Dáire Ferguson, CEO, AvaTrade
The last few years have provided us with a series of unpredictable political and social events that have led to high levels of volatility in the stock markets. In the past four years alone, we have witnessed the Brexit vote in 2016, the inauguration of Donald Trump’s presidency in 2017, and a global pandemic in 2020. In each case, these events have gone against expectations and provoked wild market movements.
These are certainly challenging times, but current events offer traders equipped with the right knowledge and tools an opportunity to profit handsomely. Of course, volatility is a double-edged sword: traders can just as easily incur losses. So how can they capitalise on the opportunities while managing risk and protecting their assets?
Why volatility is lucrative
When we consider recent events that have impacted the global stock markets, traders have been given an abundance of opportunities to capitalise on the volatility. Stock prices for companies have risen and fallen astronomically owing to the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, where some have coped better than others.
Social media is one area where investment is particularly interesting because these companies are liable to grow rapidly. For example, despite already being well-established as one of the social media giants, Twitter saw its shares almost triple in value on the AvaTrade platform between July 2018 and July 2019 jumping from just above US$15 to a peak of around US$45.
When we consider recent weeks, traders could have made a generous profit on Snapchat had they bought its shares ahead of the announcement that it would stop promoting posts from US President Donald Trump. Following this announcement towards the end of June, Snapchat’s shares shot up 11% on the AvaTrade platform.
The other side of the coin
On the other hand, not all tech-based companies are finding it easy at the moment. Uber was one of the most falling stocks in the same week as Snapchat rose, dropping by 8.3%. Taxi services have understandably struggled during lockdown, so this is more than likely to be the reason for Uber’s decrease. The ride-hailing company also issued a statement around this time that all passengers need to wear facemasks which, although an admirable safety measure, may have contributed further to its drop in market value, as other taxi companies have not followed suit.
It can be relatively easy to read market reactions in hindsight, as we’ve done here. But doing so in the moment is far harder. Traders could conceivably have purchased stocks in Uber following the face mask announcement in the belief that this decision would encourage better consumer trust in the company and increase its worth. As we have seen, however, traders would have stood to make a significant loss on this call.
Undoubtedly, market volatility can be lucrative, but being able to manage risk is also critical.
How to protect assets
While an ear to the ground and a good nose for market movements will serve traders well, not everyone can rely on years of experience, nor can they necessarily be confident in any given situation, particularly given the unpredictability of today’s markets. To address these worries a number of risk management tools have been entering the field, offering an extra layer of security for traders. These tools can be useful for both experienced traders wanting to execute strategies in riskier climates and those relatively new to the trading world looking for additional support.
There are a number of different forms of protection available to traders. For instance, AvaTrade is one of a number of brokers that offer “take profit” and “stop loss” orders. These see traders define price points at which the system will automatically sell their asset in order to lock in profits or cut losses. This can be a valuable tool for ensuring traders make rational decisions and don’t hold onto positions for too long, risking a favourable position going sour or a bad position getting worse.
Other tools, such as AvaTrade’s AvaProtect, even go so far as to offer total protection against loss for a defined period. This approach sees the trader simply check a box to take out protection on an asset in exchange for a small fee based on the size and risk of the position. This means that if a strategy does not perform as well as initially expected, traders can recover any and all losses on the trade, minus the initial cost of taking out the protection.
As with every sector, advancements in technology continue to evolve in the trading space and, with access to the right tools, traders can feel confident that they can profit from the market without taking on too much risk.
Certainly, 2020 will continue to be a tumultuous and challenging year, especially economically. Upcoming political events, such as the US elections and a possible Brexit trade deal later in the year, combined with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus, are likely to keep triggering market shifts. For traders – armed with the tools to keep a tight grip on risks – this will mean further opportunities to profit.
FROM EFFICIENCY TO NEW INVESTMENTS – WHY BLOCKCHAIN IS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Thomas Borrel, chief product officer at Polymath
Blockchain has been an extremely hot topic in 2021. With companies and financial institutions internationally having to adapt to an increasingly digital world, the true potential of blockchain is becoming increasingly clear. We have seen hospitals using the technology to track vaccine distributions, major blue-chip companies floating digital assets or ‘stablecoins’, even progress made by central banks in piloting and adopting digital currencies
When it comes to the world of finance, much of the attention has focussed on the booming price of Bitcoin, and there has been much excitement around using cryptocurrencies as an alternative investment. However, the real potential of blockchain technology stretches far into traditional finance and beyond.
Improving access to investment options
Security tokens created and issued on the blockchain are already being used to improve efficiency in a variety of more traditional asset classes, ranging from real estate to green bonds. The Sustainable Digital Finance Alliance (SDFA) and HSBC Center of Sustainable Finance recently joined forces to highlight how security tokens for green bonds can reduce management costs and increase operational efficiency by up to ten times. And in early 2020, RedSwan CRE Marketplace tokenised $2.2B in commercial real estate, making it one of the biggest tokenisations we’ve seen so far.
However, the potential of tokenisation does not only stand to improve the process of trading traditional assets; blockchain can also open up the pool of investors able to participate. To date, the focus has been on how fractionalisation brings benefits to retail investors by lowering the bar to entry. However, the retail regulations are still very stringent, which is important to protect non-professionals from disproportionate losses.
Tokenisation can be used to enable large institutional investors to buy into smaller projects. Referred to as aggregation, this process can be used to bind assets together so that they meet an institution’s minimum investment threshold. Because of the transparency of blockchain, the investor is still able to inspect each individual offering and ensure each element meets their quality and risk requirements, but by packaging it into one larger token, an institution can diversify with assets that would have otherwise flown under its radar.
Optimising efficiency and minimising risk
Risk management and operational efficiency are usually at the core of any financial institution’s wider strategy. However, no matter how much firms optimise their own processes, there are a range of financial instruments that are still very prone to issues in these areas, especially those that are traded ‘over the counter’ (OTC). The best example of this is likely the bonds market – a multi trillion-dollar market, where OTC trades are still common practice.
When an OTC trade is conducted, it is often so over the telephone – one person calling another to make a deal. This introduces significant information risk with securities operations teams reporting error rates as high as 40%. When instructions for the trade are passed on to the custodians, they will spot the discrepancy. They then have to investigate and find out what has gone wrong, often resulting in very long delays to settlement times.
Blockchains go a long way to solving this problem, providing transparent access to trade and clearing information so that operational issues can be caught earlier and help mitigate settlement risk (i.e. settlement failure). For example, on Polymesh settlement instructions must be affirmed prior to settlement, in a case where an OTC trade has been improperly captured by one counterparty, the counterparty which has affirmed the instruction can see that the other counterparty has not affirmed the instruction within a defined period. In this way, the affirming counterparty can reach out proactively prior to the settlement date to rectify the situation and avoid settlement failure.
Trading on blockchain also generates an easily accessible, secure ledger of trading information. When it comes to reporting in traditional asset classes, the process is highly manual and often expensive. But, with a blockchain solution, reporting is built into the ecosystem from the ground up. There are no significant additional costs or resources required to extract this data and share it where necessary, and the number and complexity of the steps required to complete reconciliations between different entities are reduced and simplified.
Is tokenisation a ‘cover all’ solution?
Fundamentally, certain traditional asset classes are not right for the blockchain yet. Instruments with well-established frameworks, like publicly traded stocks, already have very well-formed, rigorous rails in place, and so transferring to a blockchain could cause disruption and incur unnecessary costs.
It is very common to hear blockchain advocates claiming that blockchain technology should be introduced into every corner of the finance space, which is misguided. Blockchain should be introduced where it brings value to investors or institutions. It should be about augmenting and supplementing the marketplace – not overhauling it, or at least not until the incumbent systems no longer keep up with demand.
The costs and infrastructure associated with capital markets have made some assets – like green bonds or real estate – too expensive to bring to market and service, or too difficult to invest in. These use-cases are examples of where tokenisation can really shine.
Blockchain is an extremely powerful tool, with a range of exciting applications and potential benefits for businesses and financial institutions, ranging from risk management and efficiency through to enabling new investments. However, as with any product, it isn’t the answer to all problems, and must be treated as a powerful enabler – not as an agitator.
TRADING ROOMS OF THE FUTURE – IPC’S OUTLOOK FOR 2021
By Craig Campestre, Chief Revenue Officer, IPC
The Covid-19 pandemic did not just affect our clients. As soon as the virus started to spread around the world and lockdowns started to come into place, it became apparent here at IPC that we would need to implement our own business continuity plan and work from home strategies. All of this had to take place on an incredibly tight timescale and to an unprecedented extent. We had to react and adapt faster than ever before in order to help our clients prepare for lockdown. There was a need to manage supply chains, gather client feedback, and produce updates for our products with increased levels of accuracy, clarity, and efficiency.
During these challenging times, market participants have done an excellent job in moving quickly to make sure that their systems remain stable and resilient. The fact that the markets have remained open throughout this period is a testament to their great work.
Now though, it is time for us all to look ahead and see what the future holds for the trading industry.
How the industry is evolving
Prior to the pandemic, the trading room was starting to change. Regulatory requirements such as MiFID II, a piece of legislative framework designed to regulate financial markets and improve protections for investors, had resulted in the transformation of workflows on the trading floor. There is now a real necessity for telephonic communications to be integrated with trading technology in order to gain actionable insights from conversations.
We have also noticed that a new trend has emerged – traders are now starting to consume multiple applications from just one terminal. As a result of this, data is being shared organically between the applications.
Trading desks are also striving for increased productivity. Using AI-powered natural language processing (NLP) tools, trading firms are able to strive for swifter execution, better communications, and smooth-running reporting processes and settlements. All in all, this leads to an overall increase in efficiency.
Additionally, there are numerous areas across trading floors where NLP will be used in the coming years. It will enable traders to voice populate applications and forms on their desktops, while NLP will also allow for heads of trading desks to search through structured sets of data, enabling them to reconstruct trades instead of having to manually listen to numerous audio files.
With hundreds of millions of voice quotes being generated around the world every day, it is vital that this market data is unlocked, and that future trading floors are equipped with the necessary voice communication tools to allow them to conduct better analysis and automate their workflows.
Global growth and the FX market
Traditional trading hubs, such as the US, the UK, Japan and Hong Kong are still facilitating most of the foreign exchange (FX) market trading. However, in recent years trading hubs from emerging markets are starting to come to the fore. For example, China is making great inroads, evidenced by the country being ranked as the 8th largest FX trading center, per the 2019 BIS triennial survey.
The Asia-Pacific region has long been viewed as a growing market. Even before the pandemic, trading firms operating in this region had already faced a crisis and were impacted by a major geopolitical event – the 2019-20 Hong Kong protests. The protests meant that traders in the region were forced to adjust their trading activities and working practices. As such, these trading firms were able to use the experience gained from having to suddenly pivot and roll out their business continuity plans to help financial companies around the rest of the world when lockdowns came into effect due to the pandemic.
Adding to this, it is important to consider the impact that current geopolitical events may have on global growth over the coming years. Brexit and the increased economic tension between China and the US, as well as Covid-19, all have the potential to have a major impact on global growth. Due to these geopolitical events, we may observe a shift in the location of trading activities, which may begin taking place in locations that are, presently, not thought of as global trading hubs.
How IPC can help
The global markets are continuously changing and evolving. As such, it is vital for market participants to remain on the edge of innovation.
Here at IPC, we are constantly assessing what needs to be done to enable the development of the trading room of the future. This includes bringing voice communication services fully into electronic trading environments. By doing this, it will allow for greater integration with data sources, trading technologies and electronic workflows. In places where we have voice products that function using legacy infrastructure, we are in the process of modernizing the underlying technologies.
It is clear to see that the trading industry was in the midst of an evolution prior to the pandemic. However, this transformation has definitely been accelerated by the events of the past year, with companies having to quickly adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. This process is likely to continue into 2021 and beyond, with new and improved products continuing to enter the marketplace. Looking to the future, it is vital that financial market participants maintain their resilience and maintain their innovative edge.
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