Fabricio Oliveira, Head of Risk Management at Mirae Asset Global Investments Brazil, discusses his approach to pre-trade risk controls and how local market structure influences the occurrence of risk.
Market Open At Mirae we do much of our trading with offshore entities. For example, we have funds that are administered in Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Brazil, US and Korea and this geographical disparity creates operational risk. Differences in settlement price, currency and the timing of financial transfers are all aspects that must be considered when using offshore funds. The ability to settle a US trade in the US and not in another time zone is also important. This is particularly true of Hong Kong as our time difference is a huge barrier to trades in Asia. It is almost impossible to book these trades in Hong Kong even though our traders here see the opportunity to do so.
When I focus on the risks for open trading, the settlement movement is an important concern. Whether you are focused on market risk or liquidity risk, all risks need to be monitored, so you can have a clear view of what potential risks lie ahead.
High Frequency Trading There is much discussion in the industry and at conferences about high frequency trading (HFT) in Brazil, but we are not yet ready for high frequency strategies. The industry is starting to see how HFT works, but liquidity in Brazil across asset classes is insufficient to support these strategies. There are approximately 300 listed companies in equities and about half that number in derivatives, whether in bonds or yield curves or currency. The local players who run HFT strategies focus on the few stocks and derivatives with liquidity, which does not give them many options to find alpha over short periods. It will be interesting to see how it works in North America and Europe and for us to consider what might be possible in Brazil. For now, I do not see many players in HFT and I can count on one hand the number of funds using HFT.
Our pre-trade risk controls have not had to account for HFT volumes and speeds yet, so we have focused more on core control mechanisms. We have some vendors who can produce risk controls for the current liquidity. If we have liquid stocks, derivatives or OTC products, then we can define our own risk controls. Fund houses with hundreds of funds will have difficulty in applying those controls to the trading systems, but as Mirae mainly focuses on equities, our implementation burden is much lower. Today, all our pre-trade risk controls are done in real-time, including automatic limits. Beyond this, we still have a layer of control in the trader on the desk.
Working with Brokers When discussing risk controls, it is important to mention that in Brazil all brokers employ significant risk controls on their side, to prevent them from taking on more risk than they can carry. When the brokers start to trade with the exchange, the exchange provides them with risk guidelines and limits. As clients of the sell-side, buy-side desks cannot exceed their assigned broker limits and their orders will be automatically paused if the broker’s limits are reached. The broker’s risk controls are complete; they will not take on risk. As a result, their clients do not have much help in implementing their own controls. This is exacerbated because a fund house may trade with many brokers – in our case we deal with 35. It is impossible to implement one solution per broker, so we rely on our OMS provider to connect with the brokers and to match up risk controls.
Put three men and a FIXGlobal’s Edward Mangles around a table; serve them lunch and let the tapes roll. FIXGlobal listened in on a conversation that ranged from regulators to risk and from FX to FIX.
Edward: In defense of the regulator … how should they know what’s going on when neither the sell nor buy-side seem to know?
Vincent: Recent events have shown the divide between the financial market participants and the regulator. For example, the Lehman’s mini bond issue has forced a strong dialogue between the regulator and, in particular, the broker side. But the engagement is slow.
Kent: Retail brokers tend to have a strong voice here in Hong Kong and over the years have developed a strong working relationship with the regulators. Local brokers can at times be pretty outspoken and have proven on many occasions to be an effective lobbying group. From our perspective international brokers tend to be less visible in some of these debates. We see certain common characteristics across Asia where understandably there is a good deal of focus on protecting the retail investor given the high retail investor participation in many of the stock markets in Asia including Taiwan and Korea. The challenge has certainly been in the retail space where there is an overlap of regulatory responsibility in approving and offering products.
Edward: Are we asking the impossible of the regulator to create the same rule book for retail and institutional investors?
Kent: The general principal is that retail investors are less savvy and experienced and regulations need to be explicit. There is a general assumption that as professional investors, institutions can operate with greater flexibility since they can understand the risks in a more sophisticated way. Taking account of this framework then it will not be possible to standardize for both types of investor. The risk is that setting minimum requirements to protect the retail investor may not suit the way business is transacted at an institutional level. Here we advocate consultation and support stronger trade associations.
Vincent: I don’t think you can realistically expect the same regulations for retail traders as for big institutional investors. That’s a utopia that’s never going to exist. These two groups of investors have different needs. Many regulators – in Europe for example and Luxembourg in particular with their efforts to push through the UCITS 4 protocol – understand that you need different protocols for retail investors.
Kent: But Vincent, every investor has the same goal: making money. It’s only the detailed requirements that are different.
Gerry: There’s certainly a larger burden on the big firms to uphold ethical, legal and fiduciary standards.
Kent: Yes. Retail investors don’t generally have the same constraints on their activities. Institutional investors need a more developed investment process and must ensure fair treatment across all clients regardless of size and fees. Institutional investors will undoubtedly be looking at different investor objectives – for one, they need to be able to implement their strategies in much greater volumes, and in scale, for example.
Edward: How about the role of regulators in curtailing short-selling in many markets? Knee jerk or long-term strategy?
Kent: I’d like to see the ability to short-sell fully resumed as soon as practically possible. We’re now in a situation where some markets have suspended it, and some are allowing it again. This is not ideal. I certainly see the temporary prohibition as a knee-jerk reaction and understandable given the groundswell of public opinion and corporate pressure as the financial crisis took hold – not all of this opinion was entirely rational. In fact, short-selling restrictions can reduce volumes for trading in the markets overall. For one, we have a 130-30 fund. So in this fund, if we’re limited in the number of attractive long-short pair trades we can put on then we’ll just end up trading less. So it’s business that never happens and the unknown would-be client on the other side of our trade – whether they’re institutional or retail – through the exchange, never gets to take advantage of the liquidity. What we need is a greater understanding of how shorting operates. There is a lot of misconception around this issue.
Gerry: I see the value and merit in allowing short selling in varied markets. In markets that don’t allow it, the regulators need to develop this functionality. It encourages more liquidity and volume. But I do understand that in the current environment the regulators have little choice. We won’t know the full impact until later on.
Vincent: The problem is that there’s no consistency among the regulators. Some only forbid short selling on financials. It’s a disruption to competitiveness between various sectors.
Kent: Yes. And not being able to short, will reduce derivatives trading. The fact is, a lot of the shorting that goes on isn’t just one-way, but a strategy with a ‘long’ component to it as well. And funds that relied on the little performance boost from securities lending fees have also seen their returns diminished. The equity finance desks at the brokers have seen a real drop-off in trade volumes because of this.
Vincent: Now the regulators are trying to encourage investors to buy again in a bear market – and there’s a lot of inconsistency between the messages they’re sending now and what they were telling us six months ago.
As recent history shows, China has a vast and diverse economic system, which contains a number of economic sub-systems, many of which have experienced growth in the last 36 months. In the media, headlines portray China to be an economic powerhouse, with expansion plans that have far reaching implications for these domains, including electronic trading in Financial Services.
One area that has seen much attention from western companies in the financial sector over the last two years is that of the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investors (QDIIs). More and more of the QDIIs, are gradually being granted authorisation by the Chinese government to trade global offshore securities in the stock, bonds and other securities. QDII programs are used in places where the capital markets are not yet completely open to all investors. For example, any institutional investor in China that obtains approval to be a QDII may invest up to 50% of net assets into allowable foreign securities, so long as not more than 5% is invested in any one security.
Background on some recent changes to the QDII programme
According to DeaconsLaw.com, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has confirmed it had signed Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) with four jurisdictions, namely Australia, Germany, Korea and Luxembourg, in addition to Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan and USA over the past year. This means for commercial banks, QDII investment products issued by commercial banks may invest in listed stocks and mutual funds supervised by the relevant regulatory bodies in these jurisdictions. Also, in the case of Chinese fund management companies (FMCs); in 2009 the FMCs were permitted to extend their asset management services to multiple-client accounts, following single client segregated account services, which were launched during 2008. Whereas now, FMCs may expand their managed account asset management services to include investments in offshore markets and mutual funds as well as offering QDII funds.
To be able to invest offshore, FMCs need to apply for a new QDII investment quota or use any balance of their existing QDII investment quota (originally granted for the launch of QDII funds), provided an approval is obtained from State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
Trading offshore – Global Markets
Global Markets may be a new experience that some of these Chinese Funds’ find they have insufficient understanding or experience to adequately deal with.
This perceived shortfall of global markets trading experience manifests itself in both an opportunity and a threat, each with their own risks, neither of which can, nor should be ignored. Prudence and patience should be employed when prioritising the financial services opportunities in China; with their exceptionally high savings rate and positive trade balance providing an abundance of capital, some of which is targeted at foreign investment – Qualified Domestic Institutional Investors (QDIIs), this is a fledgling sector and is transitioning very slowly.
What is important for western companies to consider is that a lot of leg work will be necessary, whilst it may feel like a fruitless exercise, it is important to stick at it and be sure that your value proposition is appropriately reviewed in the right forum.
The financial services arena in China, is no stranger to electronic trading, this can be seen with their domestic solutions, which demonstrate a good deal more Straight Through Processing (STP) than most western organisations.