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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Every day UK banks and corporates (“participants”) make sizeable payments to each other through CHAPS, the country’s high-value payment system. However, these payments are liquidity-intensive: every payment must be pre-funded, i.e. the payer must have in place the full amount to be paid. This can be costly, so each participant would prefer to first receive some money from another one and then make its own payments by recycling the received amount. However, this still requires that some participants supply intra-day liquidity to the system by making the first payments. But who are these participants? This post shows that it is typically the smaller ones and also those perceived by markets to be riskier that get the ball rolling…