Regulation Is Transforming the OTC Market. Compliance Is a Journey, Not a Goal

| FinReg

By Bill Hodgson, The OTC Space Limited

Originally published on TABB Forum

Within the next 18 months, the impact of mandatory clearing and the margin on bilateral OTC trades will begin to reshape the global OTC market, driving changes in participants’ technology and businesses. Many firms might choose to scale back their short-term compliance investments until there is even greater regulatory clarity.

For many involved in regulatory compliance, the work has only just started. For CCPs, the scramble to achieve authorization under EMIR hit a crescendo in September 2013. Just five months later, the introduction of OTC trade reporting for EMIR brought a flurry of activity and much chaos. The pace of regulation hasn’t slowed since then, and neither have the intense demands to remodel internal processes. However, with some of the biggest and most impactful regulatory developments still to take place over the next 18 months, many firms might choose to scale back their short-term compliance investments until there is even greater regulatory clarity.

Trade Reporting

The onset of OTC and ETD trade reporting in Europe in February 2014 created a new industry of trade repositories (TRs) and other services designed to gather, reformat, transfer and reconcile the vast flow of data required by regulators. However, European trade reporting was significantly different from that in the U.S., leading to incompatible data across TRs. In particular, the U.S.’ decision to allow “single-sided” reporting, where one party can report for both entities on a trade, has proven to be much more efficient than the “double-sided” European approach. As a result, a review of EMIR is underway.

Other compliance streams over the next two years include:

  • Level 2 validation by TRs: a tighter requirement for European TRs to reject data that doesn’t meet a higher standard of accuracy than currently
  • Reporting of Security-Based Swaps to the SEC: parallel regulations to the CFTC, but for CDS and other trades within the remit of the SEC
  • EMIR phase 3 reporting: an outcome of the EMIR review
  • Securities Financing Transactions reporting: covers equity and repo trades, plus any collateral swaps

This article doesn’t cover trade reporting regulations outside the U.S. and Europe. One approach for firms to meet these regulations (and the BCBS 239 Risk Aggregation regulations) is to build an internal trade warehouse with the trade parameters and economic factors to satisfy the expanding range of regulatory needs.


Clearing is mandatory in the U.S. for specific transaction types, but doesn’t begin to take effect in Europe until late 2015. Even then, it will take until 2018 for full implementation of the phased timetable:

While many firms have voluntarily begun clearing in advance of these timelines, the next wave of adoption will be the Category 2 firms in 2016. With the withdrawal of Nomura, RBS and BNY Mellon from the client clearing business, this might be the time that the survivors become profitable. Conversely, more providers may exit the market, which would result in difficulties for the Category 2 firms to obtain access to clearing.

Bilateral Margin

In September 2016, the OTC markets will be subject to the mandatory application of variation and initial margin to non-cleared trades. While the margin requirements are for trades executed after that date, the details aren’t final and may be amended to include backdated trades.

Variation margin (VM) applies from September 2016 to firms with an exposure of EUR3trn or above, and to all firms from 1st March 2017. There are 136,936 non-cleared agreements in use according to the 2015 ISDA Margin Survey, so the introduction of a mandated VM requirement won’t be technologically difficult for many firms. However, the need to make and receive the calls daily will be new to some buy side firms.

The legal challenge is far greater if all of those bilateral relationships need new credit support documents. While the industry looks for a way to simplify the process with standard documents and protocols, the search is laden with obstacles and complexities.

Exchanging two-way initial margin (IM), which requires firms to align their portfolio within five asset classes and apply either a simple schedule-based calculation (that could be costly in margin) or a complex value-at-risk (VaR) approach to all non-cleared trades, is the more challenging mandate.

The IM requirement is phased over a lengthy period until 2020, but will likely have the biggest economic impact (other than capital rules) to OTC businesses since their inception. Few firms apply a broad IM requirement into their collateral agreements presently, and the IM mandate will increase the cost of a complex OTC portfolio significantly. In response, some banks may withdraw their most complex trade structures from use, or even close whole business lines if the IM is too high and difficult to reduce.


While MiFID and its corresponding regulation MiFIR are primarily targeted at securities trading, they also include new requirements for trade reporting and open access rules between exchanges and CCPs.

The introduction of open access rules will allow a CCP to request access to an exchange to clear their trade flow and likewise for an exchange to request access to a CCP to send trades for clearing. The end goal is to allow the free choice of CCP-exchange combinations in the pursuit of horizontal competition, rather than the prevalent vertical alignment seen in today’s markets.

Detractors of open access say that the arrival of multiple CCPs clearing a single exchange venue will split liquidity, as has happened with swap execution facilities (SEFs) for cleared trades, and therefore will not be beneficial in the long run. Supporters say that the opportunity for participants to aggregate one asset class (such as STIR futures) on a single CCP will reduce net margin calls as well as technology and operation costs. The reality of the regulations is hard to predict. Lengthy timetables, opt-outs for small CCPs, and pushback due to liquidity concerns, operational capacity and cost reasons could limit the regulations’ impact.

Another goal of MiFID is to introduce a new class of trading platform, the Organized Trading Facility (OTF), intended to mirror the SEF model in the U.S. At some point, firms may be obligated to execute OTC trades on an OTF much like they are required to do on SEFs in the U.S.


In the commodities markets, REMIT will introduce trade reporting requirements from late 2015 to early 2016. REMIT also addresses inside information, market manipulation, and market participant registration. It requires all participants in European commodities markets to be centrally registered, and will use the data reported to detect occurrences of inside information and market manipulation. Firms have little time to prepare, as the bulk of REMIT is to be complete by April 2016.


Two remaining regulatory streams focus on capital and risk management. The Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB) is a fresh look at the models and approaches used to calculate capital requirements. There is an extended period of modelling referred to as the Quantitative Impact Study (QIS) to test proposals for new rules, intended to be a step forward from the previous Basel II and Basel III approaches. BCBS 239 is a parallel and complementary approach to gathering key risk information within a bank. The key Bank for International Settlements (BIS) goals are to:

  • Enhance the infrastructure for reporting key information, particularly that used by the board and senior management to identify, monitor and manage risks
  • Improve the decision-making process throughout the banking organization
  • Enhance the management of information across legal entities while facilitating a comprehensive assessment of risk exposures at the global consolidated level
  • Reduce the probability and severity of losses resulting from risk management weaknesses
  • Improve the speed at which information is available and hence decisions can be made
  • Improve the organization’s quality of strategic planning, and ability to manage the risk of new products and services

The target date for completing the implementation of BCBS 239 is early 2016, so the firms affected will be heavily invested in their compliance efforts throughout the end of 2015.


It’s clear that the various regulatory streams will require financial institutions to upgrade their digital infrastructure to meet extensive reporting and risk management goals. A few key elements include:

  • A trade warehouse with the majority of trade parameters across all asset classes
  • A record of the risk metrics for every trade, and ways to calculate margin and risk factors across multiple trades in multiple asset classes
  • The infrastructure to distribute and report this data to many global venues
  • An approach to verifying the accuracy of the data delivered externally

Within the next 18 months, the impact of mandatory clearing and the margin requirements for bilateral OTC trades will begin to reshape the OTC market; by 2017, we may see a quite different market for OTC products. Don’t let up on the compliance program – we are only at the beginning of the regulatory journey.


Tags: FinReg, Blog , Regulation