Julia Romhanyi’s career in the securities services industry started in 1991 when exchanges across the region in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland all witnessed an influx of foreign investment for the very first time in nearly 50 years.
In 1990, the Budapest Stock Exchange reopened after 42 years where the flow of securities was categorised by the physical movement of paper. When the exchange eventually moved to an electronic system, bringing everyone on board proved to be a major step in driving efficiencies and enhancing the security of the local capital market. Recalling her time at the BSE, Romhanyi says, “We had a number of challenging years when we moved the trading platform from an open outcry system to one based on automation. Looking back, it was an important journey we undertook alongside a forward looking management to ensure a competitive environment for the future of Hungarian capital markets.”
In parallel, the underlying securities had to be moved to a completely dematerialised form – still working on a T+5 settlement basis. “We have moved from a time of open outcry, where securities were physically delivered between custodians and brokers in suitcases, to now, where only digital signs are exchanged. The dematerialization of securities was a major step in the industry across all countries which brought efficiency, higher asset safety and reduced counterparty risk.”
Romhanyi joined UniCredit in 1999 as a relationship manager within the custody department. Since then, she has taken on a number of senior roles, including head of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) global securities services. In 2018, she was named global head of securities services and leads a team across eleven markets.
In her role, Romhanyi has become a major figure in modernising post-trade infrastructures and implementing post-trade standards across CEE and Austria. “Alongside the local teams, we have worked on many initiatives across the region, for instance, improving securities settlement mechanisms, streamlining income collection and corporate actions processes, and developing delivery-versus-payment (DvP) processes. These achievements are thanks to the collaborative efforts of our colleagues to make markets more efficient and standardized.”
In addition to these highlights, Romhanyi has personally led some of UniCredit’s major client mandates and is constantly looking for ways its securities services business can evolve.
“We are in the midst of a transformative programme at UniCredit with regards to global securities services, which will see us change our core custody platform in nine markets within the next three years,” Romhanyi says. “I am very proud of being a major market player in the region, which is the result of great team work and the commitment of UniCredit Group to deliver IT solutions which provide a best-in-class service to our clients.”
Under Romhanyi’s leadership, UniCredit is now a leading voice in a number of industry associations and working groups for securities services – helping to create new standards for corporate actions and cyber security. She believes that moving forward, the industry should constantly find ways to evolve and innovate, as custodians seek to fully integrate their business model in a digital environment.
“The aim of the industry should be not to stop at a T+2 settlement cycle but be much more ambitious. In payments, we are talking about instant settlement – this should naturally be the target for the securities industry as well. Alongside this, we also need a mass upgrade of legacy systems to accommodate the new digital era. Finally, as data takes on a new centrality, as value providers we need to work harder than ever to use it to inform and improve our client experience.”