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The 2018 Digital FX Awards Eye on the Client If one phrase could describe a year in financial markets, 2017 would definitely be the year of MiFID II – the regulation dominated a lot of headlines, thinking and, importantly, budgets throughout the year. In the single dealer platform space, this meant that if other work was done, it probably happened early in the year while people were still somewhat complacent about another delay to the regulation. Once we entered the second half of the year, the message from all banks was pretty much the same – technology budgets and resources were sucked up by MiFID II on a huge scale.
Five Big Questions Following the CME/NEX Deal Announcement Following the announcement that CME Group is to buy OTC platform operator and post trade services provider NEX Group for $5.4 billion, Galen Stops, raises five important questions that both the parties involved in the deal, and the wider FX market, probably need to consider. Is it good value? Could there be more deals for OTC platforms? Do OTC platforms need scale to survive? Will this deal lead to more futures trading? And does this deal represent competition for LCH?
CME and NEX: Building the Supermarket If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear over the past few years, it is that many OTC platforms have decided that they need to scale their businesses up and out in order to be successful in today’s FX market. This was made abundantly clear in a press call today when Terry Duffy and Michael Spencer, respectively the CEOs of CME Group and NEX Group, talked about the logic behind their $5.4 billion tie-up. “Effectively, what we’re building is a bigger supermarket,” said Spencer. “Why do people shop in supermarkets? Because it’s convenient to buy everything in one place.”
Built to Become Big Galen Stops takes a look at how and why Aston Capital Management is planning to scale up following its recent $100m investment.  Aston Capital Management recently received an injection of $100 million in AUM and an additional $5 million in seed operating capital from private investors.  Following this investment, the firm’s CEO Isaac Lieberman is, perhaps unsurprisingly, bullish about its future. “We have a goal through our strategic mandate and product development timeline to have capacity to be managing $2 billion in AUM within two years and I can actually see us achieving this goal quickly as this business accelerates,” he says. To help achieve this goal, Lieberman has deliberately been structuring the firm so that it can easily scale up in the future. For starters, the firm has been getting a whole slew of regulatory and accountancy registrations in place.
Going Greener Recycling is a good thing - just ask the environmentalists - but is it a good in FX? Colin Lambert thinks this year, it could be decided that it is not. The phrase "liquidity mirage" is almost as old as e-FX trading, but it's hard to believe that the originator of that phrase had today's FX market in mind. In 2003, when many of us first heard then Bank of England chief dealer Martin Mallett use the phrase, even the e-world was a very different place. Technology had not yet democratised the industry, non-bank market makers were finding their way in equities and futures markets and yet to really enter FX, and there was a real divide between market maker and liquidity consumer.
And the Pendulum Swings Back Institutional investors have long understood the value of diversifying their portfolios, and this usually means investing internationally. But when they buy foreign equities, they’re actually buying two portfolios, the first being the long equities denominated in their base currency, and the second is that they’re shorting their base currency against the foreign currency they need to purchase the equity. This presents institutional investors with a choice: they can do nothing and accept the risk of holding this foreign currency, hedge that currency exposure passively or manage it actively.
Edging Towards the Exit? The use of a last look window by market makers will decrease in 2018, but don't expect the practice to disappear any time soon, says Galen Stops. If you're sick of reading endless articles and hearing lengthy debates at conferences regarding last look, then the first part of this prediction will be music to your ears: in 2018 the industry conversation will move on from this topic. This prediction comes despite a second one, that last look will not disappear in 2018. Yes, XTX Markets made headlines by committing to a zero hold time on their FX trades – not to be confused with offering firm liquidity – while other market makers have made more private assurances of a similar kind.
Can Peer Pressure Work? 2018 is a big year for the FX Global Code as it will celebrate its first anniversary – a date by which all participants are expected to have adhered to the code’s principles. Will the code be a success? Colin Lambert thinks he has the answer. It was, and still is, depressing having to read through legal papers and regulatroy notices on a regular basis, all of which deal with misconduct in FX markets, and nobody whould be misguided enough to think that such actions will not continue in the year ahead. They will, and probably the year after that. There is an upside in having to rake over the ashes of past misdemeanours, however, because it offers a timely and regular reminder of the importance of the FX Global Code.
Not Necessarily Consolidation But... There isn't much left up for grabs, but 2018 will see a deal in the platform world, says Colin Lambert. In all the history of the Profit & Loss Crystal Ball, platform consolidation has been the most fertile ground.....mainly for critics! If viewed in terms of the number of deals, however, the story is a little different. The headline has been in demand from exchange groups for an OTC presence, culminating in deals for Hotspot, 360T and Fastmatch, and it is hard not to see this continuing – in spite of CME finally deciding to do something about further penetrating the OTC space by launching a service itself rather than entering partnerships.
One Cryptocurrency to Rule Them All? Other cryptocurrencies will continue to catch up with bitcoin this year, but this is by no means a bad thing for this nascent industry, says Galen Stops. "Whether it works out or not, the bitcoin story definitely has further to go. And regardless of its success or failure, it seems increasingly likely that virtual currency, in one form or another, is here to stay" - "Does Bitcoin Have a Future?" (Profit & Loss, December 2013). A lot has changed in the intervening years since Profit & Loss published the above statement in conclusion to its first ever feature length article on bitcoin.