Wall Street Erases the Line Between Its Jocks and Nerds – WSJ

Wall Street Erases the Line Between Its Jocks and Nerds
— Read on www.wsj.com/articles/wall-street-erases-the-line-between-its-jocks-and-nerds-1534564810

Advertisements

New From Credit Suisse: Bonds for Self-Inflicted Catastrophes

Sagacious LLC will help customize a similar program to save op risk regulatory capital at your institution. 

By ANUPREETA DAS and LESLIE SCISM
May 16, 2016 1:21 p.m. ET WSJ

Credit Suisse Group AG is going to give it a try in the bond market. The bank plans as early as this week to launch unusual new securities that would pay investors relatively high interest rates. The catch is Credit Suisse could take their principal if incidents like rogue trading, information-technology breakdowns or even accounting errors lead to massive losses for the bank, people familiar with the offering said.

The deal is a first-of-its-kind twist on the “catastrophe bonds” that insurers have used for years to lay off the risk of natural disasters like hurricanes. Credit Suisse’s offering covers self-inflicted disasters as well as external events and has been marketed to hedge funds and other big investors.

The insurance feature of the bonds would be triggered if Credit Suisse’s annual operational risk-related losses cross $3.5 billion. Buyers have a level of comfort, however, because it’s a “second-event” bond. The most any single event could contribute to the trigger is $3 billion, meaning it would take more than one event to cross the threshold. The odds of that are remote: Credit Suisse has put them at roughly 1 in 500, the people said.

A Credit Suisse spokeswoman declined to comment.
The appetite for such offerings in the capital markets, as persistently low interest rates send investors searching for higher yields, is encouraging Wall Street companies to test new uses for the structure.

MORE

Heard on the Street: Credit Suisse Takes Out Insurance on Itself
Insurance-industry executives said that they haven’t previously seen a bank attempting to tap capital markets to cover this type of risk. The move has its roots in regulation. Under European bank rules, banks must calculate operational risk and may use insurance products as part of meeting their capital requirements, according to industry participants.

In general, operational risk is the possibility of losses resulting from insufficient internal controls, errant systems or rogue employees. The Credit Suisse offering doesn’t cover market losses from trading that is authorized by the bank, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

Paul Schultz, chief executive of the Aon Securities unit of global insurance brokerage Aon PLC, said an offering like Credit Suisse’s reflects “growing investor sophistication on the underwriting side and a general view that to continue to grow the asset class, investors are going to have to expand from simply writing property risk.”

Zurich-based Credit Suisse, via a Bermuda company called Operational Re, plans to issue a five-year bond of up to 630 million Swiss francs ($646 million) to qualified institutional buyers such as hedge funds, asset managers and firms that pool together capital from pension funds. The bonds are part of a planned package that includes an insurance policy of up to 700 million francs issued by Zurich Insurance Group. Most of the cost of any claim would be paid for by the bonds. The size of the bond offering and the policy limits ultimately will be determined by investor interest, the people said. A spokeswoman for Zurich said the company’s policy is not to comment on current or potential commercial relationships.

The coupon is expected to be in the “mid-single digits,” one of the people said—higher than what Credit Suisse was initially planning, in order to entice investors to buy the novel security.

Credit Suisse last week reported a first-quarter net loss of 302 million francs, compared with a profit of 1.05 billion francs in the same period last year. The bank’s new chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, has been retooling the bank away from its investment-banking business toward its more stable wealth-management unit.

European banks have long used insurance products to meet capital requirements set by regulators or to unload risk from their balance sheets. Before the financial crisis, giant insurer American International Group Inc. sold financial derivatives known as credit-default swaps to major European banks as insurance against losses in their holdings of subprime mortgage assets. AIG’s near collapse in 2008 in the wake of the housing-bubble burst was tied to the massive volume of credit-default swaps it had sold.

As for Credit Suisse’s new bond, the bank can’t call on the money to cover regulatory liabilities or government fines, the people said. Losses from rogue trading, which have hobbled large banks such as Société Générale and UBS Group AG in recent years, could be covered by the insurance provided by the bond, but any fines stemming from it wouldn’t be, they said.

Write to Anupreeta Das at anupreeta.das@wsj.com and Leslie Scism at leslie.scism@wsj.com

Sagacious LLC can customize a disaster bond for your institution.

Goldman-Led Group of Firms Buys Perzo to Form Instant-Messaging Company

Fourteen Financial Firms Invest $66 Million

By JUSTIN BAER WSJ
Fourteen of the world’s biggest financial-services firms bought Perzo Inc., an instant-messaging software company, and formed a new technology company that aims to change the way traders communicate.
Led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the consortium invested $66 million in the venture, called Symphony Communication Services Holdings LLC, according to a statement from Symphony.

Symphony in turn acquired Perzo, a two-year-old startup founded by veteran communications-software executive David Gurle. Goldman contributed its in-house messaging developments to the new company, which Mr. Gurle will lead as chief executive.

The deal, announced Wednesday, capped months of negotiations that had widened recently to include additional banks. In addition to Goldman, Bank of America Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., BlackRock Inc., Citadel LLC, Citigroup Inc., Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Jefferies LLC, Maverick Capital Ltd., Morgan Stanley, Nomura Holdings Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. invested in Symphony.

In the statement, Symphony said it expected that many of the financial firms would be early users of the company’s messaging platform.
“Symphony responds to a pressing need across the industry for better methods of communication and collaboration,” Darren Cohen, global co-head of the Goldman principal-investing arm that spearheaded the talks, said in the statement.
The group’s breadth underlined an industrywide push for software that lets employees trade messages instantly and securely. It also highlights Wall Street’s desire to put pressure on one of its biggest vendors, Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg’s communications services remain a ubiquitous presence on trading floors, and the price the data company charges for its terminal—some $20,000 a year—continues to vex bank executives charged with wringing costs out of their trading businesses.
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.

The deal is also a reunion of sorts for Mr. Gurle, who worked with Goldman and other banks during previous career stops at Microsoft Corp., Thomson Reuters Inc. and Skype. He founded Palo Alto, Calif.-based Perzo in late 2012.

In a blog post on Symphony’s website, Mr. Gurle wrote that the new company’s messaging platform “is intended to be used by some of the most time-conscious firms on the planet who are regularly corresponding high-value information—where a delay of a few seconds can have significant cost implications.”
He wrote that Symphony would be available to all financial firms by mid-2015.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the bank group was also in talks with one of Mr. Gurle’s former employers, Thomson Reuters, over ways to integrate their messaging platforms.

On Wednesday, a Thomson Reuters spokesman confirmed the data company had held discussions with Symphony.

The news services of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters compete with Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Journal.
Write to Justin Baer at justin.baer@wsj.com

5 U.S. Banks Each Have More Than 40 Trillion Dollars In Exposure To Derivatives

5 U.S. Banks Each Have More Than 40 Trillion Dollars In Exposure To Derivatives
SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 AT 9:11 PM
Zero Hedge / Tyler Durden
Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

When is the U.S. banking system going to crash? I can sum it up in three words. Watch the derivatives. It used to be only four, but now there are five “too big to fail” banks in the United States that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives. Today, the U.S. national debt is sitting at a grand total of about 17.7 trillion dollars, so when we are talking about 40 trillion dollars we are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable. And unlike stocks and bonds, these derivatives do not represent “investments” in anything. They can be incredibly complex, but essentially they are just paper wagers about what will happen in the future. The truth is that derivatives trading is not too different from betting on baseball or football games. Trading in derivatives is basically just a form of legalized gambling, and the “too big to fail” banks have transformed Wall Street into the largest casino in the history of the planet. When this derivatives bubble bursts (and as surely as I am writing this it will), the pain that it will cause the global economy will be greater than words can describe.

If derivatives trading is so risky, then why do our big banks do it?

The answer to that question comes down to just one thing.

Greed.

The “too big to fail” banks run up enormous profits from their derivatives trading. According to the New York Times, U.S. banks “have nearly $280 trillion of derivatives on their books” even though the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated how dangerous they could be…

American banks have nearly $280 trillion of derivatives on their books, and they earn some of their biggest profits from trading in them. But the 2008 crisis revealed how flaws in the market had allowed for dangerous buildups of risk at large Wall Street firms and worsened the run on the banking system.

The big banks have sophisticated computer models which are supposed to keep the system stable and help them manage these risks.

But all computer models are based on assumptions.

And all of those assumptions were originally made by flesh and blood people.

When a “black swan event” comes along such as a war, a major pandemic, an apocalyptic natural disaster or a collapse of a very large financial institution, these models can often break down very rapidly.

For example, the following is a brief excerpt from a Forbes article that describes what happened to the derivatives market when Lehman Brothers collapsed back in 2008…

Fast forward to the financial meltdown of 2008 and what do we see? America again was celebrating. The economy was booming. Everyone seemed to be getting wealthier, even though the warning signs were everywhere: too much borrowing, foolish investments, greedy banks, regulators asleep at the wheel, politicians eager to promote home-ownership for those who couldn’t afford it, and distinguished analysts openly predicting this could only end badly. And then, when Lehman Bros fell, the financial system froze and world economy almost collapsed. Why?

The root cause wasn’t just the reckless lending and the excessive risk taking. The problem at the core was a lack of transparency. After Lehman’s collapse, no one could understand any particular bank’s risks from derivative trading and so no bank wanted to lend to or trade with any other bank. Because all the big banks’ had been involved to an unknown degree in risky derivative trading, no one could tell whether any particular financial institution might suddenly implode.

After the last financial crisis, we were promised that this would be fixed.

But instead the problem has become much larger.

When the housing bubble burst back in 2007, the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world had risen to about 500 trillion dollars.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, today the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world has ballooned to a staggering 710 trillion dollars ($710,000,000,000,000).

And of course the heart of this derivatives bubble can be found on Wall Street.

What I am about to share with you is very troubling information.

I have shared similar numbers in the past, but for this article I went and got the very latest numbers from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report. As I mentioned above, there are now five “too big to fail” banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,476,986,000,000 (about 2.5 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $67,951,190,000,000 (more than 67 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,894,736,000,000 (almost 1.9 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,944,502,000,000 (nearly 60 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $915,705,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,564,516,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,152,533,000,000 (a bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,457,605,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $831,381,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,946,153,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

And it isn’t just U.S. banks that are engaged in this type of behavior.

As Zero Hedge recently detailed, German banking giant Deutsche Bank has more exposure to derivatives than any of the American banks listed above…

Deutsche has a total derivative exposure that amounts to €55 trillion or just about $75 trillion. That’s a trillion with a T, and is about 100 times greater than the €522 billion in deposits the bank has. It is also 5x greater than the GDP of Europe and more or less the same as the GDP of… the world.

For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.

At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.

It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.

Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.

The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks. If they fail, so do the rest of us.

We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.

In fact, as I have written about previously, the “too big to fail” banks have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last recession.

At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.

If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.

But as you have just read about in this article, they are being more reckless than ever before.

We are steamrolling toward the greatest financial disaster in world history, and nobody is doing much of anything to stop it.

Things could have turned out very differently, but now we will reap the consequences for the very foolish decisions that we have made.

Most Banks Would Fail Real Stress Tests

From Bloomberg, Mar 19, 2014, 11:54:55 AM
This week, the Federal Reserve will present the results of stress tests designed to ensure that the largest U.S. banks won’t turn the next financial crisis into an economic disaster. There’s just one problem: If the tests were realistic, most of the banks would fail.

To read the entire article, go to http://bv.ms/1kIpdZm
Sent from the Bloomberg iPhone application. Download the free application at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bloomberg/id281941097?mt=8

A breakthrough in quantum cryptography could make financial markets of the future cheat-proof

INSTEIN TO THE RESCUE

A breakthrough in quantum cryptography could make financial markets of the future cheat-proof

By Christopher Mims and Siraj Datoo 4 hours ago

A way to keep you safe not only from snooping enemies but from dishonest allies too. AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Demonstrating a feat that was until recently thought to be impossible, researchers in Geneva, Singapore, Cambridge and Waterloo, Ontario have “unconditionally guaranteed” the security and sanctity of a message transmitted between two points on earth. Their work (pdf) could lead to impenetrable communications networks for financial trading, online voting, or an endless variety of other tasks currently carried out on the internet.

+

In this experiment the researchers solved a problem in secure networks known as “bit commitment.” Imagine that you’re playing a game of rock-paper-scissors by exchanging emails or instant messages. If your technology were fast enough, you could in theory cheat by waiting for your opponent’s answer to arrive (say, “rock”) and sending the response that would defeat it (i.e. “paper”) so quickly that it would look as if you had both made your choices at the same time. Bit commitment guarantees that a message sent at a stated time was in fact sent at that time and could not have been intercepted and changed along the way.

+

To accomplish this feat the researchers had to combine two domains of basic physics that rarely intersect—quantum theory and Einstein’s special theory of relativity. The result is “relativistic quantum cryptography.” The key difference between this and ordinary quantum cryptography, the previous gold standard (in which, as we reported recently, there have also been some advances), is that the latter can make a message tamper-proof, but can’t eliminate the potential for cheating about when it was sent. That means it guarantees secure communications between two parties that trust each other (say, a country’s foreign ministry and one of its embassies), but could be exploited if one of the parties is dishonest (between two financial trading systems, for example). Relativistic quantum cryptography closes that loophole.

+

Of course, even the most secure network has endpoints that are vulnerable to snooping. Messages sent between two computers using this system could not be tapped in transit, as the US National Security Agency reportedly accomplished with what were thought to be secure communications networks used by Google and Yahoo. But individual computers can always be compromised by attackers with sufficient determination. So keep using those strong passwords.

+

Read this next: The complete guide to not being that idiot who got the company hacked

Why Thomson Reuters and Markit could give Bloomberg a run for its money

The privacy scandal that shook Bloomberg in May could be coming back to bite it. Today, Markit and Thomson Reuters formally announced their new messaging system for finance professionals, Market Collaboration Services. It seems designed to compete with the chat function on Bloomberg terminals, to which Bloomberg owes part of its dominance as a data provider. The two companies said today that Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley were all on board.

+

We’ve written before that Thomson Reuters will have a hard time unseating Bloomberg. But traders, bankers, and other financial services professionals we’ve spoken to over the last few months have raised a number of points that lead us to believe that Thomson Reuters and Markit could be more successful than we thought:

+

Concerns about snooping and data privacy really shook bankers up. In May, Bloomberg admitted that its reporters had access to information about its customers’ usage of their Bloomberg terminals, and there were complaints that they were using it to write stories. Though the fury may have faded, the message has not; third-party technology can pose a threat to the secrecy of the firm. The Markit/Thomson Reuters offering was created in close collaboration with banks and is more customizable, so it may enjoy a certain level of trust.

+

Not everyone needs a Bloomberg. Bloomberg terminals cost around $20,000 per year, something Wall Street has long seen as a necessary evil. But maybe no longer. “For some big banks, it’s an incredibly expensive instant messaging device,” an executive at one market infrastructure company told the Financial Times (paywall). “They’re saying, ‘we’re spending $120m a year on Bloomberg. That needs to come down’.”

+

Sharing is caring… about costs. Major banks have already made the decision that employees can share a terminal in some cases, and used the savings to buy cheaper plans from Thomson Reuters that can be customized to fit an employee’s role. A commodities trader, the thinking goes, doesn’t need all the same tools a banker advising on tech mergers does. By contrast, Bloomberg terminals are one-size-fits-all; if you buy a terminal, you have to take all the features it offers even if you don’t need them.

+

This is already happening; one banker who was not authorized to speak on his bank’s behalf said his team had seen its number of Bloomberg terminals cut down to one, replaced by Thomson Reuters Eikon terminals. The team shares the remaining Bloomberg terminal.

+

A stand-alone chat function makes a lot of sense. In an email, Thomson Reuters said it “aims to create the largest financial markets messaging community and remove barriers to cross-market communication.” This means installing the messaging service on as many machines as possible, even ones that don’t even receive data feeds. Therefore, employees across the business could have access to the secure chat feature. If fewer bankers have their own Bloomberg terminals, they will need an alternative chat service to communicate with those colleagues that don’t have them.

+

Clearly, this isn’t a transition that will happen overnight. But with cost pressures mounting and reception already warm, Markit and Thomson Reuters seem to have a better shot at taking on Bloomberg than you might think.

+

Bloomberg declined to comment.

+

Share this:http://qz.com/132573