Digital investment pays dividends

ICAP’s decision to invest $250m in new technology last year is going to pay dividends. Having attracted over €10bn worth of interest rate swaps (IRS) to its new electronic platform during its first week of operation, it is now reaping the rewards. Big investment banks like Citi, BarCap, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan are market makers on the new system, and are clearly trading with gusto. They will be hoping that the decision to move IRS on to an electronic platform will satisfy regulatory demands for greater transparency in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market; until now, the IRS market has been controlled by dealers who did not disclose prices publicly.

The advantages of electronic trading go much deeper. Banks are able to execute more complex trades than they could over the phone, such as a series of different trades simultaneously. The possibilities for ICAP are obvious. IRS account for almost three quarters of the OTC market, with euro IRS worth some $4 trillion. Phone broking is dead, long live electronic platforms.