With an unprecedented level of concurrent regulatory and market structure changes occurring in 2021 and 2022, many firms are asking how they can best navigate the complexity and ensure complete compliance. Transcend’s CEO, Bimal Kadikar, recently joined a panel discussion at State Street’s 2021 Collateral+ Symposium on Post-trade compliance. The panel’s topic on Post Trade: Are you ready to be compliant?”, addressed how to manage the numerous, overlapping mandates coming into effect over the next two years.
Panel participants included:
Staffan Ahlner, Global Head of Collateral Management, State Street
Barney Binder, Head of Collateral, HSBC
Bimal Kadikar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Transcend
John Falcone, Head of Portfolio Finance, Field Street Capital Management
Moderator: Chris Watts, Co-Founder & Director, Margin Tonic
During the session, the panelists explained that the timing of various regulations, from Uncleared Margin Rules to FINRA TBAs to CSDR, is creating the risk of a “regulatory bottleneck.”
To solve for the potential bottleneck, most firms are turning to technology. In fact, a session poll revealed that the majority of attendees are looking to transform their internal technology infrastructure to satisfy the upcoming compliance requirements. While this digital transformation journey can help solve many compliance challenges, if implemented disparately, complexity and regulatory scrutiny could increase. As a result, it is important that a firm’s regulatory technology stack be interconnected and take a holistic approach.
So, how are firms looking to outsource and leverage third-party technology solutions to ease compliance burdens? For this next question, the panelists discussed opportunities for technology providers to provide expertise and help meet the regulatory deadlines.
Firms that have legacy processes in place can meet the upcoming regulatory requirements through a combination of spreadsheets, manual workflows, and disparate software solutions. However, because these processes are prone to human error and are not scalable, they can create process inefficiencies and increase risks. As such, a holistic approach is much more effective and valuable for firms looking to extend the impact of their regulatory compliance.
Firms need to comply with UMR regulations by ensuring they are meeting the critical requirements of identifying, agreeing and segregating Initial Margin (IM) with all their counterparties. This process alone creates significant operational burdens thus requiring process review and automation. Although a lot of the focus is on meeting basic requirements, it may not be sufficient as firms look to review their end-to-end capabilities. In order to meet mandated requirements, firms will need to also think about:
How to review and ensure that collateral posted by counterparties at a tri-party or a third-party meets eligibility requirements. Doing so requires visibility and review of the IM collateral as well as associated eligibility schedules.
How to gain visibility into inventory across multiple custodians and tri-parties to evaluate optionality of collateral to be posted.
How to identify optimal collateral to post across multiple counterparties and obligations across potentially multiple triparty or third-party channels.
As firms consider how to meet these requirements, they have three options:
Partner with an outsourced provider such as State Street
Develop strategic and technical capabilities within their internal infrastructure
Build a hybrid model that combines expertise from an outsourced provider with additional internal capabilities
Regardless of the selected option, firms must ensure they have a plan to meet all requirements.
The panel was later asked about their vision for the future of margin and collateral. The verdict was unanimous that the margin and collateral ecosystem is evolving very fast and firms need to think about how to create a real-time and operationally scalable infrastructure to tackle these challenges. Firms need a holistic view of all margins/obligations, inventory, constraints and other data in real-time – Bimal called it “connected data ecosystem”. This connected ecosystem can be used to drive the optimization of collateral and funding decisions that ultimately will be a competitive advantage in today’s evolving landscape.
By connecting data holistically, post-trade compliance can be fully automated across regulatory requirements, and optimization strategies can improve P&L. Bimal explained, “This sophisticated approach to optimization not only benefits the firm with a more efficient, accurate approach for complex regulatory reporting, but also drives stronger business results by enabling better inventory, funding and liquidity decisions.”
To replay the entire panel discussion and watch other sessions from State Street’s Collateral+ Symposium, click here.
Transcend CEO Bimal Kadikar spoke to Global Investor about the current status and approaching deadline for QFC Recordkeeping compliance. Despite industry requests for a QFC delay, “…most market participants do not believe it will be approved, because the whole reason behind QFC Recordkeeping is that during times of turmoil and high volatility, if an institution is in trouble, they have a full picture of the financial contracts….The pandemic definitely had some impact on the preparation part. But, for the most part, I think most of the financial firms from a project planning perspective are not facing any major delays…”
A US regime that a large number of global market participants are starting to fully assess could leave firms crunched for time to implement a comprehensive end-to-end solution, according to BJ Marcoullier, Transcend’s head of sales.
Qualified Financial Contracts (QFC) recordkeeping, a US regulatory regime that will be in its final and largest phase as of June 2021, is designed to reduce market instability in the case of failure of a major financial institution, as detailed under the Dodd-Frank Act, and is one of the regimes designed to prevent another financial crisis.
What were the key themes for your business in 2019?
At Transcend, we have seen a growing shift in the industry towards firm-wide optimization of collateral, liquidity and funding. Our clients’ goals are to manage their capital more effectively and drive efficiencies across the enterprise, and that requires a coordinated, integrated and automated approach across siloed business lines, systems and processes. It is no small task to connect and harmonize vast sets of data related to collateral – such as agreements, positions and trades – and various workflows, but the returns are quickly realized. The good news is that firms can pursue their optimization strategy widely, or they can choose to focus on a priority area of their business and scale from there.
What are your expectations for 2020?
In 2020, we expect a continued increase in complexity and bottom-line pressures. Firms need to provide differentiated, competitive services to drive profitability, despite potentially operating with legacy technology and processes. Plus, they face growing reporting requirements and regulatory pressures (such as QFC Recordkeeping and SFTR). This is leading more firms to the realization of the need – and benefits – to undertake a centralized optimization strategy to help overcome multiple challenges through a singular solution.
What trends are getting underway that people may not know about but will be important?
Everyone understands that automation in the funding and collateral space is occurring at a fast pace. At Transcend, we believe that in five years, as much as 90% of funding will be done by machines. But what is not fully in focus is that connecting data from disparate sources is the key to this next evolution in the funding markets. Today, most data is fragmented across a firm. To be effective, data needs to flow from the original sources and be readable by each system in a fully automated way. Thus, harmonizing and connecting data needs to be every firm’s priority in order to achieve automation and optimization.
You may disagree with the number of years or the percent, but everyone understands that automation in the funding and collateral space is occurring at a fast pace. The question is how you prepare for this inevitable future? Our view is that connecting data from disparate sources is the key to the next evolution in the funding markets. A guest post from Transcend.
Who in the capital markets industry isn’t seeking greater profitability or returns? From balance sheet pressures and competitive dynamics to more resources to comply with regulation, focusing on transformative change to advance the firm has been a huge challenge. At the same time, technology is evolving at a rapid pace and the availability of structured and unstructured data is presenting a whole new level of opportunities. For firms to realize this opportunity, connecting disparate data and adopting smart algorithms across the institution are a critical part of any strategy.
Advances in technology have allowed data to be captured and presented to traders, credit, regulators, and operations. But right now, most data are fragmented, looking more like spaghetti than a coherent picture of activity across the organization. Individual extracts exist that sometimes cross silos, but more often cannot be reconciled across sources or users. To be effective, data needs to flow from the original sources and be readable by each system in a fully automated way. It does not matter if individual systems are old or new, in the cloud or behind firewalls, from vendor packages or in-house technology: they all have to work together. We call this connected data.
Businesses have understood for some time that this will require growth of automation, which will be a critical driver of success. Banks and asset managers know that they have to do something: doing nothing is no option at all. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are part of the solution, and firms have embarked on projects large and small to enable automation under watchful human eyes. The new element to consider in the pace of change is the ability of machines to connect, process and analyze data within technology platforms for exposure management, regulatory reporting and pricing. The more data that feeds into technology on the funding desk, the more that automated decision-making can occur.
While individual systems and silos can succeed on their own, a robust and integrated data management process brings the pieces together and enables the kinds of decision-making that today can only be performed by senior finance and risk managers. Connected data is therefore possibly the most important link between automation and profitability. It is a daunting task to consider major changes to all systems that are in play, but most firms are adopting a strategy to build a centralized platform that brings data from multiple businesses and sources. A key benefit of this strategy is that advances in technology and algorithms can be applied to this platform, enabling multiple businesses or potentially the whole enterprise to benefit from this investment.
The risk of inaction
Connected data can stake its claim as the new, most competitive advantage in the markets. Like algorithmic trading and straight-through processing, which were once novelties and are now taken for granted, the build-out of a connected data architecture combined with the tools to analyze data will initially provide some firms with an important strategic advantage in cost and profitability management.
With all the talk about data, there is an important human element to what inaction means. In a data-driven, technology-led world, having more or all the right people will not stop a firm from being left behind, and in fact may become a strategic disadvantage. The value of automation is to identify a trade opportunity based on its characteristics, the firm’s capital and the current balance sheet profile. Humans cannot see this flow with the same speed as a computer, and cannot make as fast a decision on whether the trade is profitable from a funding and liquidity perspective. While the classic picture of a trader shouting across a room to check whether a trade is profitable makes for a good movie scene, it is unwieldy in the current environment. A competitor with connected data in place can make that decision in a fraction of the time and execute the trade before the slower firm has brought the trade to enough decision-makers to move forward.
The competitive race towards connected data means that firms with more headcount will see higher costs and less productivity. As firms with efficient and automated funding decision tools employ new processes for decision-making, they will gain a competitive advantage due to cost management, and could even drive spread compression in the funding space. This will put additional pressure on firms that have stood still, and is the true danger of inaction at this time.
Action items for connected data
Data is only as good as the reason for using it. Firms must embark on connecting their data with an understanding of what the data are for, also called foundational functionality. This is the initial building block for what can later become a well-developed real-time data infrastructure.
Each transaction has three elements: a depository ladder for tracking movements by settlement locations; a legal entity or trading desk ladder; and a cash ladder. Each of these contain critical information for connecting data across the organization. If your firm has a cross-business view of fixed income, equities and derivatives on a global basis, then you are due a vacation. We have not yet seen this work completed by any firm, however, and expect that this will be a major focus for banks through 2019 and 2020.
Ultimately, an advanced data infrastructure must provide and connect many types of data in real-time, such as referential data, market data, transactions and positions. “Unstructured” data, such as agreements and terms, capital and liquidity constraints, and risk limits, must also be available more broadly for better decision-making, despite their tendency to be created in some specific silo. But an important early step is ensuring visibility into global, real-time inventory across desks, businesses, settlement systems and transaction types; this is critical to optimize collateral management. Access to accurate data can increase internalization and reduce fails, cutting costs and operational RWA. This is especially important for businesses that have decoupled their inventory management functionality over time, for example, OTC derivatives, prime brokerage and securities financing. Likewise, the ability to access remote pools of high-quality assets, whether for balance sheet or lending purposes, can have direct P&L impacts.
Step two is the development of rules-based models to establish the information flows that are critical to connecting data across a firm and simultaneously optimizing businesses on a book, business entity, and firm levels. The system must understand a firm’s flows and what variables they need to monitor and control within a business line and across the firm. Data will push in both directions, for example to and from regulatory compliance databases or between settlement systems and a trader’s position monitors. Rules-based systems simplify and focus on what is otherwise a very complex set of inter-related and overlapping priorities (see Exhibit 1).
Connected data can enable significant improvements such as:
Regulatory models can be fed on a real-time pre-trade “what-if scenario” so businesses can know how much a particular trade absorbs in terms of capital, liquidity or balance sheet for the given return, or if a trade is balance sheet-, capital- or margin-reducing.
Data can feed analytics that tells a trader, salesperson, manager or any stakeholder what kind of trades they should focus on in order to keep within their risk limits, with information on a granular client level.
XVA desks, the groups often charged with balancing out a firm’s risk and capital, can not only be looped in but push information back to a trader in real-time so they can know the impact of a trade.
Systems that track master agreements can be linked and analytics can point toward the most efficient agreement to use for a given trade.
Trading and settlement systems can interface with market utilities, both backward and forward.
Transfer pricing tools can be built into the system core and be transparent to all stakeholders with near instantaneous speed, at scale.
Transcend’s recent experience with some of the top global banks shows the value of consolidating data into one infrastructure. We are connecting front- and back-office to market infrastructure and providing information in a dashboard, in real-time. As trades book on the depository ladder, key stakeholders can see the change in their dashboard application and can make decisions on funding manually or feedback new parameters to pricing models across the enterprise. The same transaction and positions affect the real-time inventory view from legal entity or customer perspectives as well as driving cash and liquidity management decisions. Over time, as banks get more comfortable with their data management tools, parts of decision-making that follow specific rules can be automated. This will be an excellent deployment of the new data framework.
Betting on the time or the percent
As machine learning and AI advance, and connected data becomes more of a reality, technology platforms will learn how to efficiently mine and analyze data to understand if a trade satisfies institutional regulatory, credit, balance sheet, liquidity, and profitability hurdles. This will lead to an environment where a trade inquiry comes in electronically, is accepted or rejected, and processed automatically through the institution’s systems. The steps in this process are methodical, and there is nothing outside of what financial institutions do today that would prevent execution. A reduction in manual intervention can allow traders to focus on what is important: working on the most complex transactions to turn data into information and action.
The fact that more automation is occurring in funding markets is certain. The question at this time is how long will it take to automate most of the business. This is a bet on the timeline or the percent to which funding decisions can be automated but not the direction of the trend line. Could it be as much as 90% in five years? Answers will vary by the firm and some of the major players are already developing strategies to progress in this direction. Typically, people overestimate the impact of a new technology in the short term, but underestimate the impact in the long term. Banks have already invested in machine learning and AI tools to make automated funding a reality. But it will depend on the next and more complex step: to ensure that connected data can reach these tools, allowing for a robust view of positions, regulatory metrics and profitability requirements across the firm.
Leadership, especially in critical, but technologically-challenged functions like collateral management, is the key to seizing a competitive advantage.
IT innovation doesn’t just happen, even in the capital markets where opportunities for substantial improvements in areas like collateral and liquidity management can lead to greater, measurable and sustainable returns. All IT innovation needs commitment, investment and a strategy to make a difference. But most importantly, it needs unwavering leadership if it is to deliver the competitive success it promises.
And here lies the conundrum.
Bank executives already allocate hundreds of millions of dollars (even billions) annually towards technology budgets, yet they are still being bombarded by the claims of a myriad of new developments and solutions that promise an elusive holy grail.
How should the business digitize, become platform-based and leverage open architectures to drive data management strategies that deliver intelligent information? Finding the key to this will strengthen decision-making across all front-to-back office functions.
But it’s not surprising that there is resistance to change, with perennial questions to be answered such as: Why can’t we get more out of our existing IT estate? Will that spend even deliver half of what it promises? What disruption will there be to existing systems while this takes place and how long will it take?
These are understandable executive concerns, given the time consumed by regulatory compliance, the dynamics of a rapidly changing market, and constant pressures to reduce costs and improve margins. Also, not unnaturally, executives lean heavily on historically well-resourced internal IT teams to guide future decision-making, and hence investment.
But it still came as a shock to many when a 2015 Accenture Report estimated that 96% of bank board members had no professional technology experience, while only 3% of bank CEOs had any formal IT knowledge. At the same time, another study said that the top 10 banks have more IT personnel than the top 10 financial software vendors.
Some say that “ignorance is bliss”, but others counter, “If that’s the case why aren’t there more happy people about?” And this reveals the dilemma.
Define the Divide
A lack of IT and business alignment in banking has been a thorny subject for years, constantly framing the two sides as adversaries, rather than partners. These differences often create a chasm of understanding of the priorities, objectives and vision of “success” for each side, effectively stagnating progress toward the necessary transformation.
But there is a way forward.
Take, for example, collateral management. We know processes are often gridlocked, liquidity constrained, technology inflexible and access to pertinent data denied by historic silos and working practices. Every week we see how this results in lower capital returns and impaired profitability, at a time of increased competition and shrinking margins.
What used to be a straightforward back-office task to ensure sufficient and appropriate collateral has become mission-critical in pre-trade decision-making as constraints on capital, regulatory pressures and efficiency mandates demand optimized collateral deployment firm-wide.
But recognizing the problem is only the first challenge. Attempting to fix system pitfalls with a few bandages on already stretched legacy systems tends to compound the problem over time.
Trust External Expertise and Innovation
Experience shows that wider collaboration is feasible – and is working. Banks are now better able to lean on the expertise of outside IT vendor expertise, whose claims are not only battle-proven but are ones that complement rather than threaten internal teams. Developing collaborative partnerships with the business, internal IT and select external vendors who bring new ideas, innovation and experience to the table can significantly advance the firm’s technology objectives. Furthermore, there is a greater willingness to consider cloud-based solutions, as cost benefits and improved resilience start to outweigh historic operational risk concerns.
Align Talent with Objectives
This collaborative approach also benefits internal departments by enabling them to deploy talent where it can be most effective. It encourages the injection of fresh ideas into internal debates, complementing existing capabilities with a step-by-step series of tactical enhancements that eventually deliver a strategic objective – without undermining business opportunities or day-to-day operations.
If this leads to more effective data aggregation and analysis, there will be better-informed decisions that deliver tangible improvements to business profitability, while also reducing risk and bolstering regulatory compliance.
A fresh look at enterprise-wide technologies also lays the foundations for ongoing automation of critical business processes. By starting in a segment like collateral management that impacts all asset classes, business functions and jurisdictions, firms can enable each stakeholder across trading workflows to evolve and provide greater value to the broader enterprise.
This should not only produce a more effective and profitable business but a better informed and more confident executive team that is further empowered to deploy technology more widely to the best benefit of the business.
Once there, they can probably also have a laugh and raise a margarita to Jimmy Buffett, who one of my island-loving peers quotes: “Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care” – because by then everyone will know and they will care.
Balancing collateral optimization and regulatory compliance front to back through “Holistic Collateral Architecture”
July 28, 2017
Collateral Business Transformation
Financial institutions today are increasingly evaluating how best to manage their collateral needs in the face of dual challenges – how to adapt their business and operational structures to become more efficient and how to respond to and comply with ongoing demands around changing regulatory requirements. These issues resemble a seemingly difficult task, like transferring passengers from one train to another, while both trains are in motion. Firms that approach front office transformation challenges, decoupled from regulatory and compliance challenge, will miss opportunities to solve larger systemic issues in a strategic and integrated fashion. We strongly believe that Technology strategy and architecture can play a critical role as firms evolve to meet these challenges. This article looks at how businesses can strategically address their collateral and liquidity management operations and regulatory needs by adopting a more holistic integration approach that takes into account their organizational complexity, unique business requirements and their compliance mandates. Firms that get this strategy right will establish a competitive advantage and maximize limited budgets by significantly enhancing their front office capabilities, while also meeting regulatory requirements.
Managing Business Transformations and Regulatory Challenges Simultaneously
Global regulations such as Dodd-Frank, Basel, MIFID and EMIR are demanding significant changes to securities finance and derivatives businesses which are primary drivers of collateral flow. An organization’s overall portfolio mix dictates the cost of doing business, and having an integrated view of the complete liquidity situation is critical and can’t be done in isolation. These regulatory and economic forces are driving firms to integrate their collateral businesses that traditionally operated as silos.
At the same time, new global regulations are mandating that firms implement specific capabilities and requirements that are often quite broad, impacting many aspects of collateral and liquidity management capabilities. Consequently, these requirements are quite onerous to accomplish especially because they need to be implemented at an enterprise level.
What is Required for Front Office Optimization?
Typically, financial business units were structured and incentivized to take a highly localized approach to addressing the collateral requirements for their specific business lines. This historical constraint was driven by a need for domain expertise and reinforced by budgeting protocols and performance expectations that were more closely aligned with local returns on capital, revenue and income. In the current environment, making decisions within a single function misses the opportunity to achieve broader benefits to drive valuable optimization across an enterprise. The outlying boxes in the diagram below illustrate the standard, localized organizations that exist in most firms today, where individual business units make collateral decisions without consideration of their sister business’ needs.
Firms that move beyond the silo approach and evaluate and prioritize collateral and liquidity requirements in a more integrated fashion across all their collateral management processes are better positioned to ensure the optimal allocation of capital and costs, realize efficiency gains and enhanced profitability. Some organizations are doing this by establishing collateral optimization units that have a mandate to implement technology and organizational changes across multiple businesses on a front-to-back basis. Potential areas that organizations are evaluating include maximizing stress liquidity, streamlining operational processing, reducing the balance sheet by retaining high-quality HQLA and improving the firm’s funding profile by reducing liquidity buffers against bad trades for non-LCR compliant transactions.
What is Required for Regulatory Compliance?
While many front office businesses typically focus on creating optimal technology architecture to improve financial return metrics, there are specific regulatory-focused technology enhancements that additionally need to be implemented. In most cases, these regulatory requirements are implemented by compliance and/or operations areas potentially away from the front office functions. This is a big challenge as these requirements are at the firm level and most firms don’t have a coordinated collateral architecture in the front. In particular, Recovery and Resolution Planning (RRP) requirements, Qualified Financial Contracts (QFC) specifications, Secured Financing Transaction Reporting (SFTR) are few examples that have pressing requirements and deadlines in the near future.
These regulations are creating significant demands on large institutions’ business and technology architecture:
Track and report on firm and counterparty collateral by jurisdiction (RRP – SR 14-1)
Track sources and uses of collateral at a security level across legal entities (RRP – 2017 guidance)
Conductscenario-planningto simulate market stresses, such as a ratings downgrade or other environmental changes, that estimate impact on collateral and liquidity position in stress scenarios on a periodic basis (RRP – SR 14-1 and 2017 guidance)
Deliver daily information on their collateral and liquidity positions. Specific QFC (Qualified Financial Contract) reports will cover position-level, counterparty-level exposures, legal agreements and detailed collateral information. (QFC Specifications)
Report on all Securities Financing transactions (SFTR – Europe)
To fully meet these compliance deadlines within the next 12 to 24 months, most firms do not have the luxury of adopting a strategic approach to re-engineer their business and technology architecture and have been forced to take tactical steps to ensure compliance. However, it is likely that achieving compliance in a short timeframe will create huge business and operational overhead costs, as one-off solutions may not be tightly integrated and may require additional manual work and reconciliations over time. The ongoing need for changes to front office business processes will have an impact on compliance solutions – potentially causing firms to significantly increase the operational overhead of supporting these businesses.
This can lead to a rather unfortunate outcome, in that costs for collateral businesses can significantly increase, despite working hard to drive cost & capital efficiencies.
A BETTER APPROACH – HOLISTIC ARCHITECTURE
Firms that choose to tackle these operational and regulatory challenges head-on and invest to create and establish an integrated collateral architecture across business lines will have a significant competitive advantage. In a dynamic marketplace where business needs and regulatory requirements are constantly evolving, a component-based architecture can be an effective approach. This allows seemingly complex processes to be managed through careful consideration of the distinct business and technology architecture elements of each stakeholder to achieve the appropriate balance for their strategy in an effective manner.
Key Components of Holistic Collateral Architecture
Here are some important drivers to consider in your planning:
Real-time inventory management capabilities across business lines that can be leveraged by both the front and back-office. This is a critical component of the strategic architecture, with the key requirement of knowing firm, counterparty and client collateral by jurisdiction.
QFC trades repository that is integrated across all Secured Financing Transactions as well as derivatives trades that can be linked with positions, margin calls and collateral postings.
Harmonized collateral schedules / legal agreements repository across ISDA, CSAs, (G)MRAs, (G)MSLAs, triparty, etc.
Enabling collateral traceability across legal entities with the ability to producesources and uses of collateral will ensure regulatory compliance, as well as the ability to implement appropriate transfer pricing rules to drive business incentives in the right places.
Utilizing optimization algorithmswith targeted analytics can maximize a variety of different business opportunities and most importantly recommend actions through seamless operational straight through processing.
This transition can be difficult for firms as it will need to cut across business and functional silos and it can have significant people and organizational hurdles along with technology challenges. One key point is that these changes don’t need to happen all at the same time and firms can prioritize the approach in a phased manner in line with their pain points and priorities as long as leadership is behind the vision of the holistic architecture. Many firms have started this journey and those who can make demonstrable progress in this evolution will have a significant competitive advantage in the new era.
We have leveraged decades of Wall Street experience to develop strategic collateral and liquidity solutions for the largest, most sophisticated banks and financial institutions. Recognizing the unique requirements and opportunities financial organizations have to optimize liquidity and collateral across business units, we have developed solutions that address the need for Collateral Optimization, Agreements Insights, a Margin Dashboard, Real-Time Inventory and Position Management and Liquidity Analytics. Separately or in combination, these tools will help your firm take a more strategic approach to optimizing the best assets across your entire portfolio and businesses to maximize your profitability.
January 2013: Basel III: The Liquidity Coverage Ratio and liquidity risk monitoring tools
October 2013: Basel Committee on Banking Supervision Working Paper No. 24 – Liquidity stress testing: a survey of theory, empirics and current industry and supervisory practices
January 24, 2014: Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) released Supervision and Regulation letter (SR letter 14-1) entitled “Heightened Supervisory Expectations for Certain Bank Holding Companies,” and Attachment Principles and Practices for Recovery and Resolution Preparedness
SR letter 12-1 entitled “Consolidated Supervision Framework for Large Financial Institutions”
SR 14-1: Additional Guidance from Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System entitled “Guidance for 2017 §165(d) Annual Resolution Plan Submissions by Domestic Covered Companies that Submitted Resolution Plans in July 2015”
Following the financial crisis, regulations and their associated reporting have created an opportunity for banks and investment firms to create a single, unified collateral infrastructure across all product siloes. This does not have to be a radical architecture rebuild, but rather can be achieved incrementally.
There are legitimate historical reasons why collateral infrastructure has grown up as a patchwork of systems and processes. For products such as stock lending, repo, futures or contracts for difference (CFDs), the collateral/margining process was generally integral to the products and processing systems. It would not have made sense to break out collateral management into a separate group and hence operating teams and systems were structured around the core product unit. Generally, only OTC derivatives had a relatively clear decoupling between collateral management and other operational processes. Even as business units merged at the top level, this product separation at the collateral management level often continued.
While this situation could stand during non-stress periods, the financial crisis demonstrated the fallacy that siloed, uncoordinated collateral management systems, data and processes could weather any storm. This disjointed view caused a number of specific problems, including: an inability to see the full exposures to counterparties; a lack of organization in cash and non-cash holdings; and substantial inflexibility in mobilizing the overall collateral pool. Even before the crisis, inconsistent or “zero cost allocation” for collateral usage meant that collateral was not always being directed to the parts of the business that needed it most. After the crisis, with collateral and High Quality Liquid Assets at a premium, this became unacceptable.
Today, few banks and investment firms have completed the work of integrating their collateral management functions across products (see Exhibit 1). Some of the largest banks are focused on building capabilities to achieve enterprise-wide collateral optimization, while others are just starting on this effort, at least on a silo basis. Some have bought or built large systems with cross-product support, although this has proven costly. Others are evaluating organizational consolidation. Whatever their current state, a new round of regulatory reporting requirements in the US and Europe means that letting collateral infrastructure sit to one side is no longer viable to meet business or compliance objectives without adding substantial staff. One way or another, long-term solutions must be achieved.
Exhibit 1: Moving past the siloed approach
Source: Transcend Street Solutions
The next round of regulatory impact
While nearly all large firms have digested the current waves of regulatory reporting and collateral management requirements, the next round will soon be arriving. Among these are the Federal Reserve’s regulation SR14-1, MiFID II (Revision of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive), and the Securities Finance Transactions Regulation (SFTR). It is worth looking at some of these requirements in detail to understand what else is being demanded of collateral management infrastructure and departments.
The Federal Reserve’s regulation SR14-1 is aimed at improving the resolution process for US bank holding companies. It includes a high level requirement that banks should have effective processes for managing, identifying, and valuing collateral it receives from and posts to external parties and affiliates. At the close of any business day banks should be able to identify exactly where any counterparty collateral is held, document all netting and rehypothecation arrangements and track inter-entity collateral related to inter-entity credit risk. On a quarterly basis they need to review CSAs, differences in collateral requirements and processes between jurisdictions, and forecast changes in collateral requirements. Also on the theme of improved resolution rules are the record keeping requirements related to “Qualified Financial Contracts” (effectively most non-cleared OTC transactions). These require banks to identify the details and conditions of the master agreements and CSAs applying to the relevant trades.
While the regulatory intent is understandable, these requirements are exceptionally difficult to meet without a unified collateral infrastructure. There is in fact no way to respond without a single, holistic view of collateral and exposure across the enterprise. While SR14-1 impacts only the largest banks, it still means these banks have a mandate to complete the work they have begun in organizing their vast collection of collateral information. This will lead to greater collateral opportunities for the big banks, and may in turn encourage smaller competitors to complete the same work in order to exploit similar new efficiencies.
Article 15 of Europe’s SFTR places restrictions on the reuse of collateral (rehypothecation). The provider of collateral has to be informed in writing of the risk and consequences of their collateral being reused. They also have to provide prior, express consent to the reuse of their collateral. Even with the appropriate documentation and reporting in place, a collateral management department has to carefully ensure that the written agreement on reuse is strictly complied with. While nothing is written in the US yet, market participants believe that the US Office of Financial Research will soon require mandatory reporting that may entail overlapping requirements.
Similarly, MiFID II introduces strict restrictions on the use of customer assets for collateral purposes and potentially has a major impact on collateralized trading products. A complicated analysis must be conducted on best execution, but in OTC and securities financing markets, best execution may be a function of term, price, counterparty risk and/or collateral acceptance. Further, any variation from a standard best price policy needs to be documented to show how the investment firm or intermediary sought to safeguard the interest of the client.
SFTR and MiFID II require that banks rethink their entire reporting methodologies, and in some cases must rethink parts of their business model. A wide range of new information must be captured, analyzed, consolidated, and reported outwards and internally. This will likely generate new ideas and business opportunities around collateral usage and pricing for those firms that can digest the large quantities of new information that will be produced.
A holistic foundation for trading, control, MIS and regulatory reporting
The struggle at many firms to comply with regulations while maximizing profitability has led to two parallel sets of infrastructures: one for the business and another for compliance. This creates two levels of cost that duplicate substantial effort inside the firm. Along the way, business lines get charged twice for this work as costs are allocated back to the business. This is an immediate negative impact on profitability; even firms that have completed collateral optimization immediately lose a piece of that financial benefit.
The cumulative impact of regulation means that banks and investment firms generally cannot afford to wait for consolidation projects to deliver a single integrated platform. The fragmentation of teams, data and processes are hurdles for any institution to overcome but so is the old mindset that simply thinks of collateral management as an isolated operational process.
We identify five critical areas for firms to address in order to create a foundation for their holistic collateral infrastructure:
Map the full impacts of regulatory and profitability requirements on businesses, processes, and systems.
Recognize that collateral management is an integral part of many key activities at the firm including trading and liquidity management.
Understand the core decision making processes at the heart of effective collateral management.
Organize and manage the data that is required to drive those processes.
Build a functional operating model for collateral management.
The fifth recommendation, building a functional operational model for collateral, means being able to connect together disparate business lines to provide an enterprise view of collateral. It includes mining collateral agreements to make optimal decisions or decisions mandated by regulation. It requires the ability to perform analysis of collateral to balance economic and regulatory drivers, and it requires controls and transparency of client collateral across all margin centers.
At Transcend Street Solutions, we are actively working with our clients to help them develop a strategic roadmap of business and technology deliverables to achieve a holistic collateral infrastructure. While there are always organizational as well as infrastructural nuances in every business, we have seen the framework proposed above yield a positive return for our clients. Our technology platform, CoSMOS, is nimble, modular and customizable to accelerate collateral infrastructure evolution without necessarily having to retire existing systems or undergo a big infrastructural lift.
Getting this right is important for more than just regulatory compliance. It means the collateral function and trading desks can perform the forward processes required to support both profitable trading and firm-wide decision making. Pre-trade analytics is needed to ensure that collateral is allocated optimally across portfolios and collateral agreements. Optimization is also needed at the trade level to ensure the most suitable collateral is applied to each trade or structure. Finally, analysis needs to be carried out across the whole inventory of securities and cash positions to ensure collateral is used by the right businesses. After all, correct pricing of collateral across business lines is not only essential for firm-level profitability but also incentivizing desirable behavior throughout the organization.
We strongly believe that firms that are successful in achieving a holistic collateral architecture will have a significant competitive advantage in the industry. They will be able to achieve optimization of collateral and liquidity across business silos while meeting most global regulatory requirements, and all that with a much more efficient IT spend.