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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 Trading Hours for ANZAC Day

19 April 2018

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming ANZAC Day on 25 April 2018 (all times are in UK time).  Instrument Trading Hours  FX 22:01 Wed – 22:00 Thu   DARWINS 22:01 Wed – 22:00 Thu  COMMODITIES   Gold 23:01 Wed – 21:59 Thu Silver 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu Platinum 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu Palladium […]

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming ANZAC Day on 25 April 2018 (all times are in UK time).

 Instrument Trading Hours
 FX 22:01 Wed – 22:00 Thu
  DARWINS 22:01 Wed – 22:00 Thu
 COMMODITIES  
Gold 23:01 Wed – 21:59 Thu
Silver 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
Platinum 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
Palladium 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
US Crude 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
Natural Gas 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
 INDICES  
Australia 200* 08:10 – 22:00
 Europe 50 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
France 40 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
Germany 30 07:00 – 21:00
Spain 35 07:00 – 19:00
Japan 225 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
 UK 100 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
 US SPX 500 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
 US Tech 100 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
Wall Street 30 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu
*Amended Darwinex trading hours.

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

Change in bank account details for GBP deposits

6 April 2018

Over the next few days the segregated accounts for our GBP clients will be transferred over to a new FCA regulated banking entity. Your deposits remain protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The change will be 100% automatic and will not require any action on your part. Nevertheless, due to the fact that […]

Over the next few days the segregated accounts for our GBP clients will be transferred over to a new FCA regulated banking entity. Your deposits remain protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The change will be 100% automatic and will not require any action on your part.

Nevertheless, due to the fact that the bank account details used up until now for GBP deposits have been changed, if you wish to make a deposit via bank transfer, make sure to initiate the deposit from your Wallet in order to receive the new bank account details per email. This should be the way you always initiate a deposit as opposed to copying a previous deposit’s data.

We remain at your disposal at info@darwinex.com

And the DarwinIA winners are… (March 2018)

2 April 2018

The March 2018 edition of our DarwinIA trading challenge came to its end. Below you can find the 48 winners of our € 4,000,000.00 notional allocations for a 6 month period and the 7 traders who won € 1,000 in Darwinian Dividends. Congratulations to the winners! Place DARWIN Notional allocation Darwinian Dividends 1st VQB € 300,000.00 € 1,000.00 […]

The March 2018 edition of our DarwinIA trading challenge came to its end. Below you can find the 48 winners of our € 4,000,000.00 notional allocations for a 6 month period and the 7 traders who won € 1,000 in Darwinian Dividends. Congratulations to the winners!

Place DARWIN Notional allocation Darwinian Dividends
1st VQB € 300,000.00 € 1,000.00
2nd EEE € 250,000.00 € 1,000.00
3rd GUA € 210,000.00 € 1,000.00
4th SYO € 170,000.00 € 1,000.00
5th NCN € 150,000.00 € 1,000.00
6th BAD € 140,000.00 € 1,000.00
7th EWL € 130,000.00 € 1,000.00
8th LVS € 120,000.00 /
9th LZB € 110,000.00 /
10th CBY € 110,000.00 /
11th JHJ € 110,000.00 /
12th CLA € 100,000.00 /
13th FEG € 100,000.00 /
14th VTS € 100,000.00 /
15th VFL € 90,000.00 /
16th SDP € 90,000.00 /
17th OVL € 90,000.00 /
18th RIH € 80,000.00 /
19th STV € 80,000.00 /
20th CJN € 80,000.00 /
21st JMP € 70,000.00 /
22nd AGD € 70,000.00 /
23rd LDD € 70,000.00 /
24th CSP € 70,000.00 /
25th NAF € 60,000.00 /
26th LDZ € 60,000.00 /
27th XYF € 60,000.00 /
28th SCN € 60,000.00 /
29th PFI € 60,000.00 /
30th BGR € 60,000.00 /
31st OSM € 50,000.00 /
32nd ZLA € 50,000.00 /
33rd VRT € 50,000.00 /
34th AAN € 50,000.00 /
35th XSN € 50,000.00 /
36th ZZL € 50,000.00 /
37th ZTY € 50,000.00 /
38th SIX € 40,000.00 /
39th HTS € 40,000.00 /
40th ONE € 40,000.00 /
41st XYP € 40,000.00 /
42nd HFE € 40,000.00 /
43rd AOF € 40,000.00 /
44th MER € 40,000.00 /
45th NSC € 30,000.00 /
46th VOZ € 30,000.00 /
47th FYW € 30,000.00 /
48th QKL € 30,000.00 /

Change in bank provider

26 March 2018

Over the next few days the segregated accounts for our EUR and USD clients will be transferred over to a new banking entity. The change will be 100% automatic and will not require any action on our users part. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the bank details used up until now for EUR and […]

Over the next few days the segregated accounts for our EUR and USD clients will be transferred over to a new banking entity.

The change will be 100% automatic and will not require any action on our users part.

Nevertheless, due to the fact that the bank details used up until now for EUR and USD have been changed, any client who wishes to make a deposit via bank transfer will have to enter the new bank details.  

To access these new details, it is necessary to generate a new order to deposit via bank transfer from your Wallet.

We remain at your disposal at info@darwinex.com

Kind regards,

The Darwinex Team

Bank transfers won’t get processed on Friday 30th March and Monday 2nd April

23 March 2018

Easter is just around the corner which means a bit of vacation, reflection and celebration that we hope you enjoy with your nearest and dearest. Please note that Friday 30th March and Monday 2nd April are UK Bank Holidays. Bank transfers to / from your Darwinex Wallet won’t get processed on those days. Should you […]

Easter is just around the corner which means a bit of vacation, reflection and celebration that we hope you enjoy with your nearest and dearest.

Please note that Friday 30th March and Monday 2nd April are UK Bank Holidays. Bank transfers to / from your Darwinex Wallet won’t get processed on those days.

Should you want to deposit or withdraw through a bank transfer next week, you might want to make arrangements to initiate the transfer process earlier.

Do not hesitate to contact us at info@darwinex.com in case you need any assistance.

Happy Easter!

 

Darwinex Trading Schedule Easter 2018

Trading Schedule for the 2018 Easter Holiday Period

Please note the amended Darwinex Trading Schedule for the 2018 Easter Holiday Period. Times are displayed in UK time and changes to regular schedules are highlighted in red.   Instrument Thursday 29th March  Friday 30th March  Monday 2nd April FX 22:01:01 Wed – 21:59:59 Thu 22:01:01 Thu – 21:55:00 Fri 22:05 Sun – 21:59:59 Mon Commodities* 23:00 […]

Please note the amended Darwinex Trading Schedule for the 2018 Easter Holiday Period.

Times are displayed in UK time and changes to regular schedules are highlighted in red.

 

Instrument

Thursday 29th March  Friday 30th March  Monday 2nd April
FX 22:01:01 Wed – 21:59:59 Thu 22:01:01 Thu – 21:55:00 Fri 22:05 Sun – 21:59:59 Mon
Commodities* 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu CLOSED  23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon 
DARWINs 22:05 Wed – 21:59 Thu CLOSED 22:05 Sun – 21:59 Mon
Indices      
Europe50 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu  CLOSED  CLOSED
GDAXI 07:00:00 – 21:00:00  CLOSED   CLOSED
SPX500 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu  CLOSED  23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon
WS30 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu  CLOSED  23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon
NDX 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu  CLOSED   23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon
J225  23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu CLOSED  23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon
AUS200 23:00 Wed – 14:00 Thu CLOSED  CLOSED 
FCHI40  23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu  CLOSED  CLOSED
UK100 23:00 Wed – 22:00 Thu  CLOSED   CLOSED 
SPA35 07:00 – 19:00  CLOSED   CLOSED 

 

*Please, be reminded that the instrument XAUUSD closes a minute earlier, and opens a minute later, than the rest of Commodities in Darwinex as shown in the table of Darwinex assets and spreads.

March 30th

In spite of the DARWIN Exchange being closed on Friday, 30th of March, the quote in the majority of DARWINs will keep moving throughout the whole market day due to the fact the the Forex market will remain open as seen in the table above.

March 29th and April 2nd

On the other hand, on March 29th -Thursday, and April 2nd -Monday-, the DARWIN Exchange will remain open even if the underlying assets’ market is closed, like AUS200 on March 29th or UK100 on April 2nd.

Should you want to know the standard procedure when you buy/sell a DARWIN whose underlying asset market is closed, we recommend you to read the following Knowledge Base article: Can I buy and sell DARWINs whenever I want?

Do not hesitate to contact us at info@darwinex.com for support.

Happy Easter!