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SURVIVING AND THRIVING AS LIBOR WAVES GOODBYE

By Neil Murphy, Global VP, ABBYY

 

The transition from the widely used LIBOR interest rate will fundamentally alter financial markets around the globe. Currently, $350 trillion worth of financial contracts reference this rate worldwide. Banks and other financial institutions are now required to phase out any agreements that utilise LIBOR as a benchmark and transition to an alternative reference rate by the end of 2021. While this may seem like a long time from now, the process will likely be lengthy and complex. To ensure a smooth transition, banks and other impacted organizations will need to begin preparing well in advance. Right now, only 19% of firms say they’re ready.

The transition process will be no mean feat. It will involve creating task forces, sorting through immense volumes of documents, adopting new technologies, re-negotiating current agreements and developing entirely new financial products. Preparing early and thoroughly is critical for minimising risk from every angle – financial risk, legal and compliance exposure, and operational disruption. Planning ahead will also facilitate a smooth process for customers, helping maintain – or even increase – client satisfaction and retention.

While the transition may seem daunting for some organisations, it doesn’t have to be. To begin preparing, businesses need to understand what LIBOR is and how it will affect your business, including which products will be impacted, what the replacement options are, and what exactly the complex transition process will involve. Let’s start from the beginning.

 

What’s behind the transition?

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the LIBOR rate is based on specific types of transactions between banks which now do not occur as frequently as they used to, making the rate less reliable. The governing bodies that oversee this index have stated that they cannot guarantee the rate will be available after 2021.

Certain private-sector banks which are currently required to submit information that is then utilized to set the LIBORrate will stop being required to do so after next year, which means the rate will subsequently not be an accurate reflection of its underlying market. At this point, the quality of the rate will likely degrade to a degree at which it is no longer credible, which could cause LIBOR to stop publication immediately.

The end of LIBOR is imminent, which makes preparing for the transition and implementing alternative reference rates in advance an imperative for financial institutions. All types of banks and financial institutions will be impacted, from small regional banks serving local consumers to large global financial institutions providing commercial services to multinational enterprises. In addition, related industries, such as insurance, will also be impacted by the discontinuation of LIBOR. Even industries that are completely outside of the financial sector will feel a ripple effect.

 

What’s the impact?

From 30-page mortgage agreements to 340-page commercial loan contracts, every type of financial product that utilizes LIBOR will be impacted. First up is derivatives, including interest rate swaps, cross-currency swaps, commodity swaps, credit default swaps, interest rate futures, and interest rate options. Bonds will also be impacted, including corporates, floating rate notes, covered bonds, agency notes, leases, and trade finance. As for loans, the impact will be far reaching, from syndicated to securitised, business loans, real estate mortgages, private loans and even certain types of student loans. In short, any type of loan that utilizes a variable interest rate based, in whole or in part, on LIBOR will be impacted.

There will also be an impact on short-term instruments such as repos, reverse repos, and commercial paper, and onsecuritised products like mortgage-backed securities (MBS), asset-backed securities (ABS), and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Finally, in the retail sphere, it will affect loans, mortgages, pensions, credit cards, overdrafts and late payments.

To replace LIBOR, there will be various Alternative Reference Rates (ARR’s), which will vary by geography.

 

How should we prepare?

Many companies have thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of LIBOR-based financial agreements circulating within their organisations. There are some global investment banks whose volume of related contracts reaches into the millions.

There will be many necessary steps in a successful transition. One of the most important is assessing where LIBOR is used across all business operations and identifying each individual contract, agreement and related document. Without a doubt, finding, collecting, and compiling every contract that utilises the LIBOR rate will be an extensive and complex process.

Whether it’s a small- to mid-size bank or a large financial institution with hundreds of thousands of contracts, sifting through, reading, and pinpointing every document that references LIBOR will be cumbersome, costly and time-consuming if conducted entirely manually. The right technology, particularly those that are powered by AI and content intelligence technologies, could transform this process. They can sort through volumes of documents, accurately identifying relevant contracts thanks to advanced OCR and NLP technology, and automatically extracting relevant data. The right tools go a long way in simplifying the complex document-related processes involved in the LIBORtransition.

Identifying all related contracts is only the first step, however critical it is. After all relevant agreements have been compiled, the next step is to transition each individual contract to the new alternate reference rate. For many financial institutions, there will likely be a significant degree of re-negotiation involved in this process, particularly for contracts governing high-value financial products or agreements serving commercial clients.

The transition process is one that will likely involve many business units – from legal and compliance for managing risk, to product management for creating new offerings, to marketing and PR for developing effective communication strategies for customers, investors and stakeholders. Successfully navigating the transition will require a clearly defined roadmap, long-term vision, and the right technology. This combination will be crucial for firms to be prepared for the transition, and to ensure their business isn’t adversely affected by it.

While the deadline for transitioning from LIBOR may be over a year and a half away, time is still definitely of the essence. For businesses that want to minimise financial and legal risk, ensure a seamless transition, maintain their market share, and ensure customer loyalty, the time to begin preparing is now.

 

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GALA TECHNOLOGY SELECTS NUAPAY TO ENABLE OPEN BANKING PAYMENTS

Nuapay, powered by Sentenial, today announces it has been chosen by Gala Technology, a payment security solution specialist, to provide Open Banking payments to its partner network and direct merchants across multiple sectors including retail, hospitality, and financial services.

Gala Technology’s multi-award winning SOTpay ‘Pay-by-link’ solution simplifies PCI DSS requirements and protects merchants against the ever-growing risk of fraud by ensuring that the transactions are authenticated, shifting liability and often lowering acquiring processing costs. SOTpay’s integration with Nuapay’s Open Banking platform now enables them to process non-card payments.

Nuapay’s FCA-licenced Open Banking payments service enables Gala Technology’s partners and merchants to accept payments via any sales channel of choice, including telephone, web chat, SMS and social media. It can do this without requesting sensitive card data, which ensures SCA compliance and eliminates fraudulent chargebacks.

“The capabilities of Open Banking have become more apparent in 2020 as merchants have been forced to explore alternative contactless, mobile and ecom-friendly payment methods that can be accessed quickly and are lower in processing costs, due to a need to respond to change brought by Covid-19.” shares Nick Raper, Head of UK at Nuapay. “We’re thrilled to be working with Gala Technology, as we  have a shared drive to eradicate payment fraud. This partnership will help to increase widespread adoption of live bank transfer payments as SOTPay gives us an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate Open Banking payments’ usability and benefits to new audiences.”

Nuapay is one of the only PISPs which offers a fully inclusive open banking payment initiation, webhook notification and payment account solution; which quickens checkouts, speed-up access to cash flow, reduces processing costs, and enables full reconciliation and batch settlements of transactions. Gala Technology’s customers now have access to new payment innovation and will be able to perform refunds or make instant payouts.

 

Steven Jones, Commercial Director at Gala Technology, said: “We chose to work with Nuapay as their complete Account-2-Account payments capabilities and high customer service levels are unparalleled. Looking forward, Nuapay’s presence within the UK and Europe will greatly help us reach new clients and will extend our service offerings to existing clients too. Nuapay’s Open Banking payments solutions help us to provide a better service; in turn, the time, money and resources our customers save will enable them to focus on growing their businesses in a more profitable way.”

Nuapay’s PISP processor has a single connection to all major banks in the UK and a growing number of connections across Europe, ensuring that Gala Technology’s clients’ payments will be supported, no matter where their customers bank.

 

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THE EMBEDDED BENEFITS IN ESEF DIGITAL FINANCIAL REPORTING

The inclusion of a simple link delivers serious gains in transparency, trust and real time verifiability for the whole financial ecosystem. It’s another digital feather in the LEI’s hat, explains Stephan Wolf, CEO, Global LEI Foundation.

 

In a battle for significance, no other public facing business document can match the annual financial report. It is the document that a public corporation must, by law, publish to describe its operations and financial condition, and to chronicle its activities over the past twelve months. Shareholders, investors and the wider financial ecosystem make innumerable strategic and operational decisions based on its contents.

In today’s digital age, then, it is little surprise that the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has mandated that annual financial reports published from the start of 2020 follow a consistent digital configuration, known as the European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) and, in them, embed their Legal Entity Identifier (LEI).

Stephan Wolf

On first glance, the ESEF format appears to be designed to drive financial report production into a convenient paperless form factor. While this is both true and highly commendable, an ocean of additional potential is revealed by ESMA’s insistence that corporations embed their LEI. This mandate will heighten transparency, enhance trust, and provide instant and non-repudiable verification that the organisation filing the report is, indeed, who they claim to be. These far-reaching benefits are all enabled by the report linking to the filing entity’s verified LEI reference data held within the Global LEI Index.

The simple process of embedding an organization’s LEI  – or, indeed, that of its affiliates, subsidiaries and parent companies – within an ESEF financial report means that regulators, investors, traders and other financial stakeholders, can consolidate and verify information on the filing entity faster and more conveniently than ever before.

LEI reference data includes business card information on an entity, including name and registered address, together with relationship data which confirms if the entity owns, or is owned by, other entities. This increased transparency relative to an entity’s ownership structure means that relationship networks between LEIs can be quickly and automatically established, since the LEIs of the filing entity, its affiliates, subsidiaries and parent companies are all provided in the new machine-readable ESEF format. Usefully, because the reference data is reverified annually by GLEIF accredited LEI issuers, it is always accurate and up-to-date. The net result is a substantially more useful document for end users, which is also verifiably trustworthy, authentic and integral.

ESMA has published the Global LEI Foundation’s 2019 annual report on its website to provide a best practice example of a report published in the ESEF format, which other preparers can reference. The report is published in human and machine-readable Inline XBRL and HTML formats, with LEIs embedded within both the annual report and the digital certificates of the report’s signing executive officers. The combination of these two features provides something completely unprecedented: instantly available, digitally verifiable credentials that confirm both the authenticity of document and the key individuals responsible for its content.1

Beyond the single report, the LEI embedding process creates broader opportunities for the financial ecosystem. Aggregating information on companies from multiple sources is dramatically simplified, making the job of comparing standardized financial information both faster and easier. This can be accomplished either manually, by ‘clicking through’ to view the LEI reference data, or via an automated process, saving yet more time and eliminating the risk of human error. In time, this level of facility will lead to the automated creation of online databases that use the linked LEIs to collate key data assets, to the benefit of, frankly, any person or organization that has interest, globally.

The mandatory embedding of LEIs in financial reports is just one demonstration of this technology’s transformative potential. In broader terms, not only is the LEI shoring up the digital financial ecosystem, it is helping to stabilize the evolution of the world’s digital economy. It is no exaggeration to say that the LEI, together with the Global LEI System, solves the problem of trust for legal entities worldwide. It is the only open, commercially neutral, standardized and regulatory endorsed system capable of establishing digitized trust between all legal entitles, everywhere. It was conceived and designed as a public good, and can be deployed without charge in a wide – and growing – variety of digital use-cases. Put simply, the more it is utilized, the more good it will do.

 

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