The pandemic wasn't so bad for Nepal's capital market after all. The regulatory agencies were trying to make stock trading virtual for a long time. It was only during the pandemic and the lockdown that followed that digitization was extremely necessary.
The digitization happened indeed, after a long wait. Today, investors can apply for IPO issues from their smartphones with a click of a button. Once a trading account is set up, investors can buy and sell shares from any corner of the world. Broker offices have been quick to update their way of doing business. This is largely seen in the way they have updated their websites and customer-reaching methods. Theoretically, if we ignore the frequent complaints of bad customer service, it is possible to buy or sell shares and make/ receive payment without ever talking to staff from the broker office.
Because of travel and gathering restrictions during the pandemic, SEBON had instructed broker companies to not allow gathering in their offices. On a normal day, investors flock around broker offices to watch the ticker screen, place their orders, or simply chitchat with fellow investors. While online trading is possible, a significant number of investors like to visit the broker offices on a regular basis. While some think being physically present at the broker houses makes them closer to market action, others are creatures of habit. The energy and atmosphere are different inside a broker house. While some might consider that the mass sentiment affects an investor's psychology, trading from a broker house certainly is a serene experience.
Laxman Shrestha, an avid investor, has been trading from broker offices for many years. In a way, he is someone who has witnessed the ups and downs of the market, worthy to be titled a stock-market veteran. Shrestha admits that while "trade-from-home" is efficient and convenient, it isn't as fun. Furthermore, while everything else seems to have resumed back to normal, Shrestha sees no reason why investors shouldn't be allowed to trade from broker offices, provided they follow safety precautions.
Nonetheless, these groups of investors certainly did not enjoy trading from home during the lockdown. While everything else seems to have come back to normal, investors do not understand why being physically present at broker houses is still not allowed.
When Sharesansar called the exchange, the spokesperson was of the opinion that the regulator has the sole say on matters like this. Sharesansar then called Ms. Dipa Dahal, Deputy Executive Director at the Securities Board of Nepal (SEBON). SEBON is the caretaker and regulator of Nepal's capital market. Dahal stated that they are indeed looking at the issue. Dahal revealed that the Board has also been getting requests from numerous investors to resume the ticker screen on broker houses and allow physical gathering. However, they are yet to have a formal meeting on the matter.
Till then, Laxman Shrestha and other groups of investors will have to succumb to their computer's trading screen or phone calls to their respective broker offices.