FX: Voice Trading Not Dead Yet
Traders Magazine Online News, December 12, 2012
Electronic broking and trading of foreign exchange now exceeds voice trading, 30 percent to 27 percent, for banks and other dealers in foreign exchange, according to Celent.
The remaining 42 percent? Customers making communications directly to banks, often through electronic channels.
In spot FX trading, where $1.5 trillion of currencies change hands every day, 60 percent is handled electronically, through automated systems, according to PropelGrowth, a marketing agency.
And that can be as high as 85 percent, when banks, dealers and their customers are dealing in the G-10 currencies: the legal tender of Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy and the United States.
But is the use of the telephone -- so-called voice trading -- dead?
“I’ve seen a very big swing towards electronic trading and electronic risk management where the voice trader ceases to be really involved in the process at all,’’ said Peter Atkinson, FX product manager for smartTrade Technologies, a New York supplier of what it calls liqudiity management systems.
Now, the voice trader, he says, “tends to sort of monitor the machine and make sure that the organization is (establishing) sensible prices,” on transactions.
But, he says, by and large, quantitative analysis teams and electronic trading experts “have pretty much taken over all the management of those tickets now.”
The voice trader has to find ways of focusing on “higher value, higher margin aspects of trading,’’ according to Matthew O’Donnell, director of product management at IPC Systems, which markets trading turrets and trading desk communication gear. Tasks, like sales traders in stocks, such as building relationships, long-term, with customers for bigger, more consequential trades.
Right now, there is a threshold or almost a dividing line between that the tickets that are large enough to warrant personal attention. Atkinson puts the break point at about $20 million in the value of the trade.
Spreads are compressing, as well, he said, and ticket sizes are getting much smaller. That means more tickets get pushed to automated systems.
Where voice trading still holds sway is in emerging markets, outside the G-10, where automated systems may not be able to handle the very big tickets, anyway. Atkinson says he doesn’t know of a platform big enough to handle more than $50 million, in a particular currency, for instance.
Electronic platforms also can just be partly automated. In emerging markets, you may send out a request for quotation, a trader will pick it up on the other side, make a manual quote, put it back into the system, and the original party has to reject it or accept it. There is not an automatic match or execution.
The use of automated systems, particularly in the largest markets, is almost an imperative, said Christian-Ivan Bacic, first vice president for foreign exchange trading at Bayerische Landesbank in Munich.
That’s because traders are being asked to serve increasingly large numbers of clients, at once. “You have to have now basically two or three traders maybe cover or take care of 50 or 100 clients,’’ he said. “Without electronic trading, I’m not sure if this would be possible.”
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