CHANGING roles is no easy task. Ask Yang Xianghai , the Shanghai securities regulator who became general manager of the city's stock exchange. When he was officially appointed a year ago today, he brought to the job strong administrative skills, canniness, and tact - qualities honed during his long years in the Shanghai bureaucracy and needed for rebuilding an exchange traumatised by a treasury bond futures scandal. The former director of Shanghai Securities Administration Office - the city's securities watchdog - replaced Wei Wenyuan, a dynamic but somewhat reckless general manager, who resigned after the scandal. Analysts said that after a year on the job, Mr Yang had gone some way to restoring confidence, was deft in dealing with people and building bridges with Beijing. He had pressured brokerages to improve investor service, opened more investor hotlines, compiled a 30-company blue-chip index, cut transaction fees for brokerages, and reclassified stocks by industry, they said. Stock market commentator Chen Xian said: 'His capacity for work and selfless devotion to furthering the Shanghai exchange's reputation are beyond doubt.' He often consulted market practitioners on ways to improve the exchange, a deviation from the past practice of bulldozing reforms through. Tianjin Securities deputy general manager Gui Haoming said: 'When he became general manager, he initiated forums for listed companies and brokerages to air their views and concerns about the industry.' Yet there appear to be quiet mutterings that long years as a bureaucrat have stifled Mr Yang's innovation and sense of and daring - qualities as crucial as administrative skills in pushing the exchange forward. Lately, criticisms of his caution have become louder, as arch-rival Shenzhen upstaged Shanghai in the war to improve operations, attract investors and liven up the market. A Shenyin & Wanguo Securities analyst said: 'Mr Yang is good at rationalising and streamlining the exchange, but slow in livening up the market through new products and ideas. 'He used to be the industry regulator, where caution and tight control are the hallmarks. Now, he has to be innovative as well, and he has not been able to shed his bureaucratic habits.' Some brokers said while the criticisms were partially valid, they failed to take Mr Yang's tricky position into account. He took over the exchange after its first crisis, the bond futures scandal. Mr Gui said: 'He came in at a tough time: confidence was down, the market was in the doldrums and, internally, the exchange was in a mess.' The scandal - in which some brokerages attempted to rig prices - triggered an indefinite suspension of bond futures trading, punishment of the country's largest brokerage, and resignation of Mr Wei, former general manager. The brokerage, Shanghai International Securities, merged with Shanghai Shenyin Securities a few months ago. The confidence of Beijing political leaders and regulators, brokerages, and investors had fallen to its lowest point since the exchange was set up in December 1990. His main concern in the first year was to repair the damage. Analysts gave him high marks for improving supervision of members and listed companies, rebuilding ties with the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) - the national watchdog - and investors' confidence. The exchange initiated talks with six companies which produced appalling 1995 final results to suggest ways of ensuring they would meet future forecasts. He also led a delegation of senior managers to various provinces to exchange views with members and listed companies on developing the exchange. He frequently consulted CSRC officials on impending changes and invited them to Shanghai for major forums. These moves helped to smooth the exchange's relations with the CSRC, which had been upset at being ignored in Mr Wei's days. He tried to introduce new ways of doing things. For instance, he started brokerages thinking about the possibility of establishing a market-maker system, where big houses would stand ready to buy or sell shares as principals. A progressive idea perhaps, but unsuitable in a market where insider trading is not uncommon in the absence of a national securities law. The proposal has been put on the back-burner. A Shanghai-based broker said: 'When he comes up with innovative ideas, such as the market-maker system, they are not often practical.' Analysts said balancing caution with innovation was no easy task for Mr Yang, especially when the CSRC had been given more teeth. A foreign broker said: 'After the scandal, Shanghai has run scared, and all it seems to do now is to cover its backside. 'Another mishap would convince the powers-that-be in Beijing that financial reforms in the capital markets would have to slow down. That is a risk Mr Yang is not prepared to take. Hence, his caution.' As he continues his prudent approach, the tortoise in Shenzhen is slowly but surely catching up.