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Catching the next wave of OTC derivative margining

The initial launch of the new regime for margin requirements for non-cleared derivatives passed on  1 September 2016. This first wave affected those firms with the largest presence in the market for both initial and variation margins under the new regulations.

By March 2017, all firms will need to adhere to variation margins requirements, and then by September 2020 the subsequent waves for initial margin requirements will be in force. What lessons have market participants learnt so far? And what issues have arisen that market players advise should be taken into consideration at this stage of the transition?

Onboarding

 

Perhaps the most important lesson that has been learnt is that the onboarding process takes more time and is more cumbersome than many thought it would be. “There were some scary moments and we had lots of late documentation right up to the September 1 deadline,” says Geoff Robinson, Global Head of Industry Initiatives, Change & Strategy at HSBC.

 

Others agree that the process of initial onboarding was difficult, but that there is now an opportunity to improve it in the next waves. “All the firms met the initial deadline,” says Pierre Lebel, Managing Director, Head of Collateral Advisory at Société Générale. “Now we have more time to make sure the process that had been a bit arts and crafts can become more industrial.”

 

 

Data

 

The process of setting up new margining for OTC derivatives not only produces a lot of documentation; it also produces a lot of data. Managing the production, retention, utilization and reconciliation of this data is a vital aspect of the transition, especially for the end clients. “It is extremely important for us to be as close to the data as possible and to keep our hands on it,” says Peter Battley, Associate Director, Post Trade Change/Regulation at Fidelity International. “In particular, portfolio reconciliation is hugely important to get a successful collateral workflow underway.”

 

Meeting the data requirements is a challenge for the banks and their clients. But it is also a large opportunity for the whole industry. “Really understanding the emerging data flow is a big opportunity for the industry; it will be transformational,” says Robinson.

 

 

Timing

 

Moving to a new margining regime takes time. Buyside clients need to understand quite how long the process will take. Battley at Fidelity says that his firm has been working towards this for more than 18 months. But other firms are perhaps not aware of how long it will all take. “Some smaller funds are not prepared for this at all,” says Lebel at SG. “The best are ill-prepared and the worst are not prepared at all.”

 

Lebel believes that the process of defragmenting current working practices and then centralising the collateral management will take two to three years, if clients are looking to do everything in house. If they decide to outsource the process, this will still take a year.

 

 

Preparation

 

The best time to start preparing for anything is twenty years ago: the second best is today. A key message from market participants is that preparation for this transition is key for it to be successful. “People need to prepare for this as soon as possible,” says Mark Jennis, Executive Chairman of DTCC-Euroclear GlobalCollateral. “Tactical responses are not enough. People really do need to think strategically about this.” The industry is working hard to help firms prepare for these changes.

 

In particular, ISDA is setting up standardized formats that firms will be able to tap into. “It is going to be a huge challenge for the industry to get ready for the next deadline of March 1,” says Roger Cogan, Head of European Public Policy at ISDA. “The role of ISDA will be to help people prepare for compliance through education and by releasing initial margin (IM) and variation margin (VM) templates.”

 

 

Remaining differences

 

While the past is prologue to the present, firms will face additional hurdles that firms involved in the first waves are just beginning to address. Perhaps the most important is that the industry will need to find ways of aligning what they are doing according to different regimes in the US and Europe.

 

There are also differences emerging between what is required for IM and VM regimes. According to Robinson at HSBC, VM “seems to be higher touch at the documentation level and there are extra layers of complexity.” VM could also carry difficulties for smaller funds. Lebel says that VM “could force smaller funds to convert collateral to cash, and they won’t like that.”

 

 

Fresh opportunities

 

The market doesn’t stand still. And as people work towards meeting these new requirements, second generation solutions are already being discussed. For Battley at Fidelity, the next wave of digitization will focus on CSAs. He also believes that automatic settlement messaging “would be very welcome.”

 

The end goal he would like to see, is a centralized pricing system for OTC derivatives, which would allow everything to be automated. But he concedes that that could be five years away.

 

The benefits that are accruing to the market from the transition to a margining regime for OTC derivatives are plain. The market will be more resilient and risks less concentrated. The European and US authorities are still working through issues that have been raised by the first wave of transition, and market participants are moving into a new regime in which some issues are still to be addressed.

 

Yet the bigger picture is that with preparation, documentation, data and time, the subsequent waves will be a success. “The next phase will have challenges,” says Robinson. “But the industry is going through an immense amount of change all around the world.”

 

This article was first published on euroclear.com and summarises a panel discussion, moderated by GlobalCollateral's Executive Chairman, Mark Jennis, that took place during Euroclear's Collateral Conference in November 2016

 

> watch the video footage of this panel discussion on euroclear.com