Better infrastructure key for next stage of IM says panel

Initial margin rules came into force in September and one industry expert feels that infrastructure improvements need to be made to progress.
By Paul Walsh
Market infrastructure needs to be overhauled in order for initial margin (IM) requirements to be successful, according to an industry expert.

Speaking during the Euroclear collateral conference in Brussels, Geoff Robinson, global head of industry initiatives, change and strategy at HSBC, suggested that while there was progress in the first wave, significantly more infrastructure support will be required.

IM rules came into force on 1 September for the US, Canada and Japan with rules for the first phase of EU banks set to come into force in January 2017.

Swap dealers failing to post margin with custodians were granted an extension period by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commissions (CFTC) in September.

“You have to look at how you would go into a segregated margin and mobilisation margin when mixing equities and fixed income under single exposure, which brings other complexities such as infrastructure complexities that I don’t think we are ready for as an industry,” said Robinson.

“We are getting by in terms of the numbers that we are seeing now in terms of the IM requirements, but I can certainly see within six months to a year the need for a better infrastructure in terms of being able to mobilise equities alongside high quality fixed income assets in single, tri-party and segregated mechanisms.”

The CFTC extension was reportedly granted due to custodian hold-ups, with a lack of custodial accounts for banks to post IM for their uncleared derivatives.

Speaking to Global Custodian earlier this month, Eric Litvack, head of regulatory strategy for global banking and investor solutions at Societe Generale, suggested that European swap dealers are concerned they may face the same custodian issues which hit their US equivalents ahead of the introduction of IM requirements.

Robinson went on to suggest that the biggest challenges to arise from the requirements would be seen in 2020 during “the next major phase of client impact.”

Moderator Mark Jennis, executive chairman at the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), stressed the importance of cash availability – particularly for buy-side firms – ahead of the next wave.

“What is going to be crucial is that for some buy-side firms, cash won’t be as available and they will have to work out ways to be able to raise cash and in other cases it may not be the types of securities that are acceptable,” said Jennis.

“As we get to the number of waves that are upcoming, cash is going to become a more crucial part of pledging collateral.”