Profit & Loss’s latest OnTheBlock series featured a one-one-one discussion with former CFTC staffer Justin Slaughter, now a partner at Mercury Strategies, in which he provided an insider’s perspective on how cryptoassets are being viewed by regulators in Washington, DC.
P&L OnTheBlock: An SEC official recently said that the agency does not view ether[eum] as a security. Does this mean that the issue is settled and the SEC definitely won’t try and regulate it as a security now?
Justin Slaughter: What we are basically hearing is that there isn’t an explicit, major problem with ether as a security. They are not yet saying it's totally, absolutely, not a security.
Despite a decline of investment into actively managed FX funds in recent years, speakers at the Profit & Loss Forex Network New York conference expressed optimism for these funds.
Chris Solarz, a managing director at Cliffwater, a firm that provides investment advisory services, explained that hedge fund strategies in general have struggled to outperform indices since the financial crisis, both on an absolute and relative basis.
“Someone mentioned on an earlier panel that it’s not fair to compare hedge fund strategies, hedge fund indices, to the S&P - but in the industry 10 years ago, that’s not at all how we were selling it.
There is one question regarding cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, that has continued to baffle many, and has caused some skepticism amongst market commentators, namely what is the fundamental value of these assets?
Bitcoin, still by far the largest cryptocurrency that exists, is not a good store of value because the price of a bitcoin is so volatile. As a result, it functions poorly as a currency, after all, no one wants to buy something worth $100 with bitcoins if those same bitcoins are going to be worth $200 a few months later and no one wants to sell an item worth $100 for bitcoins, because those coins could be worth $50 shortly after the transaction.
The increasing use of AI technology is likely to create incumbent firms that dominate markets, said panellists at the Profit & Loss Forex Network New York conference. However, they also said it might not be the biggest firms in the markets today that become these incumbents.
“I think [AI] is changing the landscape quite a bit,” said Andrej Rusakov, a partner at Data Capital Management, a hedge fund that uses AI tools to develop trading strategies. “People who are missing the wave are going to be left behind, I don’t think there’s any question about it. I think that human day traders will be wiped out, if they’re not already.”
From a regulatory perspective, one of the challenges around operating in the crypto markets is that different regulators appear to define cryptoassets in different ways.
For example, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has defined digital currencies as commodities, while the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seems to think that at least some of them might be securities.
Speaking at Profit & Loss Forex Network New York, Mike Gill, chief of staff to US CFTC chairman, Christopher Giancarlo, and the CFTC’s COO, discussed some of the challenges facing regulators when it comes to defining these products.
Even when implementing passive currency hedging strategies, it’s still important to think in terms of alpha, explained Jay Moore, a senior vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), during a panel discussion at the Profit & Loss Forex Network New York conference.
Although this might initially seem to be a contradictory statement, Moore explained that providers of passive hedging services can differentiate themselves both through risk management and what he termed “operational alpha”.
While portfolio risk obviously isn’t a concern when implementing passive currency strategies, Moore explained that there is a strong focus on managing other types of risk, such as regulatory risk, operational risk and managing the fiduciary risk that managers have on behalf of the funds that they outsource to firms that are providing the passive hedging.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have become buzzwords in financial services, but while this technology can be applied in finance in numerous ways to improve returns, it also has some significant limitations that market participants should be aware of.
This was the message from speakers at the Profit & Loss Forex Network New York conference, on a panel discussion titled “AI: Regular Quants with a Bigger Bazooka?”
“In my mind the biggest problem with machine learning in its application to finance is the problem of non-stationarity.
Traditional financial services firms, such as banks, are clearly poised to enter the crypto space, explained speakers at the Profit & Loss Forex Network New York conference.
“Banks are going to make so much damn money off of cryptocurrencies,” said Nikhil Kalghatgi, a partner at CoVenture, a firm that has a multi-strategy asset management platform for cryptoassets. “They're chomping at the bit, laying the pipe right now in order to get connectivity, to answer all the regulator’s questions.”
When thinking about the evolution of technology underpinning cryptocurrencies the key question, according Kalghatgi, is whether it has the potential to be an Internet-sized phenomenon. He pointed out that there was a clear gap between when people first heard about about the Internet and then started using it, and that cryptocurrencies could follow a similar adoption trajectory.
Speaking at Profit & Loss Forex Network New York, Mike Gill, chief of staff to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman, Christopher Giancarlo, and the CFTC’s COO, provided a fascinating look at how attitudes towards cryptocurrencies have changed in Washington recently.
Gill revealed that the CFTC received significant criticism within the walls of government last year for its approach to cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, which the agency allowed two exchange groups to list futures on at the end of last year.
The reason for this criticism, he said, was concerns about money laundering and illicit activity linked to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Voted for by the Profit & Loss readership, the winners of the 2018 "FoXys" Reader's Choice Awards were announced at the Forex Network New York conference held on May 25th.
Here is the full list of the firms that topped the voting this year in each award category:
Best Market Maker (Majors)
1: JP Morgan
2: Citadel Securities
Best Market Maker (EM)
2: Standard Chartered Bank
3: XTX Markets
Best FX Prime Brokerage Bank
Best FX Prime of Prime Services
1: INTL FCStone
2: Saxo Bank
3: Sucden Financial