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TMX Group Inc. signage and stock prices are displayed on a screen in the broadcast center of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Norm Betts/Bloomberg

The chief executive officer of TMX Group Ltd. is bringing about a cultural shift at the exchange that is seeing it move from being a hard-nosed "infrastructure-driven" monopolistic company to a "customer-centric" organization, sources say.

Signs of the shift have emerged publicly with the sudden departures of two senior executives.

On Tuesday, TMX Group announced long-time executive Kevan Cowan had left the company after seven years in the position. In a press release, TMX said he had left to "pursue other opportunities." Mr. Cowan did not respond to requests for comment. Two days later, the company appointed Nicholas Thadaney, former CEO of ITG Canada Corp., to replace Mr. Cowan, saying Mr. Thadaney would bring "an entirely fresh approach" to the equities business.

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In early June, TMX Group announced that Brenda Hoffman, group head of information technology, was leaving. She is still with the firm but is slated to depart at the end of the month.

A spokesperson for TMX said the company had "no additional comment" on the departures of Mr. Cowan and Ms. Hoffman.

The company's change in direction has been driven by Lou Eccleston, who became CEO last November.

Over the past decade, the firm has seen competition spring up in the form of many new entrants of alternative trading platforms. Its biggest competitor to date was Alpha Trading Systems, which had scooped up about 20-per-cent market share by 2012. TMX ended up swallowing Alpha as part of the buyout by Maple Group Acquisition Corp. in late 2012.

Alpha was run by long-term exchanges man Jos Schmitt. He is now the CEO of Aequitas Innovations Inc., which operates the Aequitas Neo and Lit exchanges. It launched in March of this year and is backed by a horde of heavy Canadian financial hitters, including CI Investments Inc., IGM Financial Inc., RBC Dominion Securities Inc., and ITG Canada Corp. Aequitas is targeting 20-per-cent market share within three to four years. So far its gains have been minimal. As of the end of June, Aequitas had 2.1-per-cent market share by volume in equities, but a good chunk of that came from unprofitable "cross-trades." TMX Group exchanges have approximately 73-per-cent market share (including cross trades).

Aequitas has tried a number of things to differentiate itself from TMX including bringing in "speed bumps" that prevent high-frequency traders from "front running" orders and launching a platform to trade private companies. In both instances, TMX responded by offering near-duplicate product offerings. Aequitas is eventually hoping to compete against TMX in listings of new companies, a space in with it has a stranglehold on.

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