MEPs break ranks to back BCNs
Fears that broker
crossing networks (BCNs) may be forced out of the market could be alleviated following
the most recent MiFID II amendments tabled by MEPs.
feared that the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee
(ECON) was on track to outlaw BCNs, backtracking on proposals made by the
European Commission in its initial October 2011 draft of MiFID.
wanted to bring BCNs under a new category known as the organised trading
facility (OTF), that would also include new trading venues that emerge as a
result of OTC derivatives legislation.
of the OTF regime for swaps, Markus Ferber, who is guiding the European
Parliament’s review of MiFID II, has argued the new category for BCNs would
only exacerbate fragmentation and “create new loopholes”.
In his amends,
Ferber proposed reclassifying all BCNs as either multilateral trading
facilities (MTFs) or systematic internalisers, thereby eliminating the ability
for brokers to decide how they match orders in their venues.
But MEPs – who
were required to table their amendments by 10 May – have given their backing to
the OTF category for equities and have also put the issue of whether brokers
should be allowed to include non client flow in their networks back on the
had initially stated that an OTF should not contain any non client flow at all
because of the potential conflicts that can arise if a venue operator is
allowed discretion over how it matches orders in a liquidity pool that includes
its own flow.
Facilitating client flow
A number of MEPs,
including Olle Schmidt and Kay Swinburne, have been in close consultation throughout
the amendment process with the aim of presenting ECON with different options
relating to how client facilitation flow in OTFs should be handled.
suggested that the use of proprietary capital in BCNs should be limited to
those trades that can facilitate client-to-client transactions.
“We need alternatives to how proprietary trading is
handled so that we have a spectrum of proposals that we can discuss in the
compromise meetings,” Swinburne told theTRADEnews.com. “If it turns out that we
do not have the OTF for equities and BCNs need to become MTFs, clients still need
the ability to choose what kind of flow they want to interact with. Investors
use BCNs because they want choice on order flow.”
proposed an amendment that states proprietary trading in OTFs should be permitted
where “this is undertaken on a matched principal basis or with the consent of a
client”. He defined matched principal as: “A transaction where the
firm/operator sits in the middle of the trade and becomes the buyer to the
seller and the seller to the buyer.” This would include trading done by brokers
to facilitate client trades or retain client anonymity.
“This is a recognition that a strong enough case has
not been made for an outright ban on proprietary capital and that two important
principles were not reflected in the initial proposal,” said Rickard Ydrenäs,
policy advisor to Schmidt. “The fact is that matched principal trading does not
involve proprietary activity but is entirely derived from equal and opposite
client flow, and ultimately investors must have the right to choose who they
trade with preserved.”
Brokers appear encouraged by the latest developments
and have reiterated that having a new category for BCNs that is too restrictive
on the use of proprietary capital would be ineffective.
“A blanket prop trading ban in BCNs would be hard to
implement, simply because it is so hard to define,” said Andrew Bowley, head of
electronic trading product management at Nomura. “We think a more useful
solution would be ensuring that broker-operated venues have adequate policies
to control the potential conflicts of interest that could arise.”
Other market participants insist that such conflicts
are already recognised and well managed.
“Concerns that principal trading in BCNs may cause an
unmanageable conflict of interest are unfounded, brokers already have an
overarching responsibility to manage a client’s order in the best interests of
the client and to manage any potential conflict with that responsibility,” Andrew Morgan, head of Autobahn Equity Europe, the
electronic trading division of Deutsche Bank. “If rules governing OTFs
were to be publicly available with clients given the option of matching against
principle business, then brokers breaching their own rules would face
substantial commercial and regulatory risk"
According to figures from Thomson Reuters, broker
crossing networks represented around 50% of the €52.7 billion of dark trading
in Europe last month, with dark MTFs accounting for the remaining 50%. Overall
dark trading represented 6.98% of total trading activity last month, down from
March’s total of 7.24% but higher than the 5.24% recorded in April 2011.
Ferber will now take in amendments from the various
MEPs and produce a compromise document that will be voted on by ECON in July. The Council of the European Union will then
propose its version of MiFID II, before a final text is negotiated through the
trialogue process, which involves the Parliament, Council and European