CitiFX Pro’s Imminent Sale Poised to Rewrite US IB Playing Field

With CitiFX Pro slated to be available to the highest bidder, Paul Towne, CEO of BBFX.com, has portended the respective

With CitiFX Pro reportedly on the block, how would such a sale affect the bank’s introducing brokers and partners that refer large sized accounts to the brokerage service?

While CitiFX only reported to have had 601 active U.S. accounts during Q1 2015, the bank’s retail forex offering fills a unique niche in the market of high end clients and money managers that prefer to have their funds deposited with a Tier 1 bank and not a standalone forex broker.

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Talking to Finance Magnates, Paul Towne, President of U.S. based Introducing broker BBFX.com, that counts CitiFX Pro among its broker partners, shed light on what a sale of the broker could mean.

1. We have recently published news about CitiFX Pro’s imminent sale. How would such a deal affect your clients as IB in the USA?

CitiFX Pro’s sale would greatly impact my clients. Anytime one of our partner brokers sells or leaves the space we are forced to deal with client attrition and finding new brokers with comparable trading conditions for our clients.

We have an existing book of business at Citi comprised of clients that are there for specific reasons, and after Citi sells their book these clients may not like the other options available in the market. CitiFX Pro, unlike some of the other participants in the US space, has had the ability to offer the following:

  • The backing of a large bank, which offers some clients a greater sense of security
  • Advertised FDIC Protection
  • Back office netting functionality

We have a few good solutions that we are working on (with both new and existing partners) to help our Citi clients find their next best option, but we are unfortunately playing the waiting game much like the rest of the industry.

Paul Towne. CEO, BBFX
Paul Towne. CEO, BBFX

2. What are the major challenges awaiting a prospective buyer?

As a U.S. based Introducing Broker, we are highly attuned to what our client base looks for when choosing a broker. In addition, we have also been present for much of the industry consolidation in the U.S. market over the last 3 years and have experienced the frustration of finding appropriate homes for our traders’ accounts after the sale or exit of a partner firm (FCM/RFED).

Because of this experience, we are certain that whoever buys Citi’s book of business will have major issues with client attrition. The clients at Citi FX Pro have had access to a suite of trading conditions that other U.S. based RFED’s are not able to, or are not willing to offer.

3. What would be the best ways to capture their outgoing business?

The best way would be to provide comparable trading solutions and parameters. We liked working with Citi FX Pro and so did our clients, thus we need to find a similar atmosphere where our traders are comfortable. As previously mentioned this issue is not that straightforward and we will need to explore new options and be creative.

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We have two solid alternatives for our clients that check off most of the boxes and are working on more. We are confident that traders that work with BBFX will have the best opportunity to get what they need in a RFED/FCM.

4. How is the consolidation of the U.S. market affecting it? Will it lead to a total collapse of the market or are we already at this juncture?

I assumed the consolidation of the space was over for a while after 2013/2014, but it apparently has not stopped. Although Citi FX Pro was not a regulatory focused exit, it is still another broker gone from the U.S. I believe that new brokers will launch in 2015 but how many (if any) is still an unknown.

I am ultimately optimistic about the long-term future of the U.S. FX market purely based on the amount of investable wealth in the United States, so I don’t feel that there will ever be a full collapse of the market.

Citigroup’s decision to offload its retail business can be seen as an aftermath of the SNB crisis. Are the shockwaves still felt in the American FX market?

The effects of the SNB’s decision are certainly still seen in the U.S. market. Brokers, whether influenced by the NFA or not, increased margin across the board on all pairs for all clients in the aftermath of the SNB decision a few times. These margin increases are still in effect at most, if not all of our U.S .partner brokers. The margin hikes can be inhibitive for certain trading styles. Only time will tell if the market will return to the pre-SNB crisis “status quo.”

5. Was BBFX materially affected with the SNB fallout or did the event have any impact on your business?

Yes our business and our clients were impacted by the SNB fallout. That said, having our clients spread out at multiple brokerages helped us avoid any major client or broker-related issues, as it was apparent that some brokers had more issues with the fallout than other brokers.

On a case-by-case basis, some of our clients were on the “wrong” side of the position. We helped (to the best of our ability) negotiate with brokers to ascertain best fill prices and fair settlements. Those clients who were not trading CHF pairs or who were on the “right” side of the position had little, if any issues.

Going forward, the biggest effect the SNB fallout (in addition to Citi FX Pro’s exit) has caused is a substantial increase in margin for our clients trading at US brokers.

6. What are your plans and strategy for 2015 moving forward?

2015 will be a pivotal year for us in the U.S. market. We expect a certain amount of change to help us but there are definite drawbacks as well. There should be at least one new RFED launching a new product with another two rumored to be currently exploring the space. Obviously the more options available in the retail and mid-level institutional space, the better choices there are for traders. Citi FX Pro leaving means that in the short-term there are fewer options now and until anything new transpires, which could be a bit of a black hole for certain clients.

We have also experienced some growth working with CTAs & exempt money managers providing B2B solutions and outside sales. Because of our experience in the FX space, new entities looking to start up as a CTA or existing CTAs looking to ramp up their assets have given us something to build on. We have a few other projects in both the U.S. and international markets ready to launch in the near future. We are excited about the prospects.

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