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The CHF blood bath, explained

17 January 2015

48 hours into the CHF debacle, it’s always healthy to carry out some post-mortem analysis to learn the lessons of why it happened, and what we could have been done to weather it better.

Since we’ve done it, why not share it?

The macro-story: Black-Wednesday, redux

What happened is crystal-clear with the benefit of hindsight (as it always is).

The CHF is a currency safe-haven, albeit a rather illiquid one, since it’s only backed by a tiny and financially hypertrophic economy. Ever since the EUR crisis, everyone and their mother placed some of their safety net in CHF – so much so that the Swiss National Bank was forced to ¨intervene¨ to keep the level at 1.20 to the EUR.

The intervention mechanism was: whoever bought CHF close to 1.20 sold to one counterparty, and one counterparty alone – the SNB. In broker parlance, the SNB became the daddy of all market makers by being the only player in the market with “unlimited” access to CHF close to the 1.20 EUR/CHF cliff. This filled the balance sheet of the SNB with foreign currency reserves… above all with a boatload of EUR, for EUR area is the Swiss’ primary commercial partner and the home currency of nervous europeans who by now trust neither their “unbreakable” currency, nor their tax-agency (the latter being food for another post).

With the EUR crisis on its way back (it has never really left…), the EUR has gone on free-fall, and EUR reserves were drilling the daddy of all P&L hits in the SNB balance sheet. That was before Herr Jordan got Mario’s phone call kindly announcing QE. Herr Jordan’s press conference is (financial) history being written as we speak.

Black Wednesday on September 16th, 1992, George Soros hit the headlines. Actually, he didn’t until after the dust had settled.

On the January 15th Donnerstagsdebakel (made this up, but it’s fitting for Thursday is the day of Thor and Thunder, depending on the language you choose), someone else hit the Jackpot.

We don’t know the name of the winner yet: journalists are still chasing around for a name and a photo to head their scoop… but if you want an outline of his likely background, read on.

The (retail) micro-story: Dancing on a cliff

We (traders, brokers, broker-dealers, and dealers) went about our business, nonplussed.

Traders saw juicy price-action dynamics at that level, and brokers readily offered (leveraged!) trading access to the CHF. Again with hindsight, everyone was dancing on a cliff… not wondering too much what would happen if (actually, when) Hoover Dam fell.

Dancing-on-Glacier-Point-03

So far, all pretty standard, really.

The interesting (and sad) bit, and the one that has received the least early attention is that the Fall affected brokers (A-Book) and dealers (B-Book) in tragically different ways – just as you’d expect it, for brokers trade with customers and dealers trade against them.

This effect IS news, because what went belly up on Thursday is the capillary over-the-counter (OTC) system of broker-dealers that makes currencies flow world-wide.

a-book, aka involuntary (unprepared!) contingent market makers

The moment the previous market maker (the SNB) went on strike, Hover Dam fell and sent the EUR on free-fall against the CHF – which called the next market makers to action: customers short the CHF and their collateral posted with their agency-only brokers and Prime Brokers (we’re pure A-Book).

Once that was exhausted (the higher the leverage offered, the quicker), brokers’s and Prime Brokers’ stop-losses triggered, but there was no market, so the margin we had posted with our Prime Brokers was the market. We, a-book brokers became involuntary (and ill equipped) market makers of last resort, not against our retail customers, but our wholesale counterparties.

Technically we ran no risk since actually it was our customers shorting the CHF who got smacked. In practice, FXCM (and others!) now know better: you can’t hire an army of lawyers to track thousands of micro-debts because each debt is smaller than 30 min of lawyer fees.

So there you go.

If you’re looking for victims, you’ll find more than your fair share in the lines of pure agency Brokers and Prime-Brokers who catalysed spot foreign exchange flows between macro (Tier 1 Banks and Central Banks)market makers and micro (Hedge-Funds, retail traders, Tier 2 institutions) price takers.

b-book, unregulated retail bucket shops

The retail spot forex trading arena contains close to 1000 unregulated, undercapitalised, over-levered retail dealers (= bucket shops) who make markets against FX punters.

(How or why they are allowed to invest massive amounts into advertising to earn business in regulated markets escapes our understanding, but that’s for another blog post.)

More to the point, how did they fare? Just fine, thank you.

They kept the deposits of those short the CHF, as they always do – and they didn’t have any losses with wholesale counterparties to match (all they do is trade against customers, remember?).

So how about the winners? You can bet that many of those outfits will keep the P&L of winning customers (there was no market, re-quotes, blah-blah), as they always do. That’s when operating an unregulated casino comes in particularly handy.

So there you go.

If you’re looking for more victims, go find would have been genius… who discovered a tad too late that trading with an unregulated bucket shop is a variation on the age old “heads I win, tails, you lose” coin toss.

They could have been George Soros, but learnt the concept of counterparty risk instead.

Darwinex

We came out of this just fine, mainly because we did most things right, and partially because we were lucky.

What we did right was to anticipate the on-exchange move. We have been clearing all our flow with LMAX (a MiFID regulated MTF), partially because we think that there’s too much information asymmetry in OTC forex, partially because Exchanges facilitate clearing and settlement (go ask Saxo customers being re-quoted on their CHF trades), and generally because we think that on Exchange is the proper way of doing things.

We had minimal CHF exposure, both in absolute terms and in relative terms both to the bulk of our business and our capital base. We weren’t watching much (there was no need), took a tiny hit. 3-quarters design, 1 quarter luck, bottom line is we came out just fine, and a lot of our users are now migrating incremental funds to us, which is a great honor.

All in, this was the cheapest life-saving lesson we will ever learn. And you bet we’ve learnt it.

The road from here

It was probably going to happen, and the regulators were probably looking for a justification… and now they’ve got it.

The Spot currency exchange market is the biggest OTC market in the world. Because it’s also the oldest, it stayed OTC way after technology and common sense recommended the move on exchange. What held that back was the mess of having to put in place an alternative to the network of broker-dealers that kept currencies flowing, unknown to the general public and most of even informed people in finance . It was clunky alright, but it worked.

If anything blew last Thursday, it was the very internal pipes that kept the OTC foreign exchange market flowing. Tens of legitimate financial outfits will spend some time working out just how much they lost… others are simply gone. With the pipes gone, the regulatory ought to do do has become an urgency must do

If you have an opportunity to invest into a Multi-Lateral Trading facility that clears foreign currency, you can bet they’re going to be faceless big time winners of this, alongside the next George Soros. We, for one, have been trading with one because this bit we did see coming.

Last News

Darwinex Amended trading Hours for President’s Day (19 February 2018)

13 February 2018

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming President’s Day in the US on 19 February 2018 (all times are in UK – GMT time).  Instrument Trading Hours  FX 22:05 Sun – 22:00 Mon   DARWINS 22:05 Sun – 22:00 Mon  COMMODITIES   Gold* 23:01 Sun –17:59 Mon Silver* 23:00 Sun –18:00 Mon Platinum* 23:00 Sun –18:00 Mon Palladium* 23:00 Sun –18:00 Mon US Crude […]

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming President’s Day in the US on 19 February 2018 (all times are in UK – GMT time).

 Instrument Trading Hours
 FX 22:05 Sun – 22:00 Mon
  DARWINS 22:05 Sun – 22:00 Mon
 COMMODITIES  
Gold* 23:01 Sun –17:59 Mon
Silver* 23:00 Sun –18:00 Mon
Platinum* 23:00 Sun –18:00 Mon
Palladium* 23:00 Sun –18:00 Mon
US Crude 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
Natural Gas 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
 INDICES  
Australia 200 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
 Europe 50 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
France 40 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
Germany 30 07:00 – 21:00
Spain 35 07:00 – 19:00
Japan 225 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
 UK 100 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
 US SPX 500 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
 US Tech 100 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
Wall Street 30 23:00 Sun –22:00 Mon
*Amended Darwinex trading hours.

As always, at info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

Our Latest Improvement In…The Importance Of A Good First Impression

In Darwinex, a first impression is the event when one investor first encounters a DARWIN and forms an opinion about it. First impressions are based on a wide range of characteristics: D-Score, Investing Attributes, AuM, return, drawdown, trader’s equity, etc. But, what about the strategy description? Write a delightful description to connect with your investors […]

In Darwinex, a first impression is the event when one investor first encounters a DARWIN and forms an opinion about it. First impressions are based on a wide range of characteristics: D-Score, Investing Attributes, AuM, return, drawdown, trader’s equity, etc. But, what about the strategy description?

Write a delightful description to connect with your investors at a deeper level

We know that a good description could significantly influence whether an investor allocates capital in your DARWIN or not since, at the end of the day, the relationship between a DARWIN provider and its investors is based on trust.

We are also aware that some of you have a blog or website where investors, or other traders, can know more about you and your strategy.

Enhanced tool to describe your strategy

That is the reason why we have decided to enhance our description tool so you can incorporate bold, italics and a link to your site in the description of your DARWIN/strategy, in your main profile and in all your “Darwinian filters”.

Here a brief example of how to do it:

Bold => **bold** => bold

Italics => _italics_ => italics

Link to your website => Go to [my website](https://www.darwinex.com/) => Go to my website

DARWIN VTJ paused for new investment

7 February 2018

Due to the divergence caused by the sheer increase in the volume of investors in the DARWIN VTJ- more than € 2MM under management! -, its DARWIN provider has requested us to close it temporarily. This means that the DARWIN will remain closed for new investments and current investors in VTJ will only be able […]

Due to the divergence caused by the sheer increase in the volume of investors in the DARWIN VTJ- more than € 2MM under management! -, its DARWIN provider has requested us to close it temporarily.

This means that the DARWIN will remain closed for new investments and current investors in VTJ will only be able to sell it.

For your information, we are currently working on a “Capacity Management” tool which will allow DARWIN providers to pause their DARWIN if they meet the following criteria:

  • 1-The max AuM cap established by the DARWIN provider is surpassed. The minimum will be determined by Darwinex.
  • 2-The divergence % in the DARWIN goes beyond the threshold established by the DARWIN provider. At this point, the DARWIN will be automatically paused. Irrespective of the min divergence % required by the DARWIN provider, Darwinex will automatically pause the DARWIN if it goes beyong  1%-1.5% (we’re still defining the optimal %)

This tool will allow Investors to:

  • 1-Know the parameters chosen by the DARWIN provider in advance.
  • 2-Activate a notification mechanism that will alert them when a trader changes any of the parameters defined beforehand or the DARWIN is paused/reopened again.

In the absence of such tool, the procedure hereinafter will be similar to the one applied for VTJ: the DARWIN provider notifies Darwinex of its intention to pause its DARWIN and we will comply with its will, with the limitations above-mentioned.

IMPORTANT: from now on, in case a DARWIN provider decides to pause it before the launch of the “Capacity Manegement” tool , Darwinex will not send any kind of notification to its clients.

Should you want to share your views on this topic, you are more than welcome to participate in this Community thread.

And the DarwinIA winners are… (January 2018)

1 February 2018

The January 2018 edition of our DarwinIA trading challenge came to its end. Below you can find the 48 winners of our € 4,000,000 notional allocation for a 6 month period. Place DARWIN Notional allocation 1st VQB € 300,000.00 2nd RDD € 250,000.00 3rd GTD € 210,000.00 4th WFJ € 170,000.00 5th CBY € 150,000.00 […]

The January 2018 edition of our DarwinIA trading challenge came to its end. Below you can find the 48 winners of our € 4,000,000 notional allocation for a 6 month period.

Place DARWIN Notional allocation
1st VQB € 300,000.00
2nd RDD € 250,000.00
3rd GTD € 210,000.00
4th WFJ € 170,000.00
5th CBY € 150,000.00
6th KVL € 140,000.00
7th ONE € 130,000.00
8th HTX € 120,000.00
9th UYZ € 110,000.00
10th XYF € 110,000.00
11th VTS € 110,000.00
12th ZGE € 100,000.00
13th LDZ € 100,000.00
14th RZX € 100,000.00
15th XIS € 90,000.00
16th ERQ € 90,000.00
17th ZZI € 90,000.00
18th LOM € 80,000.00
19th MER € 80,000.00
20th QDJ € 80,000.00
21st FTA € 70,000.00
22nd PFH € 70,000.00
23rd PMZ € 70,000.00
24th STP € 70,000.00
25th ENI € 60,000.00
26th NTI € 60,000.00
27th LFS € 60,000.00
28th LLZ € 60,000.00
29th ADZ € 60,000.00
30th GED € 60,000.00
31st FEG € 50,000.00
32nd YZF € 50,000.00
33rd ZTY € 50,000.00
34th ILM € 50,000.00
35th XSN € 50,000.00
36th QNR € 50,000.00
37th SPV € 50,000.00
38th STT € 40,000.00
39th NDQ € 40,000.00
40th WWB € 40,000.00
41st UEI € 40,000.00
42nd JBR € 40,000.00
43rd ZOX € 40,000.00
44th CEM € 40,000.00
45th HGD € 30,000.00
46th LZL € 30,000.00
47th DZL € 30,000.00
48th VBU € 30,000.00

 

Have questions about DarwinIA trading challenge ? At info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

Darwinex Amended trading Hours for Australia Day (26 January 2018)

22 January 2018

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming Australia Day on 26 January 2018 (all times are in UK – GMT time).  Instrument Trading Hours  FX 22:01 Thu –21:55 Fri   DARWINS 22:01 Thu –21:55 Fri  COMMODITIES   Gold 23:01 Thu –21:55 Fri Silver 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri Platinum 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri Palladium 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri US Crude 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri Natural Gas 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri  INDICES […]

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming Australia Day on 26 January 2018 (all times are in UK – GMT time).

 Instrument Trading Hours
 FX 22:01 Thu –21:55 Fri
  DARWINS 22:01 Thu –21:55 Fri
 COMMODITIES  
Gold 23:01 Thu –21:55 Fri
Silver 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri
Platinum 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri
Palladium 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri
US Crude 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri
Natural Gas 23:00 Thu –21:55 Fri
 INDICES  
Australia 200* *06:10  – 21:55 
 Europe 50 23:00 Thu – 21:55 Fri
France 40 23:00 Thu – 21:55 Fri
Germany 30 07:00 – 21:00
Spain 35 07:00 – 19:00
Japan 225 23:00 Thu21:55 Fri
 UK 100 23:00 Thu21:55 Fri
 US SPX 500 23:00 Thu21:55 Fri
 US Tech 100 23:00 Thu21:55 Fri
Wall Street 30 23:00 Thu21:55 Fri
*Amended Darwinex trading hours.

As always, at info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

Our Latest Improvement In … Chart Re-alignment!

19 January 2018

You already know that our incentives are 100% aligned with those of our clients –zero conflict of interest between Broker, Traders and Investors-, and this is something we feel VERY proud of in Darwinex. However, this was true to some extent as some of our tools had risen up in rebellion. In particular, the profile […]

You already know that our incentives are 100% aligned with those of our clients –zero conflict of interest between Broker, Traders and Investors-, and this is something we feel VERY proud of in Darwinex.

However, this was true to some extent as some of our tools had risen up in rebellion.

In particular, the profile of the DARWINs, displayed in the following sections, were slightly misaligned:

  1. Explore
  2. All DARWINs
  3. Any predefined filter
  4. Your Favorites
  5. Public User Profile
  6. A custom filter

Fortunately, the rebellion has not lasted long and we have been able to re-establish order…and alignment everywhere.

Trade safe!