Nicky Newton-King

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Johannesburg’s most important CEO?

With three law degrees, a Yale World Fellow and voted South Africa’s Business Woman of the Year in 2003, Nicky Newton-King is no stranger to the world of business. In 2012 Newton-King secured the most prestigious of positions, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, becoming the first woman to do so since its inception over a century ago…

Nicky Newton-King is not your average South African entrepreneur. With a BA and LLB degree from the University of Stellenbosch and graduating with a 1st Class Honours in Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of Cambridge, England in 1994, Newton-King has a serious head for business.

EARLY DAYS

Whilst studying at Cambridge, Newton-King was awarded the Foundation Scholarship for Academic Achievement by Queen’s College. It was during this time that she decided to specialise in corporate finance, administrative law and securities regulation; subjects that no doubt helped to secure a very successful future for Newton-King.

Upon returning to South Africa with three law degrees under her belt, Newton-King went on to become a partner at one of South Africa’s most reputable law firms, Webber Wentzel. Working in the Financial Services department, Newton-King advised clients within the securities and financial services industry.

Whilst working at Webber Wentzel, Newton-King developed one of the first derivatives law practices in South Africa and was instrumental in advising the JSE on varying business models including its deregulation and the amendments of rules and listings requirements.

AFRICA’S BIGGEST STOCK EXCHANGE

Newton-King joined the JSE in 1996, a year of change for the JSE with news of an insider trading scandal and at a time when the company was then a predominately male-staffed environment.

Just seven years later, in 2003, Newton-King became Deputy CEO. Her duties included the management and responsibility of various teams and accounting for its ecommerce initiatives and the strategic development and management of the company’s data vending business. Newton-King also acted as a key contributor to the company’s income stream and became a valued member of the Financial Marketing Advisory Board.

Newton-King was in charge of a team of lawyers helping to advise the JSE on how different laws affected how the stock exchange was both operated and regulated. Newton-King also held the responsibility of leading and managing a professional team that handled many of the JSE’s legal issues, media and corporate transactions, investor relations and important strategies.

Additionally, as Deputy CEO, Newton-King was also responsible for helping to lead the JSE’s Human Resources team. This role especially came into play when the company embarked on long consultative processes to introduce its Affirmative Action Policy. Newton-King was also responsible for the Employment Equity Plan, which involved consulting all employees about its implementation.

Newton-King’s duties as Deputy CEO did not stop there, also helping to draft a large proportion of the Insider Trading Act of 1998, a world leader of its kind, it provides for people who have perhaps suffered loss as a result of insider trading to receive compensation. Newton-King also helped to develop and draft the Securities Services Bill, which replaces existing legislations helping to regulate the financial markets industry across South Africa.

With a clear entrepreneurial flair, Newton-King was instrumental in developing the JSE’s Socially Responsible Investment Index, a vital program which helped to guide the company’s evolution and was, in fact, the very first index of its kind, at the time, in the world.

BUSINESSWOMAN OF THE YEAR

With such an impressive and business-minded approach, it is no wonder Newton-King was one of three South Africans named as 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum and in 2003, awarded Business Woman of the Year in South Africa. In 2006, Newton-King was selected as a Yale World Fellow.

Subjected to a rigorous selection process, Newton-King became CEO of the JSE in January 2012, making her the first woman to run the company in its 124-year history. Impressive considering the JSE is Africa’s largest stock exchange and is ranked within the top 20 exchanges in the world.

YALE WORLD FELLOW

Speaking at the Yale World Fellows event, Newton-King spoke of the JSE’s importance to Africa and plans for expansion: “The JSE is the largest exchange on the continent. 66% of Africa’s market capital in the southern part of the continent, we end with JSE being about ten times the size of Egypt and trading about six times Egypt’s value every day. The JSE is about 60 times the size of the Kenyan Exchange and is trading 300 times what Kenya trades every day.

“The JSE in a single trading day trades more than six other African Exchanges…but the JSE is a minnow in the context of the global market. London Stock Exchange, which is in the same time zone, is four times the size of JSE. It trades five times the value of the JSE every single day.

“The New York Stock Exchange on its own, is five times bigger than London and trades between seven and ten times more in value a day, than the London Stock Exchange. So clearly the African exchanges are going to have to fight very hard to get a space in the global investment landscape.

“The first thing exchanges need to realise is no one owes them a living, exchanges only have a right to exist if they provide a service to the issuer and the investor. If they aren’t providing a way to bring the issuer and the investor together, people will bypass an exchange.”

It certainly seems that the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is in very good hands for the future with Nicky Newton-King behind the wheel. Not only is she managing and stabilising the market but she is also trying to improve it and perhaps, one day in the future, the JSE will move into the top 10 exchanges in the world.

For now at least, this Cape Town born businesswoman has come to manage one of the most powerful stock exchanges in the world. Responsible for negotiating and implementing the JSE’s major corporate transactions in addition to the development of corporate strategy, it’s clear Newton-King has enough entrepreneurial spirit to make a real difference to the future of the South African market.

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