The business of trading interest-rate swaps is moving to electronic platforms at breakneck speed, largely driven by the implementation of Dodd-Frank.
Sixty percent of notional client swap trading volume in the U.S. this year is being executed electronically—up from just 20% in 2014. But according to a new study from Greenwich Associates, investors are still relying on the support and advice of sell-side salespeople
A new Greenwich Report, Interest-Rate Derivatives Sales: Not What It Used To Be, But No Less Important, reveals that as recently as 2010, nearly 90% of notional trading volume was executed via the phone, instant messages and email, with only the remaining 10% directed to electronic platforms. At that time, only 17% of U.S.-based investors traded any interest-rate swaps electronically, a number that has since jumped to almost two-thirds.
Despite this shift to electronic trading, investors continue to place a high value on the service provided by sell-side interest-rate derivatives (IRD) salespeople. In fact, U.S. investors allocate one-third of their trading volume based on the quality of the sales coverage they receive, putting sales on nearly equal footing with execution quality, which on average drives 44% of volume allocation.
“Immediately following the financial crisis, investors started relying on sell-side salespeople for education about regulatory changes, new clearing rules, SEFs, and how to make the transition to electronic trading,” says Jasper Clark, Greenwich Associates Associate Consultant and author of the report.
A critical role of the IRD salesperson today is focusing on large and complex transactions. Block trades, which above a certain size are not required by regulation to be executed electronically on SEFs, represent a key area where sales can continue to add value and, in turn, influence allocation decisions.
“Our research shows unequivocally that investors are still looking to speak to an expert on the sell side about their trades, even if regulations tell them they ultimately need to trade on the screen,” says Kevin McPartland, Head of Market Structure and Technology Research at Greenwich Associates.