Russian institutions flock to join R3 consortium

Payment processor QIWI becomes the first Russian company to join the consortium’s global network.

R3, the global blockchain consortium behind the development and application of distributed ledger technology in financial markets, has expanded its membership with the addition of its first Russian member.

QiWi’s online payment system is one of the most widely used payment systems in Russia. It is used to make online purchases and pay for loans, mobile bills, and even home utilities, and offers terminals where users can make payments as they would on their mobile device.

QIWI is a payment services provider and the first Russian institution to collaborate with R3. It has long recognized the benefits of blockchain technology; earlier in July, the firm expressed interest in joining the blockchain consortium created by the Central Bank of Russia.

“Our goal with R3 is to explore this emerging technology space as we shape the future of payments and transactions throughout collaborative research with other members of the consortium,” says Sergey Solonin, QIWI’s chief executive officer. “We believe that blockchain projects that we are currently working on can be applied on one of the R3 platforms and have great potential to be favorably perceived by regulated financial institutions.”

The firm joins over 60 leading financial institutions, who collaborate in R3’s lab environment, R3’s Lab and Research Centre.

David Rutter, CEO of R3, said “The addition of QIWI is a further milestone for R3 … as we expand our network of consortium members and continue to develop truly global applications for this groundbreaking technology.”

Illuminating Markets – a vision for cash and collateral management

Roberto Verrillo, Head of Strategy and Markets at Elixium, outlines his view on the key issues in the repo and collateral market.

Changes to the regulatory environment that have already taken place, and those that will occur over the next few years, have put us on a path that will change the industry forever. The impact on how the industry executes its business has been fundamentally changed.

The result of these changes has been an almost uniform decline in profitability for investment banks. Many operations have already begun efforts to re-structure large areas of their business to maintain return on equity (ROE) levels that are acceptable to their shareholders. This process will continue for several years yet.

I suggest reading ICMA’s excellent report written by Andy Hill “Perspectives from the eye of the storm” for more information about the current and future evolution of the repo market.

Basel III significantly increases the cost of doing business, taxing risk and market-making via increased capital requirements and increasing the cost to certain activities by requiring higher quality and amounts of capital. (See leverage ratio and liquidity coverage/net stable funding ratio -Basel III[1]). The more balance sheet intensive a particular business area is, the higher the “hurdle rate” for returns should be. In this regard market making (via capital costs for holding positions) and repo stand out.

Many firms have not yet implemented an exhaustive study of what these hurdle rates ought to be. These are not standard across the industry but are firm specific and are calculated using varying inputs particular to each individual institution and their relevant regulatory requirements. Ultimately these metrics will decide what each institution’s balance sheet will be and the required ROE.

We believe that as this process of re-pricing and charging business areas for the regulatory cost of partaking in certain businesses (and transactions) progresses, the market will find many more institutions cutting back and re-structuring their current business models, or simply pulling out of certain markets or product lines altogether.

NSFR (Net Stable Funding Requirement) rules under Basel III are calibrated such that longer-term liabilities are assumed to be more stable than short term liabilities. This will lead to greater demand for longer dated deposits, particularly corporate deposits which are treated favourably for banks under the rules.

NSFR provides for different, Available Stable Funding (ASF) and Required Stable Funding (RSF), weightings depending on the type of counterparty and the residual maturity of the transaction. This will make many financing transactions that are still viable under current regulatory capital treatment extremely onerous. Fifty percent RSF weightings will be applied to all loans (including reverse-repos) to non-banks, regardless of the residual maturity of the transaction, and independent of the underlying asset. In other words, this would mean that all reverse-repos with non-banks under one-year maturity would require the provision of stable funding against 50% of the value of the reverse-repo. For example, a bank transacting a $100 million overnight reverse in AAA government bonds with an insurance company or hedge fund would carry a requirement for $50 million of (long term) stable funding, even if this reverse was match-funded by repo.

The FRTB (Fundamental Review of the Trading Book) due to be implemented in local regulation by 2019, is a supervisory framework for the next generation of market risk regulatory capital rules for international banks. It will add further granularity to this process by identifying how profitable each business is within an institution at a “desk Level”.

It will also overhaul the standardised approach to market risk, forcing big banks to calculate and report it for the first time, radically altering the way that modelling approval is granted and policed, Value-at-risk (VAR) will be replaced with expected shortfall (ES) as the standard risk measure, redefining the boundary between banking and trading books. Approval by the regulator will be required, at a desk level, for banks to operate using their own internal models.

An ISDA study of 21 sample Banks concluded that, as a result of FRTB implementation, the overall increase in market risk capital, would be between 1.5x and 2.4x compared to current levels.

Current implication for repo

The cost of providing balance sheet to customers that may simply require a home for their cash has become increasingly prohibitive, leaving some banks having to turn away short term deposits/repo’s and/or charge what might look like unreasonable costs for either accepting said deposits or only offering the facility to clients from whom they generate revenue on other products as part of a wider relationship.

Because of this lack of willingness to, or difficulty in, pricing collateral transactions, many of these transactions have become economically unviable. Backward-dated pricing and resulting dysfunctional collateral markets are in evidence not only during reporting periods such as month, quarter, half and year end, but increasingly over a “normal” date run – volumes and liquidity are both showing signs of drying up.

“Previously, business lines might have been kept as part of the core business strategy, even if they did not meet the hurdle rate for returns. But in time banks will become more ruthless and cost aware about whether these activities can be a valid part of a long-term business model.

“Repo, as a standalone product, is no longer profitable. Repo desks have gone from being profit centres to cost centres. This has already happened; whether yet realised or not” – Andy Hill -ICMA.

“The provision of repo pricing and liquidity by banks has become more of a value-added service for clients, largely subsidised by other, more profitable businesses. “ ICMA quarterly report Q4 2015 – pages 25-28.”

Improving efficiency

There has been an exodus of banks from non-core businesses, but even in areas where they remain active, banks can make significant cost savings by accessing liquidity pool providers (such as Elixium) for distribution.

Harmonisation of settlement

Basel rules are implemented as the Capital Requirements Directive in Europe and the specific capital requirements for EU firms are based on their MiFID permissions.

There is increasing interest secured financing transactions, with the market moving from unsecured to secured financing and impending enactment of regulation surrounding the margining of OTC products. There is a stream of regulation that will have a significant impact on collateralised markets which involves harmonisation of settlement discipline regimes across Europe. The industry will have to identify an efficient operating model to manage these changes.

“4.6 Market access and interoperability

Activity description

The activity covers market practices or legislation that obligate or restrict the settlement of (stock exchange and/or central counterparty-cleared) transactions in a specific issuer CSD. The consequence for foreign investors, custodians and/or investor CSDs in such (issuer) markets is that access to settlement flows is restricted owing to the unfair competitive advantages established in those issuer markets. The restriction implies that entities wishing to offer settlement services on these securities need to become participants in the issuer CSD or central counterparty.”

Page 46 ECB Harmonisation Progress Report 13/04/15

http://www.ecb.europa.eu/paym/t2s/progress/pdf/ag/fifth_harmonisation_progress_report_2015_04.pdf?986629e468a824c5d0069151574ead5c

In an environment of litigation and lawsuits is it reasonable to suggest to pension funds, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds asset managers, CCPs, corporate treasurers, local authorities and other government entities such as public utilities should be precluded from access to a transparent trading facility for the re-investment of their short end cash and or securities or for sourcing collateral/margin?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/26/interestrateswaps-lawsuit-idUSL1N13K2IE20151126

In Europe, EMIR sets out a legislative framework for Central Counterparties (CCPs), trade repositories and OTC derivatives. This framework includes new requirements covering capital requirements, risk managements and organisation.

MiFID2 will be introduced with a view to de-restricting market access on a non-discriminatory basis. There is a requirement for Multilateral Trading Facilities to implement non-discriminatory rules regarding access to its facility.

MiFID2 introduces additional pre and post-trade transparency requirements for a number of financial instruments, these proposals aim to create a level playing field for the regulation of all organised trading. The trading obligation in Europe will be introduced in the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (MiFIR).

Mandatory Swaps Margining and the effect of Mandatory Swaps clearing on collateral markets;

Initial Margin (IM) and Variation Margin (VM) for uncleared OTC derivatives will be phased in from September 2016 through to June 2021. The US will start IM from September 2016 for the largest of counterparties but the EU has delayed the start of IM until June next year.

Clearing banks that traditionally put up money to support default funds within CCP’s are increasingly reluctant to do so as they have to hold a significant amount of capital on their balance sheet to support this business.

Variation margin to CCPs must be in the form of cash – there is a need for collateral to cash transformation and the size of the potential problem cannot be underestimated as banks step away from providing balance sheet to support short dated, low margin repo activity.

CCPs are working to engage buyside counterparties via differing initiatives be they sponsored or direct CCP membership.

It is envisaged that mandatory swaps clearing in Europe could create unprecedented demand for high quality liquid assets (HQLA) and its transformation, for use in initial and variation margining of swaps.

Eventually CCPs may offer cross-netting capabilities across a range of products.

Elixium – re-engineering collateral markets.

Elixium is an all to all collateral trading platform that addresses the current fragmentary nature of the market.

Standardised processes and protocols facilitate a transparent, efficient marketplace that simplifies the process of ‎rapid counterparty diversification amongst all institutions seeking to raise cash or collateral.

Connecting traditional players with new entrants and addressing the growing demand and supply of cash and collateral presents an exciting opportunity for Elixium.

The repo and collateral market is a critical source of funding for many institutions but remains balance sheet intensive. As institutions come under pressure as a result of regulatory changes such as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio and Net Stable Funding Ratio, a reduction in balance sheets has impacted the depth and cost of liquidity available.

It is broadly accepted that the market will see more buy-side entrants, and all-to-all trading. The Elixium all-to-all marketplace has been developed specifically to facilitate access to a much wider counterparty base, which previously, have been restricted from direct participation by overly complicated legal and restrictive trading structures.

Legacy trading models are no longer as relevant in today’s market as they once were. As regulation creates new challenges and reshapes the traditional repo market-making model, stakeholders are trying to adapt and innovate both to meet those challenges and to exploit potential new opportunities.

Roberto Verrillo is head of strategy and markets at Elixium.

[1] Basel III is the global framework of principals that are agreed internationally which local regulators are consequently expected to implement into local law. It is worth noting that the US and EU are not 100% aligned on leverage ratio. (See CRD IV for the EU rules)

Currency trading volumes bounce back in September

After August’s annual slowdown, currency trading activity bounced back to almost USD5 trillion in September.

Currency trading activity rose strongly in September, according to the largest provider of settlement services in the global foreign exchange market.

Data from CLS showed a 17.5% month-on-month increase in the number of trade instructions submitted in September, reaching 1,038,025. The value of these trades equated to just shy of USD5 trillion, an increase of 6.6%.

September’s data indicated it was also the second busiest month for CLS in 2016, second only to June’s peak of USD5.19 trillion. The data also showed a 3.7% increase from September 2015, when trading activity totaled USD4.81 trillion.

While the increase mirrors a similar trend observed across many of the major trading platforms last month, CLS’s data provides the most accurate and comprehensive snapshot of activity in a given month – encompassing data from 18 global currencies and approximately 21,000 trading entities around the world.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-13-02-09

All FX Eyes on BIS Triennial Survey

The whole FX industry is watching for the Bank for International Settlements’ Triennial FX Survey results, due this afternoon at 2pm GMT.

Why does it matter? Chiefly because it is the single most comprehensive, trusted and aggregated account of what has been going on in currency trading across venues, jurisdictions and a whole range of macro and micro criteria.

It’s a reality check for everyone with skin in the game. It tells us what currencies are trading the most, where and by what means.

It also gives us a sneak peek at the real market share of the FX market transacted on the electronic platforms and through voice trading.

When BIS last reported in 2013, London was the main FX trading centre by a comfortable margin, with more than 40% of all traded volumes.

USD and EUR remained unchallenged as the most traded currencies, but the renminbi gained strong ground by moving into 9th place on the list. It will inevitably be higher on this occasion.

Since then, the market has experienced the SNB revaluation, issues around conduct and interest rate divergence among the major central banks.

Some established currency trading venues also lost market share and were hampered by reduced trading volumes. This points to a number of themes. Firstly, internalisation of trades at banks; secondly, a drop in overall volatility and trading opportunities; and third, greater competition from upstart trading venues, who grabbed a piece of the FX pie.

The position of the banks as the main FX trading posts is also being challenged by a resurgent non-bank FX trading community, exemplified by the entry of XTX Markets in the top ten of Euromoney’s survey.

This continues the trend evident in past Triennial Surveys. The counterparty segment that contributed the most to growth in global FX turnover between 2010 and 2013 included smaller banks that do not act as dealers, institutional investors, hedge funds and proprietary trading firms as well as official sector financial institutions, among others.

In the 2010 survey, this segment surpassed other reporting dealers (i.e. banks trading in the interdealer market) as the main counterparty category in the Triennial Survey for the first time.

What this shows is that the funds and HFTs are established as major players and are cleaning up their act to become genuine makers and takers in the market. This is an inevitable evolution and blurring of the buy and sell side.

This afternoon we expect the BIS to report relatively flat volumes, if not a dip on 2013. The gallery of top traded currencies will remain broadly the same but the devil will, however, be in the detail and the percentage movements showing direction.

There is will be many things to look out for. Which currencies were the most traded? Will London retain its FX crown? Which instruments were the most popular?

All will be revealed in the next few hours. The industry awaits…

R3 patent application unveils its vision for future of blockchain technology

R3 executives speak publically for the first time about Project Concord and their vision for the future of blockchain technology.

Distributed ledger and blockchain technology represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the economics of data management across the financial industry.

However, R3 believes the blockchain and distributed ledger platforms that led to this breakthrough moment were never designed to solve the problems of financial institutions and do not meet all their needs. These include tight linkage to the legal domain, an obligation to prevent client data being shared inappropriately and interoperability with existing financial infrastructure.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the R3 blockchain consortium filed a patent for its Corda shared ledger platform.

Corda is the outcome of the analysis R3 undertook on how to achieve as many of the benefits of distributed ledger and blockchain technology as possible but in a way that is sympathetic to, and addresses, the needs of regulated financial institutions.

The platform enables firms to record and process financial agreements using smart contracts, as explained in depth in R3 CTO Richard Gendal Brown’s latest whitepaper.

Corda is part of Project Concord, R3’s overall vision and roadmap for transforming financial services infrastructure. Concord will address challenges such as governance, internal record keeping and regulatory reporting across the financial services marketplace.

With a number of successful prototypes having already been completed on the Corda platform and an alpha launch of Concord scheduled for 2017, the next year looks set to be a turning point in the history of financial technology.

Big data overdrive hurting bank profits

With more and more data available, making sense of vast amounts of content efficiently can boost profits by at least five percent a year.

Sell-side banks operating in the FICC markets are producing more and more data, and it is widely acknowledged that there is tremendous minefield of value often hidden within this data that can be of great use to an institution’s trading, regulatory, audit and compliance functions.

But for many institutions, aggregating and gauging this data to make sense of key trends accurately remains a significant challenge. So far, it is proving to be timely, costly and hurting banks’ profits.

The 2016 global study released by Qlik and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) surveying financial service companies about the usage of data and analytics revealed 57% found data information too complex to process, analyse and disseminate in a timely fashion. Yet nearly 80% of respondents believed that leveraging insights from data could boost revenues by at least five per cent annually.

As Duncan Ash, a Senior Director of Global Financial Services at Qlik, says: “Analytics is still the most prevalent in head-office functions, and the people in the field that need it the most are getting it the least.” He added that “firms struggle with the volume and complexity of data, and with the basics of communications and data management.”

This potential rewards on offer has led to a rise of specialist technology vendors that scrutinise and standardise data and do the hard work for their clients. One such as example is Mosaic’s MSX platform, which aggregates multiple sources of transaction data into a singular resource. This enables banks to meet regulatory requirements by building a more comprehensive view of client’s trading activity while creating better audit trails for regulators.

Steven Hatzakis, a financial services industry consultant and a registered Commodity Trading Advisor, said in a column on Finance Magnates that as analytic tools have evolved, so have visual dashboards. “These include not just numbers but adding colors or other variables that indicate changes as reporting and related gauges become dynamic. This is a common trait seen within trading platforms in capital markets and it is used in order to make it easier for technical data to be comprehended quickly.”

As Diane Castelino of Mosaic Smart Data says, “The next and most advanced stage is breaking into the field of predictive analytics and machine learning, where the ability to predict future client trading behaviour based on historical patterns sets institutions streets ahead of their peers.

“In what has become a challenging trading environment for all, the real winners in the race to harness and utilise big data will be those institutions that partner with the technology specialists that deliver expertise and innovation on a cost effective, modular basis and educate staff to use the technology effectively.

Diane’s whitepaper on big data and going beyond the hype can be read here.

Oliver Wyman and JP Morgan urge asset managers to engage with blockchain

Asset management is just one of the many areas of financial services investigating how blockchain can be used to streamline operations and reduce costs.

It’s clear from the report from consultancy firm Oliver Wyman and American investment bank JP Morgan that there are significant benefits on offer if the asset management community adopted blockchain technology.

More robust and consistent data sharing, seamless transfer of assets and settlement flexibility are just a few of the possible advantages that blockchain could bring to the asset management industry, allowing them to offer improved product solutions and data management.

However, the technology is still very much in its infancy so it may be some time before these benefits are truly realised. The report suggests that elements of blockchain are likely to be applied within four waves, with 2030 suggested as the year when the full benefits will ultimately be realised.

The report also suggests that asset managers must move away from their traditionally passive approach to new technology and actively engage with blockchain if they are to reap these benefits in a timely manner, recommending research and collaboration with regulators and developers take place at an early stage.

The full Oliver Wyman and JP Morgan report can be found here.

Microsoft and R3 partner to accelerate adoption of blockchain-inspired technologies

Tech giant Microsoft and Chatsworth client R3 today announced a strategic partnership that will accelerate the use of blockchain-inspired distributed and shared ledger technologies among R3 member banks and global financial markets, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

These technologies enable enterprises and business network participants to complete financial transactions with greater speed, security, cost-efficiency and transparency relative to solutions currently used.

As part of the partnership, R3 will use Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud services provider in its R3 Lab and Research Centre, where distributed and shared ledger technologies are being developed and tested and use-cases carried out based on an extremely rigorous, empirical-evidence based process.

The Lab and Research Centre has quickly become the centre of gravity for use-case testing and evaluation of blockchain-inspired technologies, bringing together banks, non-banks, both established and start-up financial technology companies, trade associations and regulators.

R3 and consortium members will have access to Microsoft’s expanding ecosystem of Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) partners including Ethereum and ConsenSys, Ripple, Eris Industries, Coinprism, Factom, BitPay, Manifold Technology, AlphaPoint, IOTA, BlockApps STRATO, Tendermint LibraTax, and many others that will aid in the development, testing and deployment of distributed ledger applications in cloud, hybrid and local environments.

Settlement risks involving public blockchains – R3

Entrepreneurs, investors and enthusiasts claim that public blockchains are an acceptable settlement mechanism and layer for financial instruments. But Chatsworth client R3 argues that public blockchains by design cannot definitively guarantee settlement finality, and as a result, they are currently not a reliable option for the clearing and settling of financial instruments.

Read the full article by R3’s Tim Swanson on TabbFORUM

Global FX bounces back to over USD 5 trillion in February

February was a tumultuous time for financial markets, with high volatility influenced by the threat of a potential Brexit and ongoing turmoil in the Chinese economy. 

CLS, the global FX settlement utility has released its settlement data for February showing average daily input value was USD 5 trillion up 3.3% from USD 4.84 trillion in January 2016.

Some FX platforms reported a month-on-month decline in daily spot trading volumes. 

Average daily volumes at EBS were USD 102.6 billion in February 2016, down 1% from the January 2016 reading of USD 103.8 billion.

Read the full report in Reuters

Market forces now driving China’s renminbi lower

 

Market forces rather than China’s central bank are now the biggest force driving the renminbi lower, according to local traders, marking a decisive shift in trading of the currency which became a two-way bet last month.

 

The renminbi’s decline began one month ago with sustained intervention by the People’s Bank of China, but most companies and banks remained on the sidelines in the onshore market, anticipating that depreciation would be shortlived.

 

 

FX volumes rise above $5 trillion in January – CLS

 

 

Average daily volumes in the foreign exchange market rose by more than 20 percent in January from a slow December, data from FX settlement system CLS showed.

 

The total daily volume of instructions submitted to CLS, combining settlement and aggregation services, was 1,210,588 up from 988,674 in December 2013.

 

The average daily value of transactions also climbed, by 8.6 percent to $5.3 trillion from $4.87 trillion.

 

 

 

Buffett’s Business Wire ends feeds to high-speed traders

Business Wire, which has published corporate news releases in the US for the last half century, will stop selling direct feeds to high- speed traders, amid concerns that the practice gives the firms an unfair advantage over other investors.

 

Warren Buffett, whose conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway owns Business Wire, stepped in personally to examine the direct sales,

fearing that recent publicity around the practice could hurt the company’s reputation.

 

SuperDerivatives to provide volatility data for NYSE Liffe

 

 

Derivatives technology and trade execution provider SuperDerivatives will provide volatility data to European derivatives exchange NYSE Liffe.

 

The exchange will use the firm’s volatility data to enhance its daily settlement price calculations for the flexible FTSE 100 Index Options (FLX) on Bclear, NYSE Liffe’s wholesale trade processing and clearing service for derivatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLS monthly settlement figures, January 2014

 

 

Total Input Volumes1 and Values in January 2014:
• The average daily volume submitted to CLS, combining the settlement and aggregation services, was 1,210,588, up 22.4% from 988,674 in December.
• The average daily value submitted to CLS was US$5.29 trillion, up 8.6% from US$4.87 trillion in December.

 

 

 

 

Input volumes are the number of instructions received by CLS on a given day for future settlement. Input instructions are not necessarily settled during the month in which they were submitted.

 

 

Note: CLS reports both sides of an FX transaction. To adjust the average daily value data to equate to the same reporting convention used by the Bank for International Settlements and the semi-annual foreign exchange committee market reports, the gross values should be divided by two.

 

 

In January 2013, CLS recalculated its monthly data, resulting in non-material changes to volume figures by an average of 0.5%. The data above reflects this calculation.

Richard E Grant joins the cast of Downton Abbey

 

 

Richard E. Grant, Chatsworth’s cover star, is to join the cast of Downton Abbey

 

Richard lent his considerable grace and style to front Chatsworth’s rebrand and we’re delighted he’s joining one of our biggest TV exports, adding to his already impressive roll call of great movies and TV.

 

 

 

ParFX adds Citi and JP Morgan as founding members

Citi and JP Morgan have joined ParFX as founding members, the trading venue said on Wednesday, taking the number of core members to 14 and bringing the company closer to introducing prime brokerage clients in the coming months. The less-than-a-year-old platform says the addition of Citi and JP Morgan represents a validation of the idea that foreign exchange trading is changing and the platform is gaining momentum.

 

ITN interview with CLS

ITN interview with CLS for the British Bankers Association

CLS monthly settlement figures, December 2013

CLS Settlement Service and Aggregation Service Data:

 

Monthly Volumes and Values, December 2013

 

Total Input Volumes1 and Values

 

In December 2013:
• The average daily volume submitted to CLS, combining the settlement and aggregation services, was 988,674 down 9.6% from 1,094,020 in November.
• The average daily value submitted to CLS was US$4.87 trillion, down 0.4% from US$4.89 trillion in November.

 

 

 

Input volumes are the number of instructions received by CLS on a given day for future settlement. Input instructions are not necessarily settled during the month in which they were submitted. Note: CLS reports both sides of an FX transaction.

 

To adjust the average daily value data to equate to the same reporting convention used by the Bank for International Settlements and the semi-annual foreign exchange committee market reports, the gross values should be divided by two. In January 2013, CLS recalculated its monthly data, resulting in non-material changes to volume figures by an average of 0.5%. The data above reflects this calculation.