Spot FX Gets Walloped!

The BIS triennial survey, the most comprehensive data point, indicated that overall FX volume shrunk 5% from $5.36 Trln in 2013 to $5.09 in 2016. However, FX spot fell by a whopping 23.7%. London maintained overall geographic leadership but saw its share move down to 37% from 41% in 2013. APAC trading centers saw growth from 15% to 21% market share.  Overall, FX swaps and currency swaps grew, and cross currency swaps grew sharply, while FX option volume nosedived.

Spot fell across the major currency pairs Euro 12.5%, Yen 12.5%, Swiss Franc by 13.6% with Sterling rising by 2.6% as the lead up to Brexit caused considerable repositioning in Sterling assets.  No surprise as the Chinese Renminbi rose 41% and became the 8th most traded currency pair.

Capital constraints, digestion of regulatory change in the US and impending global regulation, changes in traditional liquidity provision, scandals and market disruptions since the last survey in 2013 are the main causes of the drop in spot. Additionally, the impact of the SNB’s surprise move in 2015 dislocated active FX trading and had many prime brokers reevaluating  their risk considerations. Creating challenges for smaller and riskier trading shops and hedge funds in maintain FX prime brokerage probably moved some of the FX spot volume onto exchange trade FX futures.


The market structure in FX continues to change quickly with acceleration in the adoption of digital models for trading and analyzing data in the FX market at the same time as major changes in FX market making and liquidity provision which has impacted spot FX trading.

 

 

Human and Machine-Rise of the Cyborg: The Cycle of Voice Trading

Celent has explored voice trading in Human & Machine-Rise of the Cyborg: The Cycle of Voice Trading, published yesterday. In this piece, we look at the power of voice trading as well as the business drivers, challenges and forces that are driving change in voice communication, collaboration and voice market engagement.

Celent believes that voice is a key channel that will remain relevant and will work more seamlessly with electronic and data channels in the coming years. A move toward unified communication approach and advances in technologies, combined with a challenging business environment, are reshaping the modern trading desk. Cost cutting, front office effectiveness, gleaning better insight into customer behaviour combined with digital automation are pushing this frontier forward. Voice trading remains the major channel for transferring risk, across asset classes, yet remains a challenge due to the difficulties in leveraging this unstructured data set.

Advances in both preparing and leveraging data for advanced analytics are creating a demand for business insights-the demand for better data is ever growing. Firms are beginning to leverage advanced data tools for not only risk mitigation and regulatory requirements, but are creating front office opportunities for better counterparty engagement and communication.

Fintech continues to advance in the capital markets and the implications are profound for incumbent players. Firms that effectively leverage the full spectrum of innovation available are becoming more streamlined and more effective. The overarching need for business model evolution and the importance of technology in the markets continues to ramp up. As one example,last week alternative dealer Citadel Securities hired Microsoft COO to be the new CEO of it electronic market making business.

We are surrounded by advances in voice technology for interacting with machines in our life in general. We are getting comfortable with Apple’s Siri on mobile, and Amazon's Echo in our homes. Similar technologies have advanced in areas outside the capital markets, but leading firms are trying to leverage voice data for better insight, engagement, and automation. While we are nowhere near Robotic Stingray Powered by Heart Cells from Rats published in last week’s WSJ, in merging machine and biological elements we are heading more into an era of the cyborg-where capital market participants will increase their direct engagement with machines via voice interaction.

Being smart with artificial intelligence in capital markets

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new buzzword to talk about on the street. Financial institutions need to embrace AI, as we have explained in our January report, or else they risk to lose competitiveness or be coded by the regulators more than they can do it themselves.

I am in NYC next week to share Celent’s view on AI for capital markets. A little preview for your here.

Today we are at a crossroad where data scientists have the computing power, the alternative mind-sets to search and the willingness to look for narrow AI solutions, not the wide AI brain that we should get to in 2030 according to experts. This enables vendors to come up with amazing solutions from Research Scaling with Natural Language Generation to Market Surveillance/Insider Trading with Machine Learning Natural Language Processing or even Virtual Traders via Deep Learning of technical analysis graphics traders look at to take decisions.

The amount of data available is another big driver for the rebirth of AI, and regulators are looking at ways of accessing that data and using it. This is borderline what my colleagues would call RegTech, and it’s coming.

Our Q2 agenda reflects our understanding that you want to know more about AI: we will share ideas on solutions for the buy side, for exchanges and for the sell side. But in the meantime I hope to bring back some cool ideas from the big apple, hopefully also from the secretive quants working in the dark Silicon Alleys.

Most of the vendors I have profiled are specialists’ boutiques, but the cost of such research is however so enormous that generalists are trying to productize their fundamental research for various sectors, from health to homeland security, including financial services in partnership with financial institutions.

This morning I woke up to great news that Microsoft is at the forefront of Deep Learning on voice, imagine what this could bring to Anti-Money Laundering or Insider Trading products.  The other news was that some top quants of Two Sigma just solved an MRI algo to predict heart disease, and I hope other great minds will, as most of them usually do, also give back to society by applying their amazing knowledge to such grand challenges.

Markit merger – Fintech disruption and data

Spring has sprung and Markit, a firm that touches every corner of the capital market, starts this snowy spring morning in NY, with news of a mega-merger. Markit has grown by offering solutions, data and analytics to much of the capital market value chain as well as through multiple acquisitions, so it is interesting to see it now joining with IHS, to become part of a multi-industry vertical firm. According to the press release, IHS (NYSE: IHS) and Markit (NASDAQ: MRKT) will combine in an all-share merger of equals.  The combined company’s reported results for fiscal year 2015 include approximately: $3.3 billion in revenue. It will be interesting to see how Markit’s three divisions will fit into the multi-verticals that IHS serves. Markit’s three divisions: Information, which has been a source of pricing and reference data, with analytics across asset classes; Processing, has been a critical source of efficiencies and automation to the capital markets, particularly in OTC derivatives, FX, and the loan space; and, Solutions, has been a source of managed solutions. Like many people in the financial industry, I was surprised by the announcement of this deal. On a strategic basis, I have thought of Markit combining with a larger market data provider, adding additional data and valuation tools to that firm, or feeling in key data or automation gaps. Or, other market participants across the capital market transactional space which  have been recent, and eager buyers, of data companies. They have been eager to own not only the data, for the creation of IP, for the bigdata analytics, for the potential data tools in the  electronification of trading, but for the recurring and stable revenue model. One recent example, is the ICE acquisition of IDC. Whether any of these other types of deals were considered, I don’t know.  Perhaps, the deal speaks to the challenges that are seen in the capital market as the industry continues to find its way in the post-crisis world. The lack of future clarity, as financial services firms digest the implications of FinTech disruptors,  along with the realities of today’s regulations and capital restrictions, drove the key decision makers to expanding to other industry verticals. However, after two days of mulling the deal over: Markit has sat in a unique place within the financial services, since its inception in credit market data thirteen years ago. The firm has morphed into not only providing critical data, analytics and valuation tools,  across asset classes, for a broad swath of the capital markets, but has been instrumental in bringing much needed automation and  efficiencies to some of the thorniest challenges that the industry has faced within processing OTC rates, credit, FX, and the syndicated loan space, with its processing division, as well as a variety of services and software within the solutions  division. Markit’s growth has always been based on a strategy of hiring key talent, directly from the industry, purposeful partnerships, all combined with aggressive acquisition. This combination has allowed them to create holistic middle and back office solutions, with engaged buy-in from key partners. Both Markit and IHS sit on vast resources, of the true currency of our time, data. Markit in the capital markets and IHS in energy as well as other industries. We can envision creating indices in energy  products, such as Markit has done in credit. We can also imagine creation of products like ETFs and smart equity across the industries where these two companies sit. They can also create research and analytics across the spectrum of industries where the combined company competes. I can see what each firm sees in the other.  

A last look at Last Look? Barclays and FX market structure

The FX market is trying to digest the latest large FX fine and the impact on market structure. According to last week’s press release from the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), Barclays was fined US$150 million for “automated, electronic foreign exchange trading misconduct.” The order goes on to detail this additional fine is a result of using its Last Look system to automatically reject what Barclays determined would be an unprofitable trade within the time window created by the system’s defined Last Look window. This brings foreign exchange fines by NYDFS against Barclays to $635 million. After spending time this weekend reading the order, it is clear that the issue at hand is not a Last Look issue, but rather improper customer notification and trading practice. In this case, Barclays was abusing both the intent and scope of Last Look. While Last Look gets a lot of discussion recently, it is a byproduct of market making in principal markets, such as FX and fixed income from a pre-electronic age, and the translation of those markets into electronic trading. As FX became more electronic, the European banks were early innovators in mapping principal trading functionality into electronic trading. In the case of FX, it became necessary to create a means to quote to thousands of customers through various channels (i.e. single dealer portals, multi dealer platforms, aggregated feed channels) at acceptable bid/ask spreads. Given that there are different types of clients, it is necessary to be able to quote different types of clients with very different risk profiles, technology ability, and holding time frames in different ways. A liquidity provider looks at an HFT counterparty much differently than a large asset manager putting on a hedging FX trade. Last Look is not inherently a bad practice, but it is a practice that when performed needs to be clearly mapped out to users of a platform. Platforms that incorporate Last Look functionality will be ensuring that guidelines are clear, functionality is sound, and procedures are well documented. In an OTC principal market, liquidity provision is not free. In the current FX market structure, Last Look is a necessary tool for many liquidity providers. Over time Last Look will become a less important component of FX trading. It is not clear that can be regulated away without disrupting the ability of market makers to provide liquidity in the current market structure, and given the global nature of FX. At the same time, concerns around Last Look are changing the calculus of liquidity between disclosed liquidity and anonymous liquidity. In my latest report FX Trading 2.0: Technology and Platforms, I explore the evolution of FX and how the market will incorporate all the forces at play. In many ways, after building on incremental change over decades, the FX landscape has shifted abruptly recently. The venue landscape has brought together once disparate centers of liquidity within the same firms. From the perspective of identifying the ideal venue to interact with, the landscape has become more challenging. Many of the FX platforms are separate or partially separate pools of liquidity within the same firm.

Intra-IDB part II: The ICAP to eCAP deal

Where there is smoke there is fire and the proposed outline for a deal which I discussed in my blog this weekend was announced today.  Long time rivals  in the inter dealer broker (IDB) space Tullett Prebon and ICAP are coming together with Tullett buying ICAP in an all-stock deal. Tullett will now be the 800 lb. gorilla of voice brokering, with about 1500 ICAP brokers  going to Tullett as part of the deal as well as another 1000 employees. The deal will also include certain electronic assets like  ICAP’s 40.2% ownership in iSwap (IRS) , certain JVs and as well as the not clearly defined information services revenue. The details of the deal terms, economics and structuring are discussed in the press release and the analyst presentation. I will focus on certain key points of the deal looking at the ICAP side. ICAP has followed a strategy of acquiring growth and putting together an impressive portfolio of front to back  technology assets. Historically, its main challenge in maintaining the voice business was not only the lower margins, and slowing environment for many of the products traded  but the internal competition between its voice and electronic channels. The electronic businesses have not grown as they should, had this internal friction not been present. This is the case across asset classes. But, as they say, better late than never, and ICAP is on the road to becoming a different company. The new ICAP (let’s call it eCAP) will include: • FX venue EBS and the related EBS businesses • Treasury exchange BrokerTec • Post-trade and processing companies TriOptima and Traiana which serve across asset classes with a focus on FX, rates and credit • FinTech incubator Euclid which has been active in making strategic bets for the firm • Tullett will have the right to the ICAP name What is not entirely clear at this point is what “information services” will remain with eCAP. Given the importance of market data, a detailed understanding of the  value of  eCAP will be a function of whether certain market data assets like data from EBS and BrokerTec will remain with eCAP. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if the eCAP has the right to compete in interest rate swaps, or what its plans will be to develop an electronic platform for IRS given the loss of iSwap. I would imagine, given the importance of interest rate swaps in the rate world that the new firm will want to have a robust offering in this area. In sum,  eCAP will be a lean technology, execution, venue, tools, pricing, and analytics company. Of course, eCAP will still have a vested interested in the voice business as it will hold about 20% of the newly issued Tullett stock.      

Intra-inter dealer broker deal: facing the future

Speculation reached the point Friday afternoon such that a press release came out regarding the discussions of two major brokers. ICAP and Tullett Prebon, two of the largest inter dealer brokers (IDBs) announced that they were in advanced discussions; it appears ICAP is poised to sell its voice brokering businesses and certain electronic platforms to Tullett. On first blush, it looks as though ICAP will be shedding its voice brokering businesses and certain e-platforms; while maintaining such platforms as EBS and Broker Tec (FX and Treasuries) as well as other platform assets, ancillary businesses around these platforms (such as data and analytics), as well as ICAP’s extensive post-trade infrastructure. Friday’s press release detailed the assets that would be part of the transaction. In summary: • ICAP’s three regionally managed voice broking businesses in EMEA, the Americas and Asia Pacific (1,458 voice brokers); • (“APAC”), including all e-trading products and services developed by ICAP’s e-Commerce team (including Fusion and Scrapbook) (together “Global Broking”); • ICAP’s 40.23% economic interest in iSwap, a global electronic trading platform for EUR, USD, GBP and AUD IRS; • Revenues and operating profits from sales of information services products directly attributable to Global Brokering and iSwap; and, • Certain JVs and investments. IDBs have struggled in the post-crisis world to deal with the changing dynamics of regulation, the nature of their place in the market and lower volumes. Furthermore, MiFID II is on the horizon in Europe and will further change the competitive nature of the IDB space. More importantly, in many cases, IDBs have struggled for years with the right formula to develop electronic distribution and sales channels without cannibalizing their core voice businesses. The pressure on the IDB community has been immense. ICAP now has an opportunity to focus on an electronic future, across assets, from font to back office.  ICAP, with holdings across markets will now be a considerably leaner technology company. It will be able to serve its traditional dealer clients as well as other businesses in the changing capital market world. It is very likely in the next day, with the confirmation of a deal, ICAP will be beginning a path toward being a very different, technology and processing based company. As a final note, it will be interesting to see if there are any other competitors, on the side-lines, who will be positioned to step-in and change the final parameters, or even players in the deal (as was the case with BGC/Cantor in the GFI Group deal).

The future is here

The pressures are well known in banking and the capital markets. Each month there are front page articles of scaling back, overhauling, reorganizing, or closing major bank lines. A continued reworking, a forging of a new business is occurring. Old models are shrinking and being replaced by new business models or being cast aside. Since the 2008 crisis, wave after wave of pressure has made this perfectly clear. Capital constraints, on-going regulatory pressures, and an ultra-low interest rate environment have all struck hard at the existing banking & broker/dealer system. Nearly all players-big and small- are rethinking the very core of their businesses. And this is a multi-threaded problem across all businesses: equities, FX, fixed income, and derivatives. Banks and broker/dealers are trying to balance their existing franchises against the pressures they are facing to create a lean profitable business that supports their clients. There are no easy answers, given the strong interdependence between the wealth, asset management, and capital markets businesses across all products. Many of the solutions are moving from efficiency, or cost-cutting to effectiveness. Costs are being cut-there are improvements in risk, compliance, processing. The cost side is getting better but the challenge remains on the revenue side. This drive for effectiveness is driving business models that support internal and external clients from a compliance, transparency, regulatory, fairness and cost perspective are driving more automation and electronic trading solutions. Celent will be discussing the evolving landscape of innovation in automation and technology at two upcoming roundtables. On September 15th in London we will be looking at changes in the US and European fixed income markets and how new technologies are driving change. Then on September 22nd in Zurich, we will be looking at wealth management and the capital markets and the many changes that are occurring in Swiss banking.

Swiss Banking 2025: getting to tomorrow

What will the Swiss Capital Markets look like in a decade from now-in 2025? As private banking and wealth management digest the many changes in the post-crisis financial world what will be the implications on sourcing financial products and liquidity? We have already seen new business models reacting to these new pressures. At our next client roundtable this September 22 in Zurich, the Celent wealth management and capital markets teams will look at opportunities for innovation in the face of regulatory and economic pressures, including the pressures on flow businesses that support a variety of clients, operational forces driving automation and the hunt for liquidity in capital markets. Topics such as competition from emerging offshore hubs such as Singapore will be discussed as well. Joining us for a lively and interactive discussion will be strategy, technology and innovation leaders from European banks, brokerages and other financial institutions. This will be a great opportunity to hear the views of numerous financial service leaders in a private setting. While space for the roundtable is limited, I’d welcome hearing from individuals interested in the topics above and/or potentially attending.

The sun never sets on FIS/SunGard – update

In last several hours, we have seen major deals in the financial services. SunGard after a decade of private equity ownership has been acquired by Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS) in a $9.1 billion deal, pre-empting a previously discussed IPO. The SunGard deal will expand FIS further into banking and capital markets creating a combined company with $9.2 billion in revenue. If we thought SunGard touched every aspect of the capital markets, the acquisition by FIS, combines FIS’s position in banking and payments to create a truly global financial offering. The sun will never set on FIS/SunGard from the perspective of its offerings. The SunGard acquisition offers solutions in trading/execution, asset management, wealth, security lending and post-trade processing. The trend of consolidating vendors in the capital markets has just been simplified. It appeared SunGard was on an IPO path with the financial owners of the firm leveraging an active fintech public market to exit their positions, but FIS as a strategic buyer saw an opportunity to expand its financial technology portfolio at a discount to the original 2005 deal.