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Digitization in Primary Debt Markets Is a Growth Story For All

By Robert Koller, CEO and Founder at NowCM and Fredrik Creutz, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder at NowCM.


In today’s changing world, treasurers, investors and service providers in the primary bond markets often find it difficult to relate to the gospel of digital bond markets.  There are two questions that we will focus on:

  1. What benefits are achievable today from digitalizing primary bond markets?
  2. What is the end-game of digital bond markets?

Although still in its digital infancy and hampered by legacy infrastructure and regulations as well as a siloed value chain of stakeholders, we firmly believe that digitally native primary bonds will become a reality. 

However, before being carried away in the metaverse, let’s clarify why we think digital primary debt markets should exist in the first place?  We recognize five “true norths”,

  1. democratization of access to and execution in capital markets for issuers.
  2. improvement of the quality of credit and market data for investors.
  3. transaction efficiency between banks and other intermediaries and their issuer and investor clients.
  4. increasing the investment universe for investors and decreasing home country bias; and
  5. increasing financial stability.

You will have noticed that we don’t mention cost savings.  Whilst there are significant cost savings that can be achieved, we have no aspirations to “shrink to greatness”.  True digitization is a growth story for everyone. Let’s embrace it as such.

We are true believers in the value proposition that a functioning capital market is a great source, carrier and distributor of risk in an economy.  The primary capital markets in the Eurozone print €7 trillion+ every year, representing some 25% of debt issuance in the region for structural reasons, corresponding numbers in the US exceed 80%, but struggle to reach 10% across Asia.

So, how to minimize this gap and increase debt issuance in all regions? The answer is to reduce barriers to entry, achieve efficient digital workflows and improve credit data that can act as growth catalysts for primary bond markets.  We believe it is imperative that digital solutions in this space not only cater to existing issuers but also cater to those, who would like to have access, but for whatever reason, currently don’t.  Digital solutions available today can already cut costs for new entrants by 70-80% and preparation times by 4x.  This can provide incentives to “explore and try” for many candidates.

For those of us, who have spent years in the siloed, repetitive and error-prone workflows of the primary capital markets, it is obvious that they can operate in a better, more efficient and in a cleverer way.  According to our case studies, execution time savings of 70%, 50% and 35% for lawyers, banks and issuer treasury teams, respectively, during the execution week of a benchmark bond offer can be achieved which will provide scope to shift focus away from process to investor marketing and price discovery.  This is not only about savings; it is about dedicating time to what matters.

So, why do we believe digitization will happen now?  What is the cause and effect in this story?  Banks and other intermediaries have already digitalized self-serving intra- and inter-bank workflows through various orderbook and communications tools.  However, it wasn’t until the pandemic hit and accelerated the broader transition to “digitalizing everything” that issuers started asking themselves what digital value proposition the treasury team has on offer. 

Digitalizing workflows and documentation for bonds and the many structural permutations is no easy task.  Not only do solutions need to accommodate all structures, but the workflows also need to be secure and abide with regulatory frameworks, such as MiFID2 and GDPR.  Finally, to generate the five targets highlighted above, the digital value chain cannot have media breaks. It adequately needs to encompass all stakeholders across traditional silos – all the way from the issuer to the investor.  This documentation “stuff” can indeed be mind-numbingly tedious.  In our opinion, it still represents the crucial first step if we are to successfully advance into the next two phases of digitization – i.e., the digitally native bond market and the broader transformation into a digital economy with a broad tokenization of everyday assets.  The good news is that such a true end-to-end workflow solution is ready for implementation.

To answer the two questions above about what is achievable today and the endgame, we have digital solutions in place that can make the primary markets more accessible to new issuers. We can also offer DLT-ready workflows that are able to connect to a future digital primary bond market. 

However, for a digitally native bond market to work, we believe that we will require digital currencies to achieve their full potential.  Investors also need to be able to engage, so we anticipate that this will not kick off in earnest until 2025.  The result will come from using the data in a broader digital economy with tokenized everyday assets. Incorruptible credit data, collected by their digital twins will then fundamentally transform asset finance as we know it, but more about that next time…

About the Authors:

Robert Koller:


  • Founder of NowCM, Robert is a rare expert with in-depth knowledge of every single step and stakeholder in the primary capital markets value chain. He has also a deep understanding of programming and IT processes paired with 15+ years’ experience as a lawyer and partner in top tier law firms
  • As a lawyer Robert has vast expertise in debt capital markets, regulatory and funds as well as in the social impact area
  • This unique combination of both, IT, and law, allowed him to develop NowCM - the world’s first regulated, fully integrated and cloud-native debt issuance platform, in the globally regulated primary marketplace.

 Fred Creutz:


  • 20 years in capital markets at Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs
  • Fred is a primary markets specialist from high operational level, which he gained from his solid successes not only in FIG (DCM) but also FIG M&A
  • Following successful banking career, he worked as an adviser to several complex cross-border multi-discipline investment projects in Europe, Asia and America
  • Executive Chairman and Co-founder of NowCM with Robert

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