Document remediation projects are not new. Anyone working in Capital Markets in recent years can probably describe the steps involved as they tend to be similar each time. Recent battle scars in the derivatives world include Uncleared Margin Reform (UMR)
where large volumes of derivatives documents had to be amended – first for variation margin and more recently (and ongoing) for initial margin.
The LIBOR, EURIBOR, EONIA challenge (if you’re still reading you know what this stands for) has similar characteristics. A market event (typically), leads to some regulatory change that is well publicised and has a deadline requiring industry wide action.
The flow is often something like this:
- Panic about the size of the challenge
- Assume it will go away and ignore it (often not a bad plan, based on some regulations)
- Watch the industry bodies talk about it
- Assume they will come up with a solution
- Wait for the deadline to get pretty close
- Realise that no protocol or industry solution is either coming, or that if it is it won’t meet your needs
- Panic about the time left
- Seek a magic technology solution – after all can’t AI solve everything?
- Realise there is still work to do and that technology is only part of it
- Assemble a team and with the short time left make a plan and start executing it
- Perform impact assessment (scoping the size of the problem – contracts and counterparty relationships affected)
- Retrieve all the documents and supporting reference data
- Process them in some way (this could involve information extraction from the documents), but perhaps you can skip straight to the remediation for some
- Remediate the affected documents and relationships, either through a protocol, a standard contract, or custom negotiation
- Capture the newly remediated data in the relevant systems (ideally a contract database, and operational systems)
- Close the project ready for the next regulation.
Ok – so that’s a little flippant but probably still somewhat familiar.
For LIBOR there are a number of ways to perform the ‘Doing Phase’ step 1. Reducing the initial size of the problem can probably be performed most effectively using your operational systems (transaction databases / trade platforms for example). If the benchmark
rates are material to the contracts, then you almost certainly hold them in digital form somewhere, alongside the entities in the relationship and importantly for LIBOR, the termination date. Using this information, you can reduce the overall problem size
considerably, weeding out those that will expire or ‘roll-off’ before the deadline.
Prioritisation and Document Retrieval
Next you should prioritise. LIBOR is more challenging than some recent remediation efforts. It affects so many contract types and therefore business areas, that you probably want each one to do their own work where possible and manage this as a programme.
Prioritisation could be based on deadlines firstly (which benchmarks die the soonest) and then a secondary aspect such as size of exposure, or importance of relationship.
At this point you need to collate your in-scope documentation. If you are lucky, you will have key documents in a repository somewhere, but either way you need to pull it all together. For derivatives contracts this could include Master agreements, collateral annexes,
amendments and confirmations but you may also have bonds, loan documents and others.
Processing and Remedial Action Determination
The processing task on these documents for LIBOR is to determine if the benchmark is mentioned and if it is, how it is used within the contract and whether the language context it is used in has fallback language and if it does, whether it is suitable. Many
do, but often just in anticipation of a technical glitch in the rate being available temporarily on the market data platforms rather than what is happening with benchmark reform. Naively you might think you can examine the contracts scan by scan, but this
won’t really work – you need to organise the chronology of amendments by contract type and entity to be certain you are dealing with the latest data and that you are processing at a contract level.
At this stage rules must be applied based on all this data to determine what should happen next: is the contract in the clear? Does the contract contain sufficient fallback language that it can be left alone? Or does the contract need to be amended? In
the case of amendment, the rules may also identify the type of amendment required.
This involves processing your contracts, organising them into families, arranging amendments in chronological order, identifying and extracting the rates and how they are used and where there are fallbacks, and implementing your rules or decision tree to
derive the ‘what-next’.
Remediation and Outreach
Once you have sorted contracts by action required, you need to execute the remediation. This could be using a feed or report from the data processing and extraction phase and may also involve some automated tooling where the remediation can be templated
using document assembly solutions.
For some challenges custom changes using old-fashioned word-processing tools might be needed, although even tools like MS Word can be adapted fairly easily to give some automation benefits. The ‘Outreach’ piece similarly might need tooling for high volume
organisations but can be as simple as tracking in a spreadsheet.
To gain ongoing benefits from all this work you should process the remediated amendments as a post-execution phase, this also means you will have an up-to-date contract database ready as a springboard for the next remediation challenge.
Closure and Business as Usual
By now you will have organised all your contracts, set up families with metadata and processed at least some of the data from them to meet the needs of LIBOR remediation. If the challenge is approached properly, you will be in a good position for processing
the same contracts for additional data points to meet ongoing business needs. You will have delivered the remediation, be better equipped for the next one (and there will be one) and have begun your journey to better contract data management.