Left feeling unsettled: what are settlement failures, how prevalent are they, and what do we do about them?

Gary Harper, Pedro Gurrola-Perez and Jieshuang He

What is a settlement fail?

Imagine you’ve booked tickets for a flight, and go to pick them up and pay for them on the day. You arrive at the airport but find out the airline has overbooked, and already given your ticket away. Worse yet, because you’ve missed this flight you’re going to miss an onward connection. But, you’ll likely get a replacement ticket in a day or two as compensation.

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The myth of full automation: the roboadvice case

Claas Ludwig

Recent developments in digital technology fuel the notion that we are at an inflection point in human history, where fully automated robots are on their way to permanently replacing humans at work. To better understand the dynamics between automation and the demand for human labour, I undertook a case study on financial advice robots – colloquially known as roboadvisors. For the roboadvice firms examined, I found that human involvement is still crucial. Full automation is thus a myth, at least for now, in this industry. But roboadvisors do demonstrate that some cognitive ‘non-routine’ tasks can be automated. Previously, ‘non-routine’ tasks had been widely considered as non-automatable. Roboadvisors demonstrate how the frontier of potential automation is not limited to menial, routine tasks.

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Does accepting a broader set of collateral in central bank operations incentivise the use of riskier collateral by riskier counterparties?

Calebe de Roure and Nick McLaren

Central banks accept a wide range of assets from participants as collateral in their liquidity operations – but can this lead to undesired side effects? Such an approach can enhance overall liquidity in the financial sector, by allowing participants to transform illiquid collateral into more liquid assets. But, as a result, the central bank then needs to manage the greater potential risks of holding these riskier assets on its own balance sheet. Financially weaker participants may be encouraged to hold these assets if they can benefit from the higher returns, which compensate for the greater risk. In our recent paper we investigate whether central banks’ acceptance of a broad set of collateral incentivises the concentration of risk by examining the experience of the Bank of England (BoE).

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Liquidity resilience in the long gilt futures market

Jonathan Fullwood and Daniele Massacci

Episodes of vanishing market liquidity haunt dealers. This was true in the great stock market crash of 1929 and remains so today: in August 2018, professional corporate bond traders cited vanishing liquidity as their primary source of worry. Dealers in more-liquid long gilt futures – contracts on 10 year UK government bonds – might be less concerned. But have structural changes in the market led to less resilience over time? We address this question in a recent Staff Working Paper. We find that liquidity in the long gilt futures market has increased slightly over recent years, while remaining resilient to periods of market stress.

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CCP porting, are there lessons to be learnt from elsewhere?

Fernando V. Cerezetti and Gerardo Ferrara

Post-crisis regulatory reforms have reshaped and increased the amount of clearing activity in the OTC derivatives market. An emerging issue is so-called “client porting” – i.e. how central counterparties (CCPs) can transfer positions from one clearing member (CM) to another in the aftermath of one member defaulting. In this post, we discuss possible ways to offer clients temporary access to clearing services following a CM default, which we believe could increase the likelihood of successfully porting clients and avoiding further pressure on prices and market stability.

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Building blocks: the useful elements of blockchain

Simon Scorer

Blockchain is often discussed as if it is one single technology. But it is really a combination of several distinct features – decentralisation, distribution, cryptography, and automation – which are combined in different ways by different platforms. Some of these features may have benefits, while others may be unnecessary or even unhelpful – depending on the specific application. In this post, I consider whether and how these features may have different potential applications in financial services. Blockchain will only be truly useful in settings where one of more of these features solves a problem that existing technologies cannot.

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New banking regulation: is it affecting the clearing of derivatives?

Jonathan Smith and Gerardo Ferrara

Just like the beginning of an unforeseen family argument, two key tenets of the post-crisis reforms have unexpectedly started to butt heads: the leverage ratio capital requirement and the mandatory requirement to centrally clear certain over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives.

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The Great War and the Bank of England as Market Maker of Last Resort

Mike Anson, David Bholat, Mark Billings, Miao Kang and Ryland Thomas

During the global financial crisis, some central banks acted as market makers of last resort, buying and selling securities in financial markets when trading in them had stalled. Some commentators claimed this role was “a completely new” one for central banks. In this blog, we show, on the contrary, that the Bank of England acting as a ‘market maker of last resort’ has precedent. Using newly transcribed micro-level data which we are publishing today, we detail how officials intervened in the 1914 financial crisis in a way that has at least a passing resemblance to the actions the Bank took during the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-09.

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Can ‘stablecoins’ be stable?

Ben Dyson

Cryptoassets (or ‘cryptocurrencies’) are notoriously volatile. For example, in November 2018, Bitcoin – one of the more stable cryptoassets – lost 43% of its value in just 11 days. This kind of volatility makes it difficult for cryptoassets to function as money: they’re too unstable to be a good store of value, means of exchange or unit of account. But could so-called ‘stablecoins’ solve this problem and finally provide a price-stable cryptoasset?

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The seven deadly paradoxes of cryptocurrency

John Lewis

Will people in 2030 buy goods, get mortgages or hold their pension pots in bitcoin, ethereum or ripple rather than central bank issued currencies? I doubt it.  Existing private cryptocurrencies do not seriously threaten traditional monies because they are afflicted by multiple internal contradictions. They are hard to scale, are expensive to store, cumbersome to maintain, tricky for holders to liquidate, almost worthless in theory, and boxed in by their anonymity. And if newer cryptocurrencies ever emerge to solve these problems, that’s additional downside news for the value of existing ones.

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