In 1602 the Dutch East India Company opened the world’s first stock exchange in Amsterdam. The new company was on its way to dominating the lucrative international trade in spices from the Far East, and it needed huge amounts of cash to finance its fleet of merchant ships.
Hence, the Amsterdam Bourse, which started life as an open-air market where traders could buy and sell the East India Company’s stocks and bonds. Those traders soon invented the first derivative contracts, simple call and put options that gave them the right to trade shares in the future. Other companies started issuing shares on the Bourse, which moved to a handsome new building in 1611. Rival European capitals launched their own stock exchanges. The securitization of the world was under way.
Today the Amsterdam Bourse is a branch of Euronext, an exchange holding company that also operates the Brussels and Paris exchanges. Euronext, in turn, is owned by Atlanta-based IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), which operates a total of 23 exchanges around the world, including the venerable New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE), which it acquired late last year for $8.2 billion.