After a good January, March is shaping up to be, much like February, a pretty ropey month for many in the foreign exchange industry, and this is manifesting itself in the form an increasingly louder debate about the lack of volatility. I saw this week one publication suggesting that FX markets need “a proper crisis” to get things moving, but I am not even convinced that will do it. The sad reality for those seeking livelier markets is that this is probably your new ‘normal’.
The Basel Committee, established under the auspices of the Bank for International Settlements, has issued a statement highlighting its concerns that “the continued growth of crypto-asset trading platforms and new financial products related to crypto-assets has the potential to raise financial stability concerns and increase risks faced by banks.”
The Committee, which reports to the Group of Central Bank Governors and Heads of Supervision, acknowledges that the crypto-asset market remains “small” and that banks have “limited direct exposures”, however it argues that such assets do not “reliably provide the standard functions of money and are unsafe to rely on as a medium of exchange or store of value”.
Over the years the most powerful criticism aimed at e-commerce and its potential impact on markets has not been about volatility, or market behaviour generally, it is its lack of flexibility – why else, for example, has the FX swaps market not become more automated in recent years? This is a genuinely intriguing question and whilst in the past it was hard to see how it could happen – thanks to resistance on bank and broker side – now I am definitely picking up a different vibe.
What can only be described as a frisson of excitement ran through the FX market in London last week when word spread of former Barclays head of automated trading services David Fotheringhame launching a new website that – and this is putting it delicately – analyses the bank’s response to a fine imposed on its FX business in 2015 for what was found to be a too liberal use of last look.
Fotheringhame won an unfair dismissal claim against the bank last year, however Barclays defied the employment tribunal’s edict to reemploy him, resulting in a second hearing this year at which he was awarded nearly £1 million.
Benchmark fixes have been immersed in controversy for the past five years, but anecdotal evidence sees no shift in asset manager attitudes to them. Colin Lambert asks, will these firms ever desert the Fix?
If there has been one lightning rod for controversy in what has been a pretty turbulent period for the foreign exchange industry it has been benchmark fixes. Banks have been fined, traders and managers have been dismissed, and some are facing legal sanctions, including jail, thanks to various activities all of which were centred on the WM and European Central Bank fixes.
Forex Network Chicago features two panels looking at the most important subject of liquidity provision in FX markets through two very different prisms. The first looks at the issue from the perspective of FX banks; how are they prioritising where they send liquidity and how are data capabilities changing how clients are evaluated? It will also look at the role of buy side as genuine liquidity providers and look at the impact on market conditions if what some consider to be a withdrawal from the market by the banks takes place.
P&L Report Card
Although there is still definitely a push towards homogenising asset classes on the part of some regulators, generally speaking the last few years have seen practitioners realise that FX in particular, cannot fit into any of the boxes they currently have labelled “equities”.
Some banks went down this route and tried to lever FICC into the equities model and generally speaking it didn’t go well – as shown by those institutions retreating back to their siloed models.
This does not mean, however, that a strong multi-asset class offering cannot be built – it most certainly can, but it does mean there are inevitable challenges associated with doing so. First and probably foremost, which business runs the project? Even within FICC there are different drivers and requirements, throw in equities and the number multiplies by several magnitudes.
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.
So we’ve just published our Q3 edition of Profit & Loss magazine, which includes our prime services special report, and I wanted to share some thoughts about one segment of it.
When I first started the report I was very negative on the prospects for FX prime brokers, over the eighteen months or so I’d heard so many complaints about credit constraints, about offboarding – I don’t think that was even a phrase that I’d heard prior to SNB – and the general retrenchment of FXPBs.
Now obviously SNB was a catalyst for a lot of these issues, but really it just exacerbated a trend that already existed and this was caused by the introduction of new regulations that made it more expensive for banks to offer FXPB services to a lot of clients.
The top five FX dealers are losing market share, according to a new report from Greenwich Associates.
Although the world’s five biggest FX dealers still capture a massive 44% of global market share in aggregate, according to the research, that proportion is down from 48% last year and from 53% in 2013.
The report identifies several trends that are driving these changes. It says that while top-tier dealers have been narrowing the scope of their product, regional and client coverage, FX investors continue to increase their trading via multi-dealer platforms, which create a more level playing field for liquidity providers.