NZX taps relative unknown to replace Weldon as CEO

NZX new chief executive Tim Bennett
NZX new chief executive Tim Bennett

NZX has tapped a relative unknown to replace Mark Weldon as the stock exchange operator gears up to expand its presence in agricultural commodity markets.

Tim Bennett gained his Bachelor of Commerce and Administration from Wellington's Victoria University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. For at least two decades he has worked as a business consultant in Asia with clients including exchanges, first for Boston Consulting and then for advisory firm Oliver Wyman in Singapore.

While he retains New Zealand links, market participants spoken to by BusinessDesk were scratching their heads about who the white-haired, bespectacled Bennett is.

"Mark Weldon created a strategic future now what the stock exchange needs is a communicator - someone who can sell a story," said Brian Gaynor, an executive director of Milford Asset Management.

Gaynor didn't know of Bennett and said the CEO-elect's biggest challenge "will be to get all the stakeholders in the NZX onside - in particular the exchange's broking community."

He was surprised how little information the NZX had released on the relatively unknown Bennett, "especially since the stock exchange has been so excited about this announcement" and had wanted "an outgoing personality and more of a communicator."

Weldon is leaving NZX after a decade at the helm, driving a strategy to diversify away from stock trading revenue and listings to electricity, agricultural commodities, media and data services. As he leaves, the company is in a legal dispute with the founders of the Clear Grain Exchange, the Australian grain trading platform that has undershot NZX's expectations.

Bennett will focus on strengthening the exchange's domestic markets, while maintaining a high degree of connectivity to Asia and other exchange operators, NZX chairman Andrew Harmos said in a statement. He is familiar with Fonterra's globalDairytrade platform and keen to expand the exchange's agricultural market activities, Harmos said.

Rob Cameron, partner at Wellington-based investment bank Cameron Partners, also didn't know of Bennett. Cameron said one of Bennett's challenges will be "watching and assisting Fonterra" as the cooperative frees up trading in its shares and seeks to tap outside capital.

"Bennett needs to continue to make the exchange more productive and keep New Zealand connected to global capital markets," said "The New Zealand stock exchange is very small and Mark has built a viable model into a number of diverse areas," Cameron said. "That will be a continuing challenge for the business model."

Bennett will replace Weldon as chief executive on May 7. In today's statement from the NZX he said New Zealand "plays a key role in agricultural commodities globally and I'm looking to combining my experience with the foundation NZX has established in dairy futures to grow this area of the business."

Shares in NZX have gained 15 per cent so far this year and currently remain unchanged on $2.63.

- BusinessDesk

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