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?
The memories of last year's emotionally charged bull run in bitcoin are fading fast, almost as fast as the optimism earlier this year that the cryptocurrency would regain the highs of 2017. At less than half the value at which it entered the year I am hearing a few more "why the time to buy bitcoin is now" stories emerge, but this bothers me. Looking at a market I like to weigh up the rationale for buying and selling - and bitcoin at the moment seems heavily weighted one way.
The price action in Cable on Monday around the resignation of four government ministers in the UK was interesting and highlighted a nuance of the modern FX market structure. The pertinent question to be considered is: Do we want to have a generally stable market with fewer 200 point moves, but which has occasional flash events; or is it better to have a generally busier market, with more 200 point moves and little - or even no - flash events?
We speak a lot about disruption in FX markets, but more often than not we focus on the trading piece of the puzzle. It is not only there that traditional models and values are being challenged, however, as was highlighted early in the Asian trading day today when news of three resignations from the UK government was reported.
It is not a new phenomenon, but this morning offered a dramatic and, for the incumbents, disturbing insight into the future when the Twitter-sphere had the news out well in advance of the traditional news wires.
Those of you wise enough to listen in to our weekly podcast will know that I am currently in South Africa, although not, I should point out, to stalk the Global FXC. Instead I am here as part of my work with ACI Australia’s Dealing Simulation Course and last week we worked with the IMF to run the course for 30 African central bankers, which made me realise I only told half of the story in last week's column on the FX industry's priorities.
The FX industry is a vibrant, innovative place, but sometimes I think it forgets why it exists. This amnesia means as an industry, FX does not respond sufficiently on those occasions when people with no understanding of the nuances of the business suggest “improvements”.
So many news threads running through the industry at the moment seem to be idealising a totally transparent, all-to-all trading environment. This works in domesticated markets like equities, but it doesn’t work in global, institutional markets like FX – especially when we remember why we are here.