technologies and ESG," he says. "We have a responsibility to contribute these strengths to a strong European finance industry."
As Europe continues to navigate the economic challenges driven by the pandemic, Attia sees a very specific path for the finance industry. "I believe that sustainability is now the main disruptor in finance," he tells Business Insider. "Perhaps more than in any other industry, we are in search of higher purpose and a bigger impact on society. Expectations from investors, listed companies, and our employees grow every day. As the largest exchange in Europe, we believe Euronext is uniquely positioned to drive the industry’s transition towards sustainable finance."