Skadi Limited Supports GB Athlete Tom Bosworth

Skadi Limited Supports GB Athlete Tom Bosworth

Skadi Limited is pleased to announce support for GB Race Walk Champion Tom Bosworth. During his preparation for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Tom has laid down some important markers. Tom holds the British records for 3000m, 5000m, 10km and last month smashed the 28 year old British record for 20km. The distance he will represent Great Britain for in Rio de Janeiro.

Nicolas Corry, Skadi Limited’s Managing Director commented “It is great that Skadi Limited can make a difference to a local athlete who is working so hard to do his country proud. Tom is a great ambassador for sport and a great role model.”

Tom Bosworth said, “Every athlete strives to be the best they can be, they want to dedicate every second of every day to training. To allow that to happen an athlete needs generous sponsors like Skadi Limited to back them and believe in their ability. I’m excited and truly thankful to have Skadi Limited as part of my team at this exciting time as we head into the Rio Olympic Games.”

Follow Tom’s progress to Rio 2016 at www.tombosworth.com

Conduct Risk: Compensation

Conduct Risk: Compensation

Nicolas Corry, Managing Director, nicolas.corry@skadilimited.co

It’s the time of year when the compensation for Financial professionals is brought sharply into focus. Regulators are driving for compensation to be linked to long term profitability and conduct, recognising that hard pay out structures and incentive schemes may encourage short termism. However significant gap risk persists. Sell side staff increasingly find that their compensation is pushed further down the line, with lengthy vesting periods, and the threat of claw backs to pay should staff be found guilty of wrongdoing (malus).

Across the street from the Traders and Investment Bankers, who capture most of the headlines, there are market participants with compensation models that are moving sharply in the opposite direction. Interdealer Brokers are a prime example of parties who’s compensation model is becoming harder. Their pay model has moved from salary plus bonus to one that is “eat what you kill”. Salaries have been switched for draws which are effectively small bonus advances, with quarterly bonuses determined from high hard percentages ranging from 35% – 65% of profit generated. This juxtaposition heightens the risk of trading staff directing business, and over trading, with the goal of sharing revenue generated with the broker.

Joint Ventures also pose a risk where other parties in a JV are compensated in a hard manner for business brought in. An example may be a broker, or hedge fund, charged with sourcing “cheap” packages of securities. Trading staff may be lured into turning a blind eye to less profitable, or even loss making trades at the expense of the trading book, if they are able to monetise activity through their relationship with a party within the JV who’s payout structure is hard.

We recommend our customers identify businesses using Interdealer Brokers (wide-spread) and Joint Ventures. They should establish what line of sight Front Office Management have over trading activity, and whether reviews/monitoring are in place to identify broker concentration risk, whether traders are awarding excess brokerage and whether this is appropriate. In the case of Joint Ventures, control functions should review the terms to judge whether there are opportunities for parties to extract up front revenue under the terms of the arrangement.

GB race walk champion @TomBosworth introduces young athletes to the sport with Skadi Limited’s help

GB race walk champion @TomBosworth introduces young athletes to the sport with Skadi Limited’s help

Tom Bosworth has his sights set on a top 10 finish at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In order to achieve that Tom is looking for funding to allow him to train full time. Skadi Limited made a contribution last year through Talent Backer to help Tom focus full time on training. By way of thanks Tom kindly offered to give the young race walkers at Blackheath and Bromley Harriers AC some coaching.

 

Nicolas Corry, Managing Director at Skadi Limited, said “We were glad to have the opportunity to help a local athlete. We are pleased that this has benefited Blackheath and Bromley Harriers’ young athletes, a local club we greatly admire. We truly wish him well.”

 

Tom holds the 5km British Record, and is the only British Athlete to complete a 10km walk in under 40 minutes. He is Britain’s number 1 20km Race Walker. On the road to Rio de Janeiro, Tom will be looking for a good performance at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing.

Tom’s webpage can be found here:

 

http://www.tombosworth.com/home.html

Courtsiders at Tennis – why not the financial markets?

Courtsiders at Tennis – why not the financial markets?

Nicolas Corry, Managing Director, nicolas.corry@skadilimited.co

At 22 years of age, Dan Dobson was paid to travel the world and watch tennis. Was he a reporter? Well, kind of. Last year Dan was arrested at the Australian Open tennis tournament for Courtsiding. Dan’s job was to report back live data to betting syndicates on how the tennis was progressing at the tournament. The aim being to provide the gamblers with an edge by reporting data faster than it could be received by the counterparties they were betting against. In an interview with the BBC Dan explained how he reported information. Using a simple device in his trousers he relayed scores back to London. Pressing one for Djokovic, two for Murray for example.

This story intrigues us at Skadi Limited. Often in the world of sports betting there are a number of parallels with the financial markets, and indeed a number of participants in the financial markets also play the sports markets in their spare time. Therefore it is plausible to see that a practice in one market could be imported to another. The question is whether “Marketsiding” is a plausible risk, and if so what form might it take?

We consider it to be a plausible risk as the practice is simple, and more complex practices/frauds have been unveiled which have similar goals. Consider the Merrill Lynch Squawk Box case of 2009 where retail brokers permitted day traders to listen in to orders they held, by simply leaving their telephones next to the squawk box for the trading day. Nowadays we receive warnings about the risks of using webcams. How much would a syndicate pay for access to the webcam on the desk of the head of block trading at Barclays one wonders?

There are also interesting parallels between Courtsiding and some of the activities of High Frequency Traders. Courtsiders attempt to relay information before it reaches the broader gambling market. High Frequency Traders invest significant capital in infrastructure and feeds to process orders faster than the broader market. But more simply could syndicates place persuade personnel located on a dealing floor, to relay information on orders held by a trading desk, allowing parties to position to take advantage of that flow? It surely couldn’t happen, could it…?

Hold the algorithms! Fraud risk is high!

Hold the algorithms! Fraud risk is high!

Nicolas Corry, Managing Director, nicolas.corry@skadilimited.co

It sounds somewhat cliched to say that banks are undergoing significant change, nevertheless we are told that HSBC is considering its UK position, Deutsche Bank is undergoing reorganisation, Mizuho has purchased a $3bn loan portfolio from RBS and taken on board 130 US staff. Standard Chartered is experiencing a significant number of managerial departures within its Middle East Franchise. Meanwhile JP Morgan has caught headlines by revealing it is introducing an algorithm which can anticipate rogue employees.

Whether an algorithm can detect rogue trader fraud risk remains to be seen. One observation is that while the JP Morgan development is eye catching, it may have the effect of reducing vigilance, as control staff presume that they can rely on the effectiveness of the new tool.

Having analysed the three significant rogue trading episodes of the past 20 years, namely Barings, Soc Gen and UBS we have identified red flags which equip auditors well when approaching a business. Setting aside the corrupt nature of the individuals, which is hard for auditors to anticipate, all of the episodes had features in common which were a result of the organisational setups they found themselves in. These features had the effect of providing the opportunity for the frauds. This was the nurture combing with the individuals’ corrupt nature.

These include management vacuum, businesses in transition, lack of operational challenge as control staff take on unfamiliar businesses. Our advice is that when auditors approach a business with one or more of the above, they should be on their guard, as these conditions provided the opportunity for Messrs Leeson, Adoboli and Kerviel. No algorithms, no eye catching headlines, just prudent analysis and common sense.

 

Equity research under pressure #research #bankculture

Equity research under pressure #research #bankculture

William Vincent, Senior Consultant, william.vincent@skadilimited.co

UBS has been caught up in a political row in Australia after it produced a research report on the privatisation of a New South Wales electricity utility, a deal in which it is acting for the seller. What happened is that UBS put a report entitled “Bad for the budget, good for the State”, then changed the title to, simply, “Good for the State”. The opposition Labor (sic) party is claiming that this was the result of direct interference from the ruling Liberals.

To which a rational first response is “so what?” After all, Australia is a long way away, and Australian politicians are renowned for fighting like starved rats in a barrel, so why should anyone bother about this? In fact, while the details are not terribly important, this case, coming on top of several others, illustrates equity research is still vulnerable as it tries to square the various circles of adding value to its users, not offending the investment bankers and their clients, satisfying ever-more intrusive regulators, all the time while facing a crippling squeeze on revenues.

Two instances over the past year or so indicate the scale of the problem. First, last summer UBS (again) came under fire, this time in the UK. A UBS analyst had produced a report on Saga, which UBS had helped to float a few months earlier, with an Underperform recommendation and a target price some 4% lower than the sale price. The result was a chorus of criticism, notably from the UK Shareholders’ Association, which was quoted in the Financial Times as saying, “It’s all wrong for them to value the company at a high level and then drop it,” while an unnamed but — according to the FT — influential fund manager described the incident as “very, very strange.”

So, this argument goes, it’s wrong for an analyst to set a price target (which, incidentally, has proved to be accurate) independently of the bankers, rather than try to ramp up a price simply because his house had a role in the flotation? Clearly, no-one has told the regulators, who have spent much of the past fifteen years setting and enforcing rules that give analysts no choice but to act in a way that the UK Shareholders’ Association believe is “all wrong”. In short, UBS’ analysts were attacked for doing exactly the right thing – a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Second, there was the case in the USA last November when Citibank was fined a cool $15m for inadequately supervising equity analysts. The specific issue was that an analyst told people at a dinner that he’d short a stock on which he had an official Hold rating. It is possible to think of reasons why analysts might feel there is little wrong with this position, for example a share that is expected to perform in line with the market over a twelve month timeframe might well be over-bought in the short-term, nonetheless the regulator took tough action.

These cases, and others, illustrate how difficult it can be for research to operate today. What should banks now do – send a compliance person to every analyst dinner, lunch or post-work beer with a client? The only answer is for research to have absolutely clear, transparent and detailed policies for every regulatory contingency. Banks must be able to convince the regulators that every analyst is aware of the rules, receives regular training in them, and understands the consequences of not following them. Research management and the analysts under them must understand that compliance is not optional, and that the penalties for even what seem like minor breaches will be severe. Needless to say, this will not go down well with the notoriously egotistical and touchy research community, but the price of being caught in financial and reputational terms is so high that no alternative exists.

The problem is that heads of research aren’t necessarily experts on the regulations, and in any case are likely to be caught up in the day to day cat-herding exercise that is managing analysts. The compliance and other professionals who do understand the regulations are not analysts, and thus don’t necessarily know the pressures inherent in the job, and they run the risk of being seen as “the enemy” by the people at the coalface, with all that that implies.

Meanwhile, Frost Consulting has estimated that total spending on equity research fell to about $4.8 billion in 2013 from $8.2 billion in 2008, with a further cut, to around $3.4 billion, expected by 2017. London is likely to be hit especially hard, because new rules will effectively prevent payment by the buy side for research that is not “substantive.”

Many banks will almost certainly have to axe much, if not most, of their current output, and with it the people responsible for it. The whole ethos of research will have to change, from churning out yet another quarterly results analysis or big, bland sector review to doing radical stuff, like producing readable, original, tightly argued research that produces recommendations that actually make money.

All in all, therefore, research is facing a period of fundamental change. Those that get it right have the opportunity to clean up in a market where much of the competition will be squeezed out. Those that do not will be the squeezed.