The Shock of the New

May 1, 2000

The Internet is threatening to sweep away established market structures. It promises to change forever the way companies raise capital, the way investment banks work and how capital markets operate.

The financial industry has learned to respect the power - and the destructive force - of the Internet. After all, there are few industries as vulnerable to this technology as finance, which for centuries has thrived on the inefficiencies created by limited knowledge and access to markets. As new Internet-based technologies become more pervasive, eliminating inefficiencies and spreading information, vast sectors of the financial industry around the world are being reshaped in unpredictable ways. One lesson most observers of financial markets in Latin America and elsewhere have learned is that the rate of change is accelerating. Internet banking, invented barely a few years ago, is now old hat even though banks are still struggling to to adapt. Now, the Internet's primal energy is being unleashed on the capital markets where it is beginning to democratize access to capital and information and is already changing the way securities are sold,...

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