7. Are client funds safe with FXCM?
Yes. As we have said, we believe FXCM’s systems operated properly during this event. I’ll stress it here again, FXCM is not insolvent, has not filed for any form of bankruptcy, and is in compliance with all regulatory capital requirements in the jurisdictions in which it operates.
The financing we received from Leucadia has strengthened our balance sheet and gives us the opportunity to grow our core business. With Leucadia, our pockets are even deeper and we aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, all of our regulated entities except the U.S. provide clients with segregated funds. All of our global client base in our regulated entities minus US clients would be protected under a bankruptcy.
Our UK regulated entity through the FSCS even offers clients £50,000 per person in protection. Canada has similar insurance for retail traders of up to $1 million CAD.
8. What are the relationships like with your liquidity providers after this event?
Many of these relationships are long-standing relationships. The entire industry took a hit here. They understand what happened. Most everyone halted trading in EUR/CHF, but half of our liquidity providers kept providing prices in all other pairs the entire time. Half of the LPs did stop pricing FXCM on Friday, January 16th, but most have returned. We presently only have two providers that have not yet returned, but we are optimistic that they will soon return. There is still plenty of liquidity on the platform. Most banks and other liquidity providers have been working very closely with the FXCM team.
9. Where do you see FXCM in six months from now?
We will be well on our way to paying down the loan and continue to grow our core franchise. FXCM still has the best platform for retail traders, we still provide the fairest and most transparent execution in the business and we have a slew of new trading indicators and applications that no one in the space is even considering offering their clients. We’ll still be here. We may just look a little different. Here are a few things we are working to get out in the next six months:
Single Share CFDs – We are going to be offering the top 200 or so most traded US, UK, French and German stocks. We are going to offer these shares on the equivalent of NDD in FX.
Improving CFD execution – Sharpening execution capabilities to match some of the benefits of our FX capabilities for Index and Energy CFDs to remove restrictions on stops and limits, allowing APIs, along with tighter spreads.
Market Depth in FX – Clients will be able to see the depth of liquidity which will provide them more transparency with execution quality and allow them to make more informed trading decisions.
Real Volume indicators – Clients will have a real volume ticker of all trades done on the FXCM system, which will show clients’ actual order flow; they can see directional volume, to long, short, net or total volume as well as balance on volume per instrument; and finally we have an indicator to show the ratio of real volume divided into transactions per period.
These indicators will let clients compare our trading activity against other independent providers who also publish volumes like the CME, and clients will be able to compare execution.
Sentiment Index – We will be providing FXCM’s client sentiment data in real-time as a default on the platform so clients can see where the rest of the clients are.
These software updates and platform features are bringing much more transparency to the retail FX market aimed at improving the client experience in the market.
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10. With your stock price so low, is that an indication of the health of your company?
While it is true that FXCM’s stock price dropped after the events of January 15th, we do not believe that the present stock price is indicative of the health of the company. The stock price does not impact our day to day operations as a company.
With the injection of cash from the Leucadia financing, the core retail business is functioning completely as normal. We have excess regulatory capital in all our regulated entities and never had to pause trading or interrupt client’s trading experience. As we announced in our business update, daily volume on the retail side was on pace to set an all-time company record.
11. Why didn’t the dealing desk brokers have these types of losses?
A dealing desk broker does not have offsetting trades. If the customer is long a trade the broker is short that trade, so when the customer makes a profit on a trade the broker loses. When the customer loses on the trade then the broker is profitable.
Obviously on January 15th most clients lost money so the dealer was very profitable. Even for clients that blew through their stops and had negative balances with these firms, the dealer doesn’t have a liquidity provider that it owes money to. They can essentially act like the negative balances never happened and enjoy their profits.
12. What is FXCM changing with regards to their risk management systems?
The primary change we will be making is removing currency pairs from the platform that carry significant risk due to over-active manipulation by their respective government either by a floor, ceiling, peg or band. Given what happened with EUR/CHF the industry is now looking very hard at any potentially similar issues, especially given the increased geopolitical risks in Southern and Eastern Europe.
We will also be raising margin requirements for other pairs as well. Some of these changes will be permanent while others may change as geopolitical risks change. The pairs we are removing from the platform were not material to our volume or our revenue. Some of the currencies we are removing include DKK, SGD, HKD, PLN and CZK.
13. FXCM made some material changes in margin requirements for clients. Are those changes permanent or temporary in nature?
When you look at some of the changes we made to margin requirements, look at them in three different categories: 1. Some of the changes we made were required by regulators, and therefore we had to comply with these changes. 2. When you look at emerging market currencies, the banks and our liquidity providers were raising margin requirements to eliminate any potential risk of large gaps. 3. Previously liquid Western country currencies, like the DKK or CHF, which now carry risk because they are manipulated currencies, have become less liquid.
Despite what the media thinks about leverage, we know the clients like it and want more, it’s the number 1 or number 2 request our sales staff has been getting the past week. We understand the importance of this to our clients but we just need to be smart about it moving forward.
14. What is Black Thursday’s long-term impact on the retail foreign exchange industry? In what ways has it changed the direction the industry is going?
Banks are raising their margin requirements, too. A lot of these currencies that carry any type of geopolitical risk with them are going to lose support and liquidity. Investors always had little faith in emerging market currencies but always believed in Western countries’ currencies even if they were manipulated in some way, but that’s gone.
Switzerland is a Western country and if they can pull the shenanigans they did with their currency, what’s to say other Western countries won’t do the same? The market is going to be very skeptical as they can only stand to lose – the risk is just too high now. It’s too bad really as these pairs historically had low volatility, were range-bound and were very profitable trades for clients.