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Strong start to autumn for most spot FX platforms

As autumn arrived, most spot FX platforms experienced an uptick in volumes, despite there being fewer trading days in September, compared to August. This is thanks to another month of turbulence in Italian politics, policy updates from the Federal Reserve and new US trade tariffs.

Amidst a busy trading month for financial markets, NEX reported a 2% increase in spot FX trading activity, with volumes increasing from $84.7 billion in July to $86.1 billion in September. However, on a year-on-year basis, volumes saw a significant 12% decline.

Thomson Reuters’ spot FX volumes grew 4.2% to $98 billion from August, but it too suffered a fall, dropping 4.8% when compared the same month in 2017.

Spot FX volumes on Fastmatch declined for the fourth month in a row, falling by 4% from $19.5 billion in July to $18.6 billion in September – its lowest figure of 2018. Year-on-year comparisons also show a decrease of 11.4%. Not good reading for a firm which has endured a period of difficulty following some very public staff changes.

However, it’s a cheerier story for Cboe FX, with spot volumes rising by 3.5% from August to $35.7 billion. Year-on-year growth was a healthy 8.1%.

But the biggest news continues to come from FXSpotStream, which reported an ADV of $31.9 billion, up 12.3% from August and up a huge 33% when compared to September 2017.

 

*All figures in US$

Insight

It was a strong start to Autumn for most spot FX platforms as they continued their recovery from the summer slump. They seemingly benefitted from a particularly busy news month, with plenty of column inches devoted to developments in the FX industry.

The main exception was Fastmatch. Its troubles continued as volumes dropped for the fourth month on the bounce. Euronext, which now owns 97.3% of the firm, and its founder and former CEO, Dmitri Galinov, continued their very public fallout in September. With a court case looming, it seems like headlines they could do without.

September also saw CLS’s long-serving CEO David Puth resign. A veteran of the FX industry, David played a key role in the development of the FX Global Code. Under his stewardship, CLS remained a safe pair of hands, with its core settlement service providing a unique level of safety and reassurance for trading 17 global currencies. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Speaking of the FX Global Code, Edwin Schooling Latter, head of markets policy at the Financial Conduct Authority, said it is considering endorsing two voluntary codes: The Global FX Code and the UK Money Markets Code. This has put greater onus on senior managers to sign up. Expect a flurry of activity over the next few weeks.

Indeed, a report from NEX showed how its adoption has improved trading behaviour on EBS Direct, a relationship-based, disclosed platform, with a significant reduction in hold times, reject rates and a tightening of spreads.

All very positive, but it didn’t shed light on trading behaviour on its more popular, anonymous EBS Markets platform. Perhaps a second volume of the report is imminent?

Future predictions

It was reported in Bloomberg that Blackstone Group, the ownerof Thomson Reuters’ financial-and-risk arm, (also known as Refinitiv), is weighing a sale of FXall, a currency trading platform. According to people familiar with the matter it could fetch as much as $3bn.

Thomson Reuters has said it “remains a very strategic part” of its FX operations. Given the recent trend of exchange operators acquiring currency platforms to diversify their offerings, there is likely to be plenty of interest from potential buyers in the market.

Speaking of Refinitiv, confidential sources (OK, the FT…) also report that a rap song has been written by an employee to boost morale amongst staff.

In terms of currencies, the focus will be on the trade-weighted USD which continues to do well. Whether it can maintain this momentum is questionable, especially when investor attention eventually shifts to the bloating U.S. budget deficit and fading impact of the fiscal stimulus. The mid-term elections will also be in the back of their minds, with the outcome far from certain.

In Europe, the euro remains grounded by loose policy from the European Central Bank as well as a fair amount of political strife relating to Brexit and Italian politics. However, industry insiders believe it has the potential to bounce back over the coming year, particularly as investors start to expect an end to Fed tightening.

Cobalt appoints Darren Coote as Managing Director

Cobalt, the foreign exchange (FX) post-trade processing network based on shared infrastructure and high-performance technology, has appointed FX industry veteran Darren Coote as managing director.

Darren has been working with Cobalt since the end of 2017 as a strategic advisor and will now take on responsibility for the day to day management of the company. This comes at a key time for Cobalt as the company launches and looks to significantly scale its business.

Darren brings over 25 years’ experience in FX to Cobalt, having held a number of high profile roles running global FX trading and e-FX businesses at UBS where he drove the business through significant industry and technology change. He has also worked for Lloyds, served on a number of FX boards and committees including the Bank of England’s FX Joint Standing Committee and EBS’s executive board prior to the company’s sale to ICAP in 2006.

Adrian Patten, Co-Founder, and Chairman of Cobalt, commented: “We are very pleased to welcome Darren to our fast-growing team. He brings invaluable expertise and market contacts. We are confident he is the right person to lead Cobalt as we prepare to go into full production later this year.”

Darren Coote said: “Having worked in FX for over 25 years, I have seen first-hand the negative impact that aging, inefficient legacy technology is having on market participants and their bottom line. As the industry gets increasingly competitive and margins shrink, it’s important for institutions to save money and mitigate risk wherever possible.

“Cobalt is a unique solution which solves an urgent need for participants by creating a shared FX post-trade back office utility, significantly reducing risk and cost by 80%. I’m excited to play a key role in Cobalt’s development as we prepare to go live this year and re-engineer the FX market from the ground up.”

This May, Cobalt secured a strategic investment from Singapore Exchange (SGX), which operates Asia’s largest, most diverse and fastest growing FX exchange.

Market data fees back in spotlight

The lack of transparency and rising cost of market data is a concern continually raised by participants across FX, equities, fixed income and derivatives markets.

The issue was brought to the fore again with two major hedge fund trade groups, the Managed Funds Association and the Alternative Investment Management Association, asking the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to carry out a full review of market data costs and to require exchanges to be more transparent about the fees they charge.

We take a closer look at the industry’s concerns, the transparency of market data packages, their associated fees, what regulators are doing to tackle the issue and where we go from here.

Industry’s concerns

The two hedge fund trade groups are concerned that institutional investors continue to experience significant increases in market data fees, new fee categories and unbundling. They believe this restricts trade and harms competition.

“Our members have likened the practice to ordering a hamburger which used to cost $20, but now costs $7 for the bun, $15 for the beef patty, $3 per fixing and $1 per condiment, for an overall total cost of $33 (with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and mustard),” the petition said, according to Reuters.

The hedge fund industry is not alone in raising these concerns. Back in December 2017, 24 trading institutions, including banks and asset managers, called for more transparency and requested exchanges reveal their profit margins for market data products.

Fees skyrocketing to benefit of exchanges

Over the past decade, the costs and fees associated with market data have seemingly skyrocketed. It is clear from exchanges’ results that this increase in market data fees is positively impacting on their revenues.

This CNBC article reported that market data fees have become the growth area for exchanges. Indeed, ICE gets about 44 percent of its revenue by charging for market data, and at Nasdaq it’s about 26 percent.

Cboe Global Markets reported a 51% increase in income from market data fees for Jan-June 2018 when compared to the same period in 2017. The firm cited increasing market data revenue as a contributor to its 6% year-on-year rise in net revenue.

CME reported an 18% year-on-year rise to $113.8m, primarily due to a fee increase put in place in April.

Furthermore, a report by the Healthy Markets Association found that some market participants have seen the cost for equity market data products rise from $72,150 per month to $182,775 in five years – an increase of more than 150%.

From this, it’s clear to see that prices are increasing and are an important source of income for exchanges. It remains to be seen if exchanges will act to reduce prices and increase transparency themselves or wait for regulators to get involved.

Shining a light on opaque market data packages

Market data fees remain one of the most opaque areas of trading and has been a constant bugbear for FX institutions as well those operating in other financial markets. Institutions are now realising that they are paying different amounts for the data they receive.

Dan Marcus explains: “Large institutions are negotiating better prices and cutting special deals based on how much they agree to trade on a particular venue. This means smaller institutions with lower trading volumes and less bargaining power are struggling to get value for money.”

This is against the spirit of the FX Global Code which advocates greater transparency and equality in the FX market, he adds. “Market participants simply want affordable, accurate market data that allows them to trade, is good value for money and is delivered in a fair, equal and transparent manner.”

Regulators and market participants taking action

There is now a realisation that institutions are paying vastly different amounts for the data they receive. The good news is that the industry participants are increasingly vocal about their concerns, and as a result, the distribution, cost and transparency of market data packages are now coming under scrutiny.

The SEC has responded positively to the industry’s concerns. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has confirmed the commission would hold an industry roundtable on the issue at some point in the near future, but no date has been announced.

Back in March, the European Securities and Markets Authority said it shares concerns that have been raised over the increase in fees for market data in the region and intends to take a closer look at recent developments.

It’s positive to see regulators such as ESMA and the SEC carrying out reviews and it will be interesting to see if their research results in action which addresses the market’s concerns.

Dan Marcus believes market data doesn’t have to be opaque and expensive: “At ParFX, we deliver market data to our customers at no additional cost – everyone gets the same data, at the same frequency in parallel. We also don’t negotiate special deals – this is in direct contrast to the approach of other providers.”

We see the move towards lower market data costs as inevitable, as the current pricing structure is unsustainable. It seemingly does not provide value for money, prices out smaller participants and provides an unfair trading advantage to those with the deepest pockets.

It’s time other venues and platform providers bring themselves in line with the standards we expect in 2018 by making market data more transparent and affordable for everyone.

Is the FX Global Code working?

In recent years, the FX market has been experiencing a period of turbulence. A series of scandals, following a string of misconduct issues, led to some market participants reassessing their existing relationships and trading processes.

To tackle the deficit of trust, the global foreign exchange (FX) market came together with policymakers to create the Global Foreign Exchange Committee (GFXC). This public-private partnership is tasked with overseeing and developing the FX Global Code, a set of guidelines which aim to improve transparency and ethics across the FX industry.

The FX Global Code debuted in May 2017. A little over a year later, the GFXC has carried out a thorough assessment of the progress so far and identified its priorities for the year ahead.

One of the main takeaways from the report was the sizeable levels of awareness and commitment theFX Global Code achieved in its first year. In a survey conducted in September 2017, 250 market participants said they would eventually sign the Statement of Commitment (SoC) to the Code. By May 201­­8, more than 326 had done so – an increase of 30%.

Along with the number of SoCs, 12 different public registers have been created to monitor and track sign-ups. Such numbers are indicative of how much the FX Global Code has embedded itself across the industry.

The Code has also achieved great penetration across the globe. It ranks high on the agenda of FX trade associations and at industry events around the world. Furthermore, in its first year, Mexico, South Africa, Scandinavia and Switzerland have either established FX committees to support the Code or are in the process of creating one. These local committees are critical to embedding a Code that is truly global and standardised.

Another success of the first year of the FX Global Code is the creation of training programs. These are created to aid FX traders that don’t have a process within their institution outlining how to follow the Code. One such program is the ACI FMA’s increasingly popular ELAC Portal, which provides step-by-step professional development for those looking to prove their adherence to the Code via tailored questions and real-life scenarios. This is a healthy sign that there is genuine demand in the FX community to follow the principles of the Code, and that it isn’t simply being forced upon industry professionals by the GFXC.

Of course, signing a SoC does not mean an institution has completely changed their practices to align with the Code. Rather, it indicates that they have reviewed their processes and intend to align with the principles laid out in the Code.

Looking the public registers, it appears the bulk of those that have adopted the Code’s principles are made up of sell-side institutions, central banks and FX market infrastructure providers. The buy-side and non-bank institutions are lagging behind, with only 11 of the top 25 asset managers and two corporates signing up to the Code.

According to the GFXC, the complexities of buy-side institutions and the lack of incentives for signing up are the reasons for the slow take up. The buy-side is much more diverse than the sell-side, and therefore has varying levels of resources.

At the same time, it is important to recognise that the Code has not been met with universal approval from all sections of the market. Issues such as last look have been contentious for some sections of the FX market.

Overall, it appears market participants believe the Code is robust in its current state, although evolution in line with market changes is inevitable. In this respect, a new working group has been set up to focus on integrating the Code into the ‘fabric of the FX market.’

To answer the question posed in the title of this blog, the Code is working and has achieved a lot of things it set out to do, securing significant awareness and commitment throughout the industry. However, there is a lot more that needs done – particularly around engaging the buy-side. It remains to be seen how the industry actually implements the principles laid out in the Code over the next year and the consequences, or lack thereof, for those that do not.

Spot FX volumes show impressive year-on-year growth

NEX reported a 5% decrease in spot FX trading activity as its volumes dropped from $101 billion in May to $96 billion in June. This follows a 21.7% increase in May from April. Year-on-year volumes are up a healthy 15.7%.

Thomson Reuters’ spot FX volumes have seen a small rise of 1.9% to $109 billion in June. It has experienced month on month growth since April when it recorded $95 billion, its lowest ADV since December 2017. June’s ADV represents a 17.2% increase when compared the same period in 2017.

Cboe FX’s spot volumes suffered the most in June, dropping 7.3% to $38 billion, compared with May’s $41 billion. Year-on-year painted a more positive picture for the platform with growth of 36% in spot FX volumes.

Spot FX volumes on Fastmatch fell by around 4% from $23 billion in May to $22 billion in June. This represents a 10% increase year on year.

FXSpotStream experienced the biggest increase this month, rising 7% from $28 billion in May to $30 billion in May. This represents a substantial 50% growth from the $20 billion recorded in June 2017.

Spot FX

Insight

So far this year, electronic trading platforms have seen strong performances in the spot FX market. June 2018 was no different with overall volumes across Thomson Reuters, FX SpotStream, Nex, Cboe FX and Fastmatch up 21% on June 2017.

Spot FX platforms have bounced back after a slow start to Q2. In April, all of the platforms recorded a decrease in trading activity, with the exception of Fastmatch.

Following large increases for all platforms in May 2018, we have seen a mixed picture of trading activity for the five spot FX platforms in June.

Key currency pairs came out of the wait-and-see mode they experienced in April. This is reportedly because volatility increased in May and June due to rising geopolitical tensions, concerns about trade wars and the prospect a global economic growth boom is nearing its peak.

A key focus over the past month or two was on the regulatory side with the Global Foreign Exchange Committee (GFXC) meeting taking place in South Africa on 27 June. At the meeting in Johannesburg, the GFXC appointed new Chair, Simon Potter, and Co-Vice Chairs, Adrian Boehler and Akira Hoshino.

It also revealed that more than 300 institutions have now signed up to the FX Global Code.

The GFXC has established a new group to deepen engagement with the buy-side, so all eyes will be on these institutions over the coming months.

Future predictions

The US-China trade war came to fruition with a first round of tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports on July 6, followed by a second round on $16 billion of imports.

The US’s trade partners including the EU, Canada and China are set to respond to latest U.S. trade barriers with retaliatory tariffs of their own. Starting in July, we could be getting dangerously close to a full-blown trade war.

Hopefully policymakers can put economics ahead of politics and come to a resolution to ensure unimpeded trade flows.

SEB chief EM strategist, Per Hammarlund, told FX Week that this trade spat could support the dollar in the short term, given the risk-off sentiment.

But, over the longer term, the event will undermine US growth, as well as its economic leadership, and weigh on EM currencies “for years”, Hammarlund says.

“Once countries lock themselves into a tit-for-tat battle, they will find it very difficult to get out of the spiral.” “If growth continues to slow, the EM FX sell-off will be prolonged, even if markets would see a temporary rebound if the US and China reach an agreement,” he says, adding that any interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will trigger a sell-off in EM currencies.

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London FX turnover hits record high

The results of a new survey released by the Bank of England have revealed record-breaking FX turnover in the UK during April this year.

The survey, compiled with the responses of 28 London-based institutions, shows that daily FX turnover during the month was a staggering $2,727bn – up 15% on October last year and 14% on April last year.

The Bank of England says this represents the highest reported turnover on record, beating the previous peak of $2,711bn set in October 2014.

Turnover in FX swaps accounted for the largest increase, growing by 18% compared with October last year. There was an 18% increase in turnover in the sterling-dollar currency pair, an 11% increase in euro-dollar trading and a 13% increase in dollar-yen. 

In particular, London’s turnover in the British pound rose to a record $351 billion, up 18% from October 2017 and nearly doubling from last year. This was driven largely by traders dumping the pound against the dollar when the Bank of England declined to raise interest rates.

The survey results reflect London’s continued position as the epicentre of the global currency markets, despite ongoing debate about the UK’s future trade arrangements post-Brexit. The UK growth rate in turnover also overtook US data revealed today by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which showed a 5.2% increase on a six-month basis and 11.7% year-on-year, with turnover only around one-third of that in London.

As ever, volatility has been the major driver for the increase in turnover. After years of ultra-low interest rates across the globe, central banks are beginning to diverge again in terms of where they set their policy rates. Growing concerns over a global trade war and political turmoil in the Eurozone have also contributed significantly to this volatility.

FX trading remains one of the City’s most profitable industries, and the Bank of England’s survey is a timely reminder of the dominance of the UK’s FX providers in a period of significant political and economic uncertainty for the country.

Deepwell enters new phase with 7 major hires across three continents

DeepWell Liquidity Management, the global financial markets intermediary for the buy-side community, has added seven senior market professionals to its team across three continents as it eyes further growth and expansion into different asset classes.

DeepWell launched in September 2017 and offers global coverage across a range of OTC and exchange-traded FX products, including spot, forwards, options and futures.

The company’s new hires experience range from the who’s who of the banking world, from, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank to RBS, with more than century’s worth of experience between them.

In an interview with Finance Magnates, Deepwell CEO Richard Leighton spoke on the purpose of the hirings, “These additions will allow us to continue meeting the demand we are experiencing for our services and will help us to grow our market share in FX. Growing our capacity also enables us to service more institutions and investors and look at expanding other markets and products.”

These hiring’s have evidently taken place with a larger goal in mind. In the same interview, Leighton went to explain, “We took the strategic decision to set up offices in three of the biggest FX hubs in the world as we believe these have the greatest growth potential. We expect to grow our team at each of these locations as we continue to increase our market share in FX and expand into new asset classes.”

Cobalt secures investment from Singapore Exchange

Cobalt, the FX post-trade processing network based on shared infrastructure and high performance technology, has secured a strategic investment from Singapore Exchange (SGX), which operates Asia’s largest, most diverse and fastest growing FX exchange.

SGX’s investment will support the continued expansion of Cobalt’s footprint into the FX space, further accelerating technology development and build out of the team.

Cobalt’s unique solution leverages highly optimised technology alongside an in-house immutability service based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) to deliver a shared back and middle office infrastructure that is scalable, secure and fast.

By creating a shared view of trade data, Cobalt frees up back and middle office resources from multiple layers of reconciliation; creating a ‘golden’ portfolio of FX transactions from which to provide multiple services.

The platform takes a fresh approach to financial infrastructure and has been developed to replace the dated middle and back office systems of today, which can be disorderly, inefficient, risk-laden and costly.

Adrian Patten, Co-Founder and Chairman of Cobalt, comments: “SGX’s investment is testament to our innovative application of technology in the FX space. Our platform addresses pain points faced by almost every institution that trades FX: the unnecessary cost and risk associated with post-trade processing. Singapore is an important global hub for FX and we are delighted to welcome SGX on board as we continue to expand our footprint in the region.”

Michael Syn, Head of Derivatives at SGX, comments: “We are pleased to be supporting this important FX market infrastructure, which is complementary to our growing FX futures business and a natural fit for SGX given our own commitment to product and platform innovation. We look forward to seeing Cobalt continue to gain traction in the global post-trade FX market as they pioneer FX technology development, delivering cost and risk mitigation benefits to market participants across the world.”

Henry Ritchotte, Strategic Advisor to Cobalt, comments: “Exchanges around the world continue to invest in the critical infrastructure underpinning financial markets. This collaboration between a major Asian exchange and an innovative firm that has developed a unique high performance, DLT solution is a major step forward in upgrading the systems our industry relies on to operate efficiently, safely and cost-effectively.”

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Tech Answers The Call To Tackle FX’s Best Execution Dilemma

Over one-third of traders cite ‘best execution’ as their greatest daily trading issue according to a recent report by JP Morgan. The FX industry is looking to all aspects from, exchanges, market infrastructure providers and algorithmic trading to aid them in solving this problem.

The report entitled ‘e-trading trends for 2018 surveyed over 400 institutional traders to gain insight into what they think the main issues and trends will be in the year ahead.

ParFX

ParFX, a spot FX platform has measures in place to improve execution quality such as its unique randomized pause and enhanced trade cycle transparency. The company’s CEO Dan Marcus explained on Bloomberg TV that, “As a venue, what we’ve always tried to deliver is best execution, what you now see is there is more transparency, more surveillance, more systems, more controls, to sure we deliver the best execution that the regulators can see is traded in the market.” ParFX’s measures were put in place to remove the negative impact some high-frequency traders were having on the FX markets. By reducing this negative impact, ParFX has provided traders a fast, reliable and ultimately accurate platform where orders can be carried out efficiently.

Pragma

Traders are also looking to algorithmic trading to improve the quality of their execution. Curtis Pfeiffer, Chief Business Officer at Pragma Securities, believes the rise of algorithmic trading, which now accounts for more than one-third of flows in institutional currency markets, is due to how market prices and execution prices are databased. A database makes it simpler for their clients to carry out analysis of their execution quality and therefore improve their future decision making.

CLS

CLS is also providing tools to aide traders achieve their best execution goals, with the timely release of CLS’s FX Forecast data. This new tool provides subscribers with a forward-looking view of FX markets on an hourly basis, enabling them to quickly detect potential price movements and identify times to trade with greater liquidity, reducing market impact and signaling risk.

Alan Marquard, Chief Strategy and Development Officer at CLS, said: “Our position at the center of the global foreign exchange market means we are ideally placed to provide comprehensive and accurate data insights to market participants. Incorporating our forecast data into trading strategies can provide institutions with a better view of trading capacity, enabling them to optimize and time their trades. It also helps risk teams to more accurately adjust their models to the changing market. Ultimately, this will lead to a safer and more profitable foreign exchange market.”

Where Next? 

In a financial landscape where liquidity seems abundant, new innovative technologies are aiding traders to maximize best execution, however, it remains to be seen whether this will address what is now the biggest concern facing traders today.

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Foreign exchange in 2018: David Puth speaks to FX Week

Technology and regulatory guidance and principles will shape the foreign exchange (FX) market’s structure in 2018, according to David Puth, CEO of CLS, in an exclusive interview with FX Week.

2017 saw the publication of the FX Global Code, and a number of leading financial services and technology institutions confirmed their commitment to adopting and instilling its principles. This trend, Puth says, will continue in 2018 as the Global Foreign Exchange Committee publishes its final guidance on Principal 17 covering “last look”.

2018 will also be a year in which CLS expands its role offering new solutions to improve efficiency and reduce risk in the FX market.

“We are becoming more than a settlement utility. While delivering the risk mitigation that comes with safe settlement is our primary mission, we continue to focus on delivering products that solve client problems,” says Puth.

These include a same-day settlement service for five of the world’s most liquid currencies, and its much-anticipated distributed ledger technology (DLT) enabled netting service, CLSNet.

These technologies will likely have a significant impact on FX market structure, helping it to become more efficient and speed up the movement of currency around the world.

For more on what 2018 holds for FX, including David’s thoughts on the dollar and bitcoin, read the full interview here.

Defining the FX Flash Crash

On the 15th January 2015, the euro crashed 20% against the Swiss franc in a matter of moments, before recovering rapidly. Similarly, on 7th October 2016, sterling plunged in value by over 9% against the dollar, again regaining most of its value minutes later.

These are amongst the most famous examples of the market phenomena know as the ‘flash crash’, but they are by no means the only examples. In fact, according to a study by algorithmic trading technology provider, Pragma, which aims to help monitor and track the prevalence of flash crashes, there were some 69 flash crashes in 2015 and 2016. Almost one a fortnight.

The causes of these market phenomena are unknown. It has been suggested that flash crashes are the result of ‘fat-fingered traders’ or lapses of human judgement. After the pound sterling incident, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) released a report which suggested technical error as a possible cause.

However, as most research has considered these events as of one-off incidences, drawing generalised conclusions has been difficult. Without other flash crashes to compare, it is not possible to tell which variables in a complex market are contributing to the crash and which were incidental. For example, some commentators have suggested that a principal cause is algorithms overreacting to news events, but further study has found no particular correlation between other flash crashes and news events.

This is where Pragma’s research is vital. It has analysed two years of tick by tick foreign exchange data to identify and catalogue all instances of flash crashes across numerous major currencies between 2015 and 2016. To do this, it has developed a precise, quantitative definition of the flash crash.

Previously, the BIS described a flash crash as a ‘large, fast, V-shaped price move and a sudden widening of bid-offer spreads,’ the V-shape implies a reversion of the price after the initial price move. Pragma’s definition builds on the BIS’s and defines a flash crash as having a:

  • Large price move ( 13x than normal price volatility)
  • Widening bid-offer spread 2x normal)
  • Strong price reversion ( 70% price reversion)

Using this standard, the examined time period had 69 instances of what would be considered a flash crash.

This dataset allows industry analysts and academics to more accurately examine the causes of flash crashes and what effects such as changing technology, regulation and industry practices are having on market quality going into the future.

For now, the causes of flash crashes remain unclear. But Pragma’s research provides an important foundational step in moving the market towards a more full understanding of this market phenomena.

For more information, you can request Pragma’s research report here. You can also read more about the report on Bloomberg and Reuters.

FX trading volumes rebound from summer lull

CLS’s currency trading volumes saw a significant uptick, as volatility in the foreign exchange (FX) market bounced back in September.

Following a bumpy period in geopolitics over the summer, trading activity rose strongly to almost USD 1.750 trillion in last month, according to the largest provider of settlement services in the global foreign exchange market.

Data from CLS showed a 10.7 percent month-on-month increase in the number of trade instructions submitted in September from USD1.581 trillion in July 2017.  This also represents a very significant 15.9% increase from this time last year, when volumes totalled USD1,514 trillion.

CLS’s figures reflect the trend observed in the monthly figures from many of the major trading platforms. However, given its position as a central settlement hub for the wholesale market, CLS provides the most comprehensive snapshot of activity, encompassing data from 18 global currencies and approximately 21,000 trading entities around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reuters bon voyage… and welcome

So it’s bon voyage to Reuters’ Patrick Graham who is moving to India after almost four years covering the FX market.

Patrick covered the largest and most liquid financial market from its main trading centre in London through a period of profound change.

He now heads to Bangalore, where he will be overseeing over forty journalists at Reuters’ largest news bureau.

Chatsworth has worked closely with Patrick for many years and we wish him well as he embarks on this new stage of his career.

We also extend a warm welcome Patrick’s colleague Saikat to London, as joins the London FX team from his previous role covering Asian financial markets.

Cobalt closes investment from former Deutsche Bank COO Henry Ritchotte who also joins as Strategic Advisor

Cobalt, the FX post-trade processing network based on shared ledger technology, has closed an investment from Henry Ritchotte, the former Deutsche Bank COO who will also become a member of Cobalt’s strategic advisory board.

Henry Ritchotte spent over two decades at Deutsche Bank where he was a member of the Management Board and Group Executive Committee acting as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Digital Officer. Since leaving the bank at the end of 2016 Henry established RitMir Ventures, a principal investment firm focused on investing in products and services transforming finance through disruptive regulatory and technology driven business models.

Cobalt delivers a private peer-to-peer network that significantly reduces post-trade costs and risk for institutions operating in today’s FX markets. The platform is designed to create a single, shared view of a transaction on shared infrastructure and allows clients to reduce reconciliation and operational costs by up to 80%. With its production beta now live, Cobalt is ramping up to launch its live platform later this year.

Adrian Patten, Co-Founder of Cobalt, comments: “Henry’s investment reflects the increased interest our platform is receiving from the wider financial industry. With our innovative technology and his experience and knowledge, we are strongly positioned to redesign post-trade.”

Henry Ritchotte, Founder of RitMir Ventures, comments: “There has been comparatively little investment in post-trade over the past few decades. Cobalt’s network is an elegant solution that provides significant benefits for users and will reshape the industry as we know it. I look forward to working with the leadership team on their fresh approach to the post-trade challenges shared by all FX participants.”

Chatsworth congratulates Pragma and Cobalt on FX Week e-FX Award wins

Leading industry trade publication FX Week has announced the winners of its prestigious e-FX Awards, which included two of Chatsworth’s foreign exchange clients.

The awards recognise firms from across the foreign exchange industry for their excellence and innovation in the world’s most liquid financial market.

Announcing the award winners, FX Week editor Eva Szalay said technology in the market was “booming”, pointing out that “innovation has been extended to small start-ups, as well as the largest players” and highlighted the market’s “genuine desire to become more transparent, more competent and highly innovative”.

Innovation was certainly in evidence from algorithmic trading technology provider Pragma Securities, which was named Best independent algorithmic trading technology provider, and post-trade distributed ledger technology company Cobalt, which was awarded e-FX initiative of the year award.

Pragma

Reflecting on the increasing sophistication amongst the buy-side and the push for best execution in FX, Pragma has seen rapid growth and expansion over the past 12 months.

The company serves banks, brokers and sophisticated buy-side institutions, and identifies its value proposition around transparency and control as differentiating features.

It added a number of new capabilities to its Pragma360 algorithmic trading platform. This includes algorithmic trading non-deliverable forwards (NDFs), which offers traders better execution when investing in popular emerging market currencies.

It has also expanded its international client base through a new connectivity presence at Equinix’s LD6 data centre in London, providing lower latency connection to London based FX matching engines.

Cobalt

Cobalt has a very eye-catching proposition – it uses distributed ledger technology to cut 80% of the costs of post-trade reporting.

Founded by former Traiana executive Andy Coyne, and Adrian Patten, the company is offering to completely revolutionise the costly and time-consuming way in which post-trade FX services are conducted, cutting out duplication by storing records of all transactions on a single distributed ledger.

“I think if we are successful, the biggest impact will be on trading and Cobalt will increase volumes. Post-trade costs are a tax on trading and the idea that you can charge someone 50 cents to a buck for sending an unencrypted message to the back office is ridiculous.

“So if we can reduce those costs by dollars per transaction, that will feed into increasing volumes,” Patten tells FX Week.

The team at Chatsworth would like to congratulate both Cobalt and Pragma on their well-deserved award wins.

Chatsworth supports global push to restore trust to the world’s largest financial market

 

Foreign Exchange is the world’s largest and most liquid market and it has taken a repetitional battering over recent years.

Now the final part of the Bank of International Settlements’ (BIS) FX Global Code has been published, following a two-year, industry-wide effort to rebuild trust in the FX market following a series of scandals and market challenges over the past decade.

The Code sets out a comprehensive set of best practice guidelines which outline how all market participants should behave to uphold the highest standards of transparency and ethics in the wholesale FX market.

Chatsworth is proud to have played our part through our work with CLS and its CEO David Puth – Chairman of the BIS’s Market Participants Group and one of the principal authors of the code. This included an extensive engagement campaign to educate the press and FX market on the Code’s aims and objectives.

More than 1,500 people have had input to the Code and have helped to shape a set of high-level principles that will impact their day-to-day business practices.

The final document has received widespread support across the FX industry. A number of industry participants – banks, platform providers, technology vendors and trade associations – have backed it.

Now it is the time for the FX industry to adopt the Code’s principles and all FX professionals to read, understand and apply it to their everyday trading and transactional activity.

David Puth speaks to Bloomberg TV about the Code

 

The potential benefits for corporates in algorithmic trading

Curtis Pfeiffer, Chief Business Officer at Pragma Securities, explains to FX-MM how corporates could stand to benefit from using algorithms for FX execution.

Why should corporates consider using algorithms for FX execution?

Corporations want to maximise profit, and a penny saved is a penny earned. Algorithmic trading can contribute to the bottom line by significantly reducing FX trading costs. Corporations trade on the order of $70 trillion a year – roughly the same as the total global GDP. On such large amounts, basis points matter.

That’s why, to fulfil their mission, corporate treasurers are increasingly focused on ensuring that they get best execution on their FX transactions, which includes using the best available trading tools and practices.

What advantages do algorithms have over other trading techniques?

With the speed at which trading is conducted today, the proliferation of trading venues, and sheer levels of information that is processed, it is simply impossible for a human trader to stay on top of all the data that the market is generating.

There are four core benefits to algo execution:

  • Breaking up a large order into multiple smaller pieces means, on average, paying less than trading in a block
  • Building algorithms on top of an aggregated liquidity pool effectively narrows the spreads being traded on
  • Building algorithms on top of an aggregated liquidity pool effectively narrows the spreads being traded on
  • Algorithms have the ability to provide liquidity as well as to take prices, allowing patient traders to capture part of the bid-offer spread
  • Automation frees treasurers and traders to focus more of their time on those issues where human intelligence and judgement add the most value.
What factors should investors consider when choosing an FX algorithm?

First, corporations should understand the bank’s liquidity model for their algorithmic offering – principal, agency or hybrid.

Bank algos access liquidity differently depending on the model. A pure principal algo accesses just the host bank’s liquidity, which also provides indirect access to other liquidity pools in the marketplace. Agency models do not interact with the host bank’s liquidity, but are able to provide liquidity on ECNs as well as taking prices, potentially capturing part of the bid-offer spread for the customer.

Hybrid models can offer the best of both worlds, though customers should understand how the bank manages its dual role as principal and agent. Corporations should assess the liquidity pool underlying each bank’s algorithms to determine which model will be most effective.

Second, corporations should be satisfied that their bank provider has first class algorithmic trading tools – either through a major investment it has made in algorithmic trading research and development internally, or by partnering with an algorithmic technology specialist. Smart algos have sophisticated order placement logic, change their behaviour based on pair and time-specific liquidity patterns, and make intelligent and dynamic use of the real-time liquidity available across venues – for example based on order fulfilment rates.

Provided liquidity and investment checks out, corporations can consider algorithmic trading as another service their banks provide, and direct flow as part of the overall banking relationship.

Finally, best practice is to use TCA after the fact to track performance across bank providers and make sure all is as expected.

To read more, please visit the FX-MM website here.

Sterling reigns over euro amongst central banks

Central banks view the UK as a safer prospect for investing their currency reserves, despite the uncertainty created by the Brexit vote and Article 50.

That was the key revelation from a survey of reserve managers at 80 central banks, conducted by trade publication Central Banking and HSBC.

According to the FT, concerns over political instability, weak growth and negative interest rates mean reserve managers consider sterling as a long-term, stable alternative to the euro.

This is significant for several reasons. Firstly, reserve managers at 80 central banks are responsible for investments worth more than GBP 5.1 trillion and are tasked with ensuring the value of their domestic currency is maintained. Their decisions will be closely followed by currency traders and investment managers around the world. 

Secondly, sterling’s post referendum plunge was widely noted last June. However, it gained against the US dollar during the first quarter of 2017 – the first quarterly gain since June 2015 – and the bullish bets from central banks suggests a further upward correction is on the horizon. 71 per cent of respondents said the attractiveness of the pound was unchanged in the longer term.

The prospect of an imminent resurgence in sterling is backed by analysts at leading investment banks, which predicted an unwinding of near-record bets against sterling if a constructive tone was adopted by the UK and Brussels continued over Brexit negotiations. Japanese bank Nomura in particular, believes the pound is undervalued against the dollar by as much as 25 per cent.

Thirdly, the survey’s findings highlight concerns over the stability of the monetary union, which was identified as the greatest fear for 2017 for reserve managers. Some central banks have reportedly cut their entire exposure to the euro, unprecedented for the world’s second most popular currency, while others have reduced their holdings of investments denominated in euros to the bare minimum.

The survey found that the ECB’s negative interest rate policy was also key factor causing bearishness on the euro. The policy was designed to boost growth across the Eurozone but has impacted profits at banks and financial institutions across the Eurozone.

While these conclusions give reasons for both optimism and trepidation – it’s a matter of perspective, after all – they highlight the fluid and interlinked nature of politics and the currency markets.

More than GBP 3 trillion of currencies are traded every single day around the world, and its impact stretches far beyond the trading floors of the largest international banks. 

Currency movements affect everything from individual pensions to the cost of daily household goods, and with politicians on both sides of The Channel spinning dealing with multiple, complex challenges, currency markets will listen intently to their every word. 

Brace yourself for a period of excitement, nervousness and volatility over the next 24 months.

London’s post-Brexit future as a financial hub

UK Prime Minister Theresa May finally triggered the formal process for Britain leaving the European Union (EU) on March 29.

While the EU referendum and a post-Brexit scenario may have been something of a blow to confidence in the City, it still has plenty going for it as a financial hub. This year’s Global Financial Centres Index, an international ranking of the world’s leading financial centres, placed London top of the pile.

“London’s rating has been influenced by not knowing what will happen after the UK’s departure [from the EU],” Mark Yeandle, associate director of Z/Yen and author of the report, told The Financial Times. Despite this, London remains top of the list and, over the period which the report tracks, has even recovered some ranking points.

London also remains the world’s biggest FX market by a huge margin, according to the latest BIS Triennial report. While Brexit may result in some jobs being relocated, the industry still believes London will remain front and centre and a key financial hub.

One of the key factors which will insulate London’s FX market is its concentration of trading infrastructure and activity. “When trading becomes concentrated in a particular region and is supported by a comprehensive legal and regulatory environment it develops natural strengths that enable that particular market to function well.” says Dan Marcus, CEO of ParFX, talking to Finance Magnates. “By leaving that pool of liquidity, a firm could disadvantage themselves and their clients.”

This means that, far from vacating the city, many businesses are investing further in London’s future.

Algorithmic trading technology provider Pragma is one such company, with the New York-based firm expanding its equities and FX business to London. “Our investment in the data center at Equinix’s LD6 site offers Pragma360 clients access to state-of-the art technology and the largest ecosystem for foreign exchange trading globally,” says Pragma’s Chief Business Officer, Curtis Pfeiffer.

“Despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, we are moving forward with this large capital expenditure because London, as the largest FX trading centre in the world, hosts the largest datacentre ecosystem for low-latency FX trading applications and we do not see that changing any time soon,” he explains.

While nothing in the negotiations has been determined at this early stage, the City will also weigh up the potential challenges of Brexit.

Continued access to the European single market through financial passporting and the ability to attract skilled technology professionals from across the EU to work in London top the list for many institutions.

“77% of my staff in London were born outside the UK. We need those people. People are very mobile. I just worry that tough negotiations will send the wrong signal.” Michael Kent, CEO of remittance service Azimo, told Financial News.

In addition, J.P. Morgan has reportedly spent the last nine months weighing up various EU cities as a potential new continental home for their operations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Looking beyond the headlines, however, the picture is more nuanced. Most of the relocation plans announced over the past few months involve relatively small numbers of staff. For many banks and financial institutions this may be a hedging exercise rather than a wholesale exodus.

Going forward, the UK government is determined to ensure London remains a central part of the international financial landscape, and it’s worth remembering London has a number of strategic advantages which mean it is likely to continue to be the city of choice. It uses the global language of business, English; it is situated in the perfect timezone between Asia and America; and has a legal system that is world-renowned for clarity and reliability.

None of this will change; in fact, it will continue to ensure London remains open and attractive to business.

In search of FX liquidity

Foreign exchange (FX) is one of the world’s most liquid markets, with around USD 5 trillion exchanged across borders every day.

However, there is a perception in the market that liquidity is on the wane.

This is not necessarily true, according to David Puth, CEO of CLS. Speaking to Euromoney, he said “There is a tendency for market participants to believe that liquidity was better in the past. From what we see at CLS, liquidity appears to be very strong. It is, however, different, with liquidity widely dispersed over a number of different trading venues.”

The pessimism may in part be as a result of the increasing difficulty in defining exactly what liquidity means in the modern market, and measuring it accurately.

This was one of the questions which a recent report on liquidity in the Americas from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) attempted to address.

Traditional liquidity metrics, such as cost metrics, quantity metrics and trade impact, have their uses, but the report finds that none are a perfect way to measure liquidity in the modern market.

This is important because one thing which is clear is that the modern FX market is becoming increasingly complex, making understanding liquidity more difficult.

The market, like many others, is fragmenting as electrification proliferates the number of trading venues and sell side participants put more emphasis on internalising trades.

Whether this fragmentation is having an impact on traders ability to trade, remains an open question.

The BIS report indicates that fragmentation does appear to be having some impact on liquidity measures, particularly when it comes to periods of market stress.

It gives examples such as the 2016 British EU referendum and flash crashes, where traditional liquidity metrics appear to have been impacted across a number of currency pairs, at least over the short term.

Dan Marcus, CEO of ParFX, points out that sometimes individual metrics don’t always give the full picture. “It may be the case that volumes are down from where they were… [However] on ParFX we do not see evidence of a problem with market depth or the ability for traders, who need to trade, fill orders.”

This is in part because, while technology is driving fragmentation, it is also creating opportunities to aggregate liquidity in more efficient ways.

“Buy-side traders have responded [to FX market fragmentation] by turning to algorithms and taking on more execution risk themselves”, says Pragma’s CEO David Mechner.

Liquidity is the lifeblood of the FX market, it is vital that the market can measure it in a way which gives an accurate representation of what it is like to trade. One solution, suggested by Mechner, is a consolidated tape, much like in equities. Until then, the market should think carefully about the metrics used to measure the market and ensure they are fit for purpose.

Adherence to FX Global Code will reform conduct and behaviour

As we near the final stages of the development of the foreign exchange (FX) Global Code, the ACI Financial Markets Association (ACIFMA) is leading efforts to support education and adherence. We will start by making commitment to the Code mandatory for ACIFMA members, and encourage members to prove their adherence in future. This could prove to be a turning point in reforming conduct and behaviour in foreign exchange, writes Brigid Taylor in FX Week.

As a member of the MPG, ACIFMA has both contributed and witnessed the extent to which market participants and policymakers have engaged, discussed, debated and worked together in the best interests of the wider market. This is an industry that transacts more than USD5 trillion of currencies across borders every single day. Its ability to operate smoothly is crucial to the international economy.

There was of course a broad range of views on how best to address a series of topics, such as governance, information sharing, last look and pre-hedging. An array of views is expected in any large consultation, but consensus has been achieved with the best interests of the market in mind.

The final Code will, in my view, outline principles and guidance that is effective, appropriate and strike the right balance. I expect it to act as an essential reference for market participants when conducting business in the wholesale FX markets and when developing and reviewing internal procedures.

Hardwiring adherence – the third objective

This brings us to the final objective set out at the beginning of the process: develop proposals to promote and incentivise adherence to the Code.

For this to happen, it is essential that individuals (i) commit to adhering to the Code; (ii) receive the appropriate training and education so they are clear on what is expected and understand how to comply; and (iii) sign up to a solution where senior managers are able to observe and address any training and educational gaps amongst their subordinates.

This is where the ACI Financial Markets Association (ACIFMA) can play a central role. With a track record in delivering training, education, attestation and best practice principles that stretches back more than half a century, we represent more than 9000 individuals in 60+ countries.

There are several ways we intend to achieve this. Firstly, we will make it a prerequisite for individuals to commit to adhering to the FX Global Code as part of their membership. This means a meaningful proportion of the market – over 9,000 FX professionals around the world – will sign up immediately after the code is launched and commit to understanding, implementing and abiding by the new principles.

There is an urgent need to restore ethics in financial markets and the FX market is aware of its responsibilities to its clients and stakeholders. The significance of the enormous effort undertaken over the past three years should not be underestimated; to date, the level of leadership and engagement has been exemplary. I expect the FX Global Code to be a turning point in reforming conduct and behaviour in foreign exchange and develop a renewed sense of trust in this important sector of any economy.

To read the full article by Brigid, please visit the FX Week website here.

Algo trading on the rise as Pragma establishes European presence

The decision by Pragma to set up a base in London shows how the UK’s capital remains the natural hub for algorithmic currency trading despite the UK’s looming exit from the European Union.

While the debate about the future of London in a post-Brexit environment continues to rage on, there are many who continue to recognise the role of London at the centre of the USD5 trillion currency market.

Algorithmic trading in particular continues to rise in popularity. A report from Greenwich Associates found that the proportion of volume-weighted FX trading executed algorithmically has increased two and a half times in the past three years.

This trend was further highlighted by Pragma Securities, the multi-asset class provider of algorithmic solutions, which established a new connectivity presence in London to service its growing international client base.

London currently accounts for more than a third of all currency trading activity globally, according to the BIS. In a news article in FX Week, David Mechner, CEO of Pragma, expressed confidence in London and its role at the centre of European and international financial markets.

“Equinix’s LD6 site offers Pragma360 clients access to state-of-the art technology and the largest ecosystem for foreign exchange trading globally.

“The banks we service need state-of-the-art trading capabilities for their traders, and buy-side and corporate clients, making LD6 a natural fit.”

Pragma is not alone in its bullishness on London’s future, and it is clear that maintaining a data centre presence remains crucial to an institution’s trading operations, particularly for FX trading. The Financial Times recently reported on Dutch data centre operator Interxion’s £30m investment in its site in London’s Brick Lane.

Curtis Pfeiffer, Chief Business Officer at Pragma, also highlighted the benefits of proximity to London and risks of leaving London’s FX ecosystem.

“We are moving forward with this large capital expenditure because London, as the largest FX trading centre in the world, hosts the largest datacentre ecosystem for low-latency FX trading applications and we do not see that changing any time soon,” said Curtis.

“Institutions will be reluctant to leave the data centre ecosystem in London, which has increased in size significantly over the last 10 years as a result of a network effect – everyone wants their trading servers to be where everyone else’s are. By leaving that ecosystem, a firm could disadvantage themselves and their clients.”

The FX market’s six-month health check is due this week

The Bank of England releases FX trading data from the market for the six months to October last year. That covers a bouncy few months to say the least.

This data set will cover the Brexit vote and the not-entirely-event-free run up to the US election so we’ll be interesting to see what happened with dollar-peso volumes and Sterling which continues to be buffeted by the winds or Brexit and a significant degree of political and economic uncertainty.

These are unprecedented times for the flow and trade of global currencies and the structure of one of the world’s largest and most liquid markets.

The public face of the market has focussed on the conduct of some traders remains in the spotlight following a series of high profile legal cases over alleged malfeasance.

Much of this is being addressed through the Global Foreign Exchange Code of Conduct, led by the Bank for International Settlements.

But it is the changing role of the banks and the funds as makers and takers – the shape-shifting of the formerly API prop traders towards market maker status that, in our view, has delivered the most significant structural change.

Once dominated by the largest global banks, the growth of electronic trading has made it easier for relatively smaller financial firms to become directly involved in currency trading. Access to the market and competing trading venues have exacerbated this process.

Concurrently, regulation has limited the risk these banks can carry on their books, making them more selective about how and with whom they trade.

Currency trading continues to be dominated by what are euphemistically described as “other financial institutions”

This category includes smaller commercial and investment banks, as well as buy-side firms like pension funds, mutual funds and hedge funds. In other words, not the banks.

Broadly, volumes of late have been lower with overall daily turnover declining to around USD 5.1 trillion in April 2016, from USD 5.3 trillion three years ago.

But the there has been a significant uptick in currency market volatility has increased over the past few years.

All eyes on Tuesday to see how the market fared through the events of the latter part of 2016. Expect a few surprises.

Global FX market remains buoyant

The publication of the Bank for International Settlements’ (BIS) Triennial FX Survey results revealed some fascinating findings.

As always, it continues to be 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, and is keenly anticipated by the FX market.

So what did the report tell us?

The headline figure was that, as widely expected, average trading volumes fell slightly to USD5.1 trillion per day, down from USD5.3 trillion in 2013.

But this doesn’t tell the full story; the report found that the appreciation of the US dollar between 2013 and 2016 reduced the US dollar value of turnover in currencies other than the US dollar. This means that, when valued at constant exchange rates, turnover increased by about 4% between April 2016 and April 2013.

This a reality check for everyone with skin in the game. It tells us that the market has been reasonably resilient in the face of many challenges; the SNB revaluation, issues around conduct and low interest rates in major economies to name a few.

While spot transactions fell from USD2 trillion to USD1.7 trillion per day, the decline may have been driven by two main factors. Firstly, the unwillingness of major financial institutions to commit to risk taking activity, and a drop in market volatility. This means the alternative investment community and speculative traders, who are quite active in the spot market, are doing fewer transactions.

The geographical breakdown of trading is also interesting. 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, followed by New York. While London has continued to retain its crown three years on, activity has fallen by 5%, and New York’s share remains flat.

But Asia gained significant ground; Singapore (7.9%), Hong Kong SAR (6.7%) and Japan (6.1%) all increased their market share. The region continues to develop its currency markets and cross border trading continues to increase; it is a positive growth story for the FX market.

In terms of currencies, USD and EUR continue to remain unchallenged as the most actively traded, but the renminbi gained strong ground by moving into 8th place on the list. Emerging market currencies performed well overall, accounting for more than a fifth of trading.

Lastly, the banks have shored up their positions in the industry, in spite of the regulatory and conduct challenges the sector has faced.

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

But trading has increased amongst the interdealer community, accounting for 42% of turnover in April 2016, compared with 39% in April 2013. Banks that are not reporting dealers accounted for a further 22% of turnover, while institutional investors were the third largest group of counterparties at 16%.

So overall, the global foreign exchange market continues to remain buoyant. It remains the largest and most liquid market in the world and a critical component of the global financial system.

As confidence in FX is restored through the global code of conduct and other initiatives, we will see a more liquid and stable marketplace emerge.

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…

Business as usual for London’s FX industry post-Brexit

No signs of exodus to other financial centres as FX recruitment holds firm.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, European financial centres such as Paris and Frankfurt prepared to roll out the red carpet for London’s financial institutions. But this may be more difficult than initially anticipated.

Red tape regulations, heavier personal tax regimes, governmental issues and different social norms means there is little appetite for London’s foreign exchange (FX) trading institutions to move jobs to Europe en mass, according to recruiters keeping close tabs on London’s financial district.

Despite the Brexit vote, and repeated reports about banks accelerating plans to move jobs from the UK, European cities are struggling to match the pull factors that London offers.

London has long been at the heart of the international currency markets, accounting for more than 40% of FX turnover, according to the Bank for International Settlements. With its advanced infrastructure, access to human capital, a strong legal and regulatory system and a time zone that allows London-based traders to service customers all over the world, it has not only maintained its dominance but also attracted a host of emerging fintech companies to form one of the largest technology and innovation hubs in the world – further strengthening the City’s dominance.

All of this means the number of suitable alternatives to London is limited.

In an article for Euromoney, Andrew Kitchen, internal audit manager at recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley, says there has been no increase in the number of people from the leading banks looking to leave the UK since the EU referendum vote.

This may be because transferring large numbers of FX staff to France in particular will not be a straightforward process, adds Raoul Ruparel, co-director of Open Europe. “Culturally and socially, France has taken a different approach to the UK in relation to this type of business in recent years,” he says. “It remains to be seen whether they have the appetite to offer tax or regulatory incentives.”

French employment and personal tax regimes are also likely to be a factor that counts against Paris, according to James Coiley, a partner at law firm Ashurst. “Making overtures to FX banks and traders to relocate to Paris may not play well with supporters of the socialist French government.”

However, the uncertainty seems to have stopped some banks from transferring jobs from mainland Europe to London, according to Kitchen. “What we are seeing is that several candidates based in Europe who had hitherto been looking to relocate to London are now staying put. This is in part due to the level of uncertainty around future Brexit implications, but also the current weak value of the pound,” he warns.

So while the outlook for 2017 remains unclear, London’s FX industry continues to remain resilient in the face of uncertainty and there has yet to be any knee-jerk reactions that disrupt the status quo on either side. Although it is still early days, what is clear is that fears over London losing its FX crown remain largely unfounded for now.

The City now looks to politicians with bated breath.

CLS’s aggregated FX trade data now available

CLS announced it has begun making its FX trade and volume data available via Quandl, an economic and financial data platform.

Subscribers to Quandl will now have access to CLS’s data, which will be delivered on an hourly, daily or monthly basis and aggregated by trade instrument (spot, swap and outright forward) and currency pair.

The currency settlement system, which settles 18 of the world’s most actively-traded currencies, receives an average submission of almost USD 5 trillion every day from banks, asset managers, corporations and hedge funds.

According to David Puth, CEO of CLS, this is the first time CLS has made this level of aggregate data readily available to the market. “It is a key source of trade information that will allow a broad range of users to get a clear picture of FX market activity across major currency pairs and products,” he says.

This view was backed up by Quandl’s co-founder and chief data officer Abraham Thomas, who spoke to trade publication Inside Market Data: “CLS had been aware for some time that it was sitting on a valuable data asset, but didn’t have the distribution infrastructure… or background in monetizing data. They reached out to us a few months ago when they became aware of our data marketplace… especially because our audience includes a bunch of hedge funds and asset managers.”

CLS has historically made aggregated and anonymized data available to the market, but the data made available through Quandl is available in a format more conducive to analysis and with greater frequency.

Customers interested in the data is expected to include large financial institutions, small financial services companies, software companies, academic institutions and research organizations.

Read the news story here.

The Currency Ethicist: One Man’s Push to Fix a Tarnished Market

Last week, the Bank for International Settlements launched a code of conduct for market professionals operating in the world’s largest and most liquid financial market – foreign exchange – and in doing so, laid out its vision of how banks, asset managers, hedge funds, corporates and infrastructure providers should behave and operate when exchanging an estimated USD5.3 trillion a day.

At the heart of this initiative was David Puth, Chairman of the BIS Market Participants Group. A former JPMorgan Chase & Co. and State Street Corp. executive, David led the initiative alongside his role as chief executive officer of New York-based CLS Group, a utility that settles trillions of dollars of currency transactions a day and is considered by the U.S. Treasury to be a systemically important piece of the financial system.

He spoke to to Bloomberg about the importance of developing industry-led guidance around trading behaviour and best practice requirement, and how the code of conduct aims to provide a common set of guidelines to promote the integrity and effective functioning of the market.

Read the article, or watch the Bloomberg interview

Daily traded currency values from banks and funds around the globe hit USD 4.96 trillion in April

A surprise from the global currency markets which have been in something of a state of flux of late.

Daily average value submitted to the CLS global settlement system hit USD 4.96 trillion in April, up 5.7% from the previous month, and up 6.9% from the USD 4.64 trillion in April 2015.

Volumes have been below USD 5 trillion a day for most of 2016 so far but the new CLS figures show that April was the busiest month this year.

And this April matters a great deal because the month’s trading activity feeds into Bank of International Settlement’s triennial survey of the foreign exchange market released in September.

The survey is the most holistic picture of global FX market activity, showing detailed activity broken down by trading centres, counterparty types and currency pairs.

The global currency markets remains in a state of flux. Diverging monetary policy, changes in liquidity provision, venue usage and the profile and diversity of trading counterparties are all factors changing the shape of the market.

Take trading venues. Despite the uptick in month on month CLS settlement activity in April, trading volumes actually fell on some of the major trading platforms.

EBS reported USD 82.3 billion last month, which was actually a drop of 15% on the USD 96.9 billion last year recorded in April 2015. It was a similar picture over at Thomson Reuters.

Pragma launches SmartFix algorithm to improve FX trading performance against WM/R 4pm

Pragma Securities, a leading provider of high performance algorithmic trading tools, has launched a sophisticated algorithm designed to improve average execution performance against the daily 4pm WM/Reuters foreign exchange benchmark fixing.

Following recommendations from regulators in the wake of the FX rate-rigging scandal, in February 2015 the methodology underpinning the WM/R benchmark was changed, widening the calculation window from one minute for the most liquid currencies to five minutes.

In addition, banks have largely shifted their execution of customer fix orders from the spot desk to their electronic desks, where time-weighted average price (TWAP) execution algorithms are often used.

Pragma’s research highlights that together, these changes have created predictable patterns that can be leveraged to improve trading performance using only publicly available data. The full research findings are available via the Pragma Securities website.

Pragma’s new SmartFIX algorithm is built on the firm’s own research, which has identified predictable patterns of trading behaviour around the key FX benchmark.

The algorithm observes only publicly available information, and adjusts its trading rate in a systematic way based on those observations to achieve better execution on average for traders benchmarked to the Fix. In addition, these dynamic adjustments are layered on top of a proprietary trading schedule that achieves lower tracking error against the benchmark than a simple TWAP

David Mechner, CEO at Pragma Securities comments: “For traders that are constrained to match the fixing rate, our algorithm can reduce risk relative to a simple TWAP, and can also improve execution quality for a modest increase in risk. This makes it a good tool for banks servicing customer fix orders whether in a principal or agency manner.”

The new algorithm complements Pragma’s existing foreign exchange platform offering, Pragma360, which includes a suite of execution algorithms, transaction cost analysis (TCA), risk controls, and a next-generation algorithm monitoring system called Panorama. Pragma360 is provided as a broker-neutral trading solution to banks and asset managers.

London’s leading position as a USD 2.2 trillion hub for FX trading would be harmed by a Brexit, according to poll of currency market professionals

London’s position as the world’s main currency trading centre would be threatened by a British exit from the European Union, with Frankfurt, Paris, New York and Dublin likely to be the main beneficiaries, according to a survey of foreign exchange (FX) market professionals.

As reported in Bloomberg and Reuters, the research team at Chatsworth Communications polled 12,000 members of the ACI Financial Markets Association, the largest global trade body representing the international currency markets, for their personal views ahead of the UK Referendum vote on 23 June.

Key findings:

  • Two-thirds (65%) of respondents believe a UK vote to leave the EU would negatively affect London’s position as the world’s largest FX trading centre, while 13% believe a Brexit would have a positive impact.
  • Of those concerned about the negative impact on London, more than 70% identified Frankfurt as the trading centre most likely to benefit from a Brexit, followed by Paris (49%), New York (40%) and Dublin (28%).
  • 80% of all respondents believe the UK will vote to remain in the EU.

London’s dominance of the foreign exchange market has grown exponentially as the size of the market expanded, and is, by far, the largest and most established centre for currency trading. Nearly 41% of global trading goes through London, more than double the market share of New York, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS)*.

Currency trading increased globally to an average USD 5.3 trillion (GBP 3.8 trillion) per day in 2013. The vast majority (75%) occurred in five jurisdictions: London (41%), New York (19%), Singapore (5.7%), Japan (5.6%) and Hong Kong (4.1%).*

 

Detailed findings:

A UK vote to leave the EU will…

  • Positively affect London’s position as the world’s largest FX trading centre: 13%.
  • Negatively affect London’s position as the world’s largest FX trading centre: 65%.
  • Have no effect: 22%.

How do you think the UK public will vote?

  • The UK will vote to remain in the EU: 80%.
  • The UK will vote to leave the EU: 20%.

Which global trading centres do you think will benefit the most if the UK votes to leave (NOTE: answered only by respondents who believe a Brexit will have a negative impact on London)?

  • Frankfurt: 71%.
  • Paris: 49%.
  • New York: 40%.
  • Dublin: 28%.
  • Zurich: 14%.
  • Hong Kong: 8%.
  • Singapore: 7%.
  • Geneva: 7%
  • Dubai: 4%.
  • Tokyo: 4%.

How long have you worked in the FX industry?

  • Less than one year: 0%.
  • 1-2 years: 9%.
  • 3-5 years: 10%.
  • 6-10 years: 16%.
  • 11-15 years: 17%.
  • 16-20 years: 18%.
  • More than 20 years: 30%.

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

JPY Gains, AUD Falls as China Weakens Yuan

Ilya Spivak, Currency Strategist, at DailyFX, comments:

“China has triggered another sharp burst of risk aversion after devaluing the Yuan by over 0.5 percent at today’s daily fix, marking the largest downward revision since Augusts’ fateful readjustment.  The sentiment-linked Australian Dollar dropped alongside Asian share prices while the safety-linked Japanese Yen outperformed. Cycle-sensitive commodities including copper and crude oil fell while gold and silver traded higher. Chinese stocks were shut down for the day after hitting the limit-down threshold of 7 percent.

 “The consensus interpretation for the markets’ negative response is that Chinese devaluation speaks to a need for emergency stimulus expansion, which implies greater-than-expected malaise in the world’s second-largest economy. Weakening the currency can be seen as a form monetary stimulus however, so one might have expected markets to cheer Beijing’s actions. With that in mind, it seems as though price action reflects a reflexive response drawing surface-level parallels with Augusts’ panic selling rather than a sober evaluation of China’s actions on their fundamental merits.

 “Looking ahead, S&P 500 futures are pointing sharply lower, hinting that risk aversion is aiming to continue in the hours ahead. The economic calendar is relatively quiet, putting the spotlight on Fed-speak as the source of event risk du-jour. Comments from Richard Lacker and Charles Evans, Presidents of the Richmond and Chicago Fed branches respectively, are due to cross the wires.

 “The two policymakers represent the hawkish and dovish extremes of last years’ contingent of FOMC voters. Traders will look to their remarks for clues about the likely 2016 rate hike path. The central bank projected four 25bps increases last month while the markets continue to envision no more than two. Investors’ dovish lean skews volatility risk to the upside for the US Dollar in the event that cumulative commentary strikes a hawkish tone.”

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