What is Secondary Markets – Meaning, Types & Functions

Secondary markets play a crucial role in the financial world, yet their significance is often overlooked by the general public. 

While the primary market deals with the initial issuance of securities, the secondary market serves totally different purpose. Here, we will delve into its details, functions, components, and impact on the economy. 

What is Secondary Market?

The secondary market refers to the financial market where previously issued securities, such as stocks, bonds, and derivatives, are bought and sold by investors. This type of market is important to the economy as it helps determine the value of securities and provides a benchmark for companies to raise capital in the primary market. By allowing investors to buy and sell securities, it promotes price discovery and helps ensure that securities are traded at fair prices. 

Moreover, it provides an avenue for investors to diversify their portfolios and manage risk by investing in various securities. 

How Does the Secondary Market Work?

One of the main ways this type of market works is through the interaction of buyers and sellers, with the price of securities being determined by the forces of supply and demand. 

This price discovery process is important for investors as it enables them to make informed decisions about buying and selling securities. Additionally, it also serves as a benchmark for companies to raise capital, as the prices of their securities on the market reflect the company’s perceived value. 

Recommended Read: IPO Process in India

This contrasts the primary market, where securities are initially issued and sold to investors, with the proceeds going directly to the company. 

Functions of Secondary Market

Firstly, the secondary market provides liquidity to investors. This is arguably its most crucial function. Once securities are issued in the primary market, they are traded among investors in this type of market. This continuous trading activity ensures that investors can buy or sell their securities anytime, converting their investments into cash whenever needed.

Another significant function is price determination. Based on the laws of supply and demand, the prices of securities fluctuate in the secondary market. These price movements reflect the perceived value of securities and the underlying companies. As a result, they provide vital signals to the entire market about the company’s performance, industry trends, and broader economic conditions.

Additionally, this type of market aids in capital allocation. Since securities of well-performing companies tend to rise in price, they attract more investors. In contrast, underperforming companies see their stock prices drop, discouraging investment. This process ensures that capital flows towards sectors and companies that are perceived to use it most efficiently, fostering economic growth and innovation.

Safety and transparency are also enhanced by the secondary market. Stock exchanges, where much of the secondary market activity occurs, have stringent listing and reporting requirements. Companies listed on these exchanges must provide regular financial disclosures and adhere to specific corporate governance norms and SEBI regulations. These measures instil confidence among investors and promote fair trading practices.

Lastly, it offers a platform for diversification. Investors can spread their investments across various securities available, mitigating risks. Investing in different sectors, asset types, and even geographic regions can shield their portfolios from potential downturns in any area.

Types of Secondary Market

1. Organised Secondary Markets (Exchanges)

Organised secondary markets, often called exchanges, are formal establishments with set protocols and regulations. They offer a centralised platform, be it physical or online, where securities of various entities are listed and traded.

Stock Exchanges

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) are the leading stock exchanges where shares of listed Indian companies are traded.

Commodity Exchanges

These facilitate the trading of various commodities, from agricultural products to metals. Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) and National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) are dominant players in India.

Derivatives Exchanges

 The futures and options segment of exchanges like NSE and BSE handle trading derivatives derived from other assets.


These organised markets are characterised by stringent regulations and transparency upheld by regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). They ensure standardised trading procedures and mandate regular disclosures by the listed firms, safeguarding investor interests.

2. Over-The-Counter (OTC) Markets

Unlike organised exchanges, OTC markets in India do not function from a single trading venue. These are decentralised arenas where securities are traded electronically, over the phone, or through different networks.

Less Regulated

Compared to structured exchanges, OTC markets in India face relatively lighter regulations. This grants more freedom but also introduces higher risks.

Pricing Flexibility

 Given the absence of a central system, pricing in OTC markets is more negotiable and typically rests on bilateral understandings between the involved entities.

Varied Instruments

OTC markets in India often host financial instruments, such as derivatives and debt instruments, that might not be listed on mainstream exchanges.

Importance of Secondary Market

Secondary markets play a crucial role in the smooth functioning of capital markets by providing a platform for investors to buy and sell securities. 

  • Provides a platform for buying and selling securities.

  • Enables easy entry and exit for investors.

  • Promotes liquidity in the capital markets.

  • Ensures efficient capital allocation.

  • Boosts investor confidence with options to offload investments.

  • Without it, there would be reduced investment activity.

  • Essential for sustaining economic growth.

Primary Market’s Impact on the Economy and Offerings

The primary market is crucial to an economy’s overall health and growth. It serves as the initial source of capital for companies and governments to raise funds, allowing them to invest in new projects and expand their operations. This injection of capital stimulates economic activity and creates job opportunities, contributing to the overall development of the economy.

The primary market has various offerings, such as initial public offerings (IPOs) and private placements. Investors must thoroughly understand each type’s unique characteristics before making investment decisions. 

For instance, IPOs are typically open to the general public. At the same time, private placements are only available to select investors. Additionally, these offerings’ risk and return profiles may differ, requiring investors to assess their investment goals and risk tolerance carefully. This highlights the importance of understanding the primary market’s details to make informed investment decisions.

Differences Between Primary and Secondary Market

While the primary market deals with issuing new securities, the secondary market deals with trading already-issued securities. These securities include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other financial instruments.

Here are the key differences:

Aspect Primary Market Secondary Market


Platform for new securities issuance.

Platform for trading

previously issued securities.

Types of Securities

New securities (initial issuance).

Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. (already issued).

Role of Issuing Company

Directly involved; receives funds from sale.

Not involved; no funds received from trades.

Benefit to Company

Raises capital for business operations.

Provides liquidity for investors; no direct benefit.


Between company and investors.

Among investors themselves.


Capital generation for the issuer.

Liquidity and trading opportunities for investors.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary Market

Secondary markets have several advantages and disadvantages that should be considered by investors and companies looking to buy or sell securities. One of the main advantages of the secondary market is its liquidity.

Buying and selling securities quickly and easily allows investors to adjust their portfolios based on market conditions. This also allows companies to raise additional funds by issuing more securities in the secondary market.

Recommended Read: Functions of Stock Market

However, the secondary market also has its drawbacks. One of the main disadvantages is the lack of control over the issuing company. Unlike in the primary market, where the issuing company sets the price and receives the funds from the sale of securities, in the secondary market, the company has no control over its securities’ prices or buyers and sellers. 

This can lead to fluctuations in the value of the company’s securities, which can be seen as a disadvantage for both the company and its investors. Additionally, the secondary market is subject to market forces and can experience volatility, making it a riskier investment compared to the primary market.


Secondary markets play a crucial role in the functioning of the financial system. They provide an avenue for investors to buy and sell securities and also help determine their prices. Understanding the intricacies of secondary markets can be complex, but it is essential for investors and financial professionals alike. 

By being up-to-date with market trends and regulations, individuals can make informed decisions and maximise their investments in the secondary market. 

As always, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions. With a thorough understanding of secondary markets, individuals can confidently navigate the ever-changing landscape of the financial world.


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