If you ever wanted an example of how an enhanced market structure – specifically around electronic trading – helps to build volumes, one need look no further than NDFs. Volumes have been climbing steadily over the past five years, indeed I am starting to think they may eclipse FX options soon, and how people trade them also appears to be shifting, to the degree that I wonder if the NDF market is giving us a glimpse into the market structure of the foreseeable future?
We often think 'big is better', but some hedge funds over the years have undergone the type of experience to make them question that adage. The scale of their success ultimately put too much pressure on the business and they had to scale back, or bifurcate their funds into internal and external investment pools. There is another advantage of not being institutionalised, as well, because thanks to the changing market structure, style drift may not be as taboo as it once was.
Markets are busy but there’s not much happening market structure wise so let me take this opportunity to offer some consumer advice/life coaching to readers. If you work in foreign exchange, you are bound, at some stage, to be asked, “what do you think of the (fill in currency)?” You have two choices – either mumble something about it not going far (without defining “far”), or make a big, bold prediction (with no time horizon). In both cases, be prepared to blag it.
Following up on a column from last month that elicited an interesting idea from a correspondent - should trading businesses be penalised for not adhering to the correct procedures when it comes to HR? There are few traders who care about the HR function, but the number of unfair dismissal cases being lost by banks would suggest that something needs to be done to ensure that the next generation of traders doesn't face the trauma faced by some of the current crop.
What’s in a name? It’s a question that is asked in all walks of life almost on a daily basis and the last week or so has seen it asked in financial markets as Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk Division prepares for life as Refinitiv. I must confess that on reflection I don't have that much of a problem with the name itself, but the rebranding opens the window on a period of vulnerability for the renamed business as competitors eye one of its prized assets.
In this column on June 7 2018 I wrote that the time had come for someone to show industry leadership when it comes to arguing the foreign exchange industry’s corner specifically around pre-hedging and Mark Johnson’s pending appeal. I looked particularly at the industry associations and, some believe, called them out on it. It is pleasing to see that there is a response from the industry, but it is not yet enough and more can be done - especially by one or two associations.
There are those in the FX world who believe the narrative of a return to bilateral, relationship-based trading was driven by a group of liquidity providers talking their book. Looking at the numbers in last week’s FX committee turnover surveys, specifically the spot e-trading statistics from the UK and US, I think it is fair to say that the cynicism is wrong, or the narrative is working, or both, because the last two years has seen a definitive shift in trading away from anonymous venues towards disclosed channels.
Spoofing is the low hanging fruit for prosecutors thanks to it being easy - especially on regulated venues - to spot. But this visibility should not just be about bringing charges, it should be used for preventative means. What interests me is how these alleged spoofers thought they could get away with it and in reality the only way they did is because the surveillance procedures in place at venue and institutional level were either too slow, inadequate, or non-existent.
People are fond of “looking at the bigger picture” but when it comes to the legal profession and FICC markets, frankly the bigger picture confuses me. How else can we explain how a number of traders are facing jail time and yet so many other traders are winning their unfair dismissal cases? To me, the issue clearly highlights the level of collateral damage in the industry and requires the banks (and regulators to a degree) to have a serious reappraisal of their approach.
Last week in Illinois saw the US government respond to a motion to dismiss its indictment of Jitesh Thakkar, who is accused of aiding and abetting Navinder Sarao in his spoofing activities by providing him with the technology to conduct that strategy. The case has some serious implications for fintechs and software programmers to the financial markets industry generally, but what I really want to know is; assuming a successful conviction, what will the US Gun Lobby make of it?