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Four Ways Currency Rigging Transformed the $5.3 Trillion Market

  • Sales staff withold trade ideas, market info amid scrutiny
  • Use of instant messages ebbs while electronic trading rises

A price-rigging scandal involving some of the biggest banks in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market is filtering through to customers, according to a report from Greenwich Associates.

The manipulation, conducted through private chat rooms among traders, undermined market confidence and resulted in regulatory probes, firings and fines for financial institutions. It’s also transforming how banks interact with currency clients, according to the Stamford, Connecticut-based consultant, which produces market-share rankings in various asset classes.

Here’s how the foreign-exchange universe has changed in response to the increased scrutiny, based on interviews that Greenwich conducted from September-November 2014 with 2,645 currency-market participants at companies and financial institutions in the Americas, Europe and Asia:

1) Sales desks offer fewer trading ideas and less market info:

Traders and sales people are reluctant, or prohibited by bank policy, from commenting on market flow or proposing strategies that could present a conflict of interest, said Jasper Clark, a consultant and author of the report.

“Dealers are distancing themselves from anything that could be perceived by regulators as compromising client confidentiality,” he wrote.

2) Instant messaging is falling out of favor:

Trades completed using online chat fell to 8 percent last year from 11 percent in 2013, the study shows.

That’s “not surprising since the foreign-exchange probe called out deals done via direct messages between selected traders,” Clark wrote.

3) Electronic trading is surging:

The volume of transactions through electronic platforms rose to 75 percent in 2014, from less than 60 percent in 2010, Greenwich found. Some investors may prefer to circumvent traders by using algorithms to execute orders at the fix -- a daily currency event at 4 p.m. London time, when benchmark valuations are set.

4) Sales teams may shrink:

Dealers may reduce staff in response to growing electronic trading and higher expenses, including those associated with regulations. The new approach may emulate equities, in which some personnel concentrate on electronic trading while others focus on giving customers trading ideas, market information and research, according to Greenwich’s findings.

For more, read this QuickTake: Broken Benchmarks

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