DTCC and CLS Bank launch central settlement of OTC credit derivatives trades

The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation and CLS Bank International have launched their central settlement service for over-the-counter credit derivative transactions, which is designed substantially to reduce operating risks in the market.

According to the partners, it represents the OTC derivatives industry's only automated solution for calculating, netting and issuing payments between counterparties to bilateral contracts.

Managed by the DTCC's Trade Information Warehouse, the service reduces risks by replacing manually processed bilateral payments with automated netted payments. Previously institutions had to rely on a global network of correspondents and a degree of faith that they had received payments in one currency as they paid in another.

In the first quarterly central settlement cycle for the new service on December 20, the amount of trading obligations requiring financial settlement was reduced by 98 per cent, from USD14.3bn gross to USD288m net.

Gross settlements by the 14 participating OTC derivatives dealers were consolidated from 340,000 to 123 net settlements with the new arrangements. Payments were made in five currencies, the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen, sterling and Swiss francs.

'There are few opportunities of this magnitude in the OTC derivatives market to reduce operational risks while at the same time increase operating efficiencies,' says Diane Schueneman, head of global infrastructure solutions at Merrill Lynch. 'The central settlement service developed by DTCC and CLS represents a tremendous advance for the operations area of this industry.'

Randolph Cowen, co-chief administrative officer, Goldman Sachs, adds: 'Central settlement provides the credit derivatives market with infrastructure that assures certainty of payment and processing scalability to address the explosion of credit derivatives transaction volume and the inherent operational risk of the previous highly manual processes.

'The central settlement process, which leverages DTCC's Trade Information Warehouse, has produced full straight-through processing, allowing us to go all the way from confirmation to payment calculation to settlement with virtually no manual intervention.'

With the new service, bilateral netting and settlement is completed and reports generated for counterparties early in the morning on settlement day. The function has been designed to enable payments associated with transactions confirmed through Deriv/SERV and residing in the warehouse's global contract repository to be netted by value date, currency and counterparty.

Payments eligible for settlement include initial payments and one-time fees, coupon payments and payments associated with post-trade events. In 2007 Deriv/SERV processed more than 5.8 million OTC derivatives transactions.

The warehouse generates bilaterally netted payment instructions and sends them to CLS for settlement. CLS automatically notifies its settlement members, who effect settlement through CLS on a multilateral, netted basis. Over time, the number of currencies in which payments can be made will be expanded from the initial five.

'The settlement service breaks new ground in OTC derivatives operations,' says Michael Bodson, the executive managing director responsible for business management, strategy and marketing for all DTCC businesses.

'Counterparties used to manage payment reconciliations and funds transfers for thousands of payments on a bilateral basis using manual processes. Now, once trades are fed into the Trade Information Warehouse, these steps are handled automatically and, for the first time, counterparties obtain a full audit trail. The results in terms of cost savings, risk mitigation and efficiency gains are tremendous.'

During the initial launch, which followed an extensive testing period, the participating dealers settled with each other in defined clusters. During 2008 additional dealers will go live on the service, and participants will begin settling among each other outside of their defined clusters. Also during 2008 the warehouse's settlement capabilities will be expanded in preparation for bringing buy-side firms on board.

'By combining CLS's multi-currency liquidity management capability with DTCC's automated processing platform for OTC derivatives, the new central settlement service demonstrates how industry utilities working together can provide enhanced value to the market,' says Rob Close, president and chief executive of CLS Bank International.

'The synergies between our organisations and the efforts of our member banks have enabled us to deliver this important new service in record time and at low cost.' DTCC and CLS launched their partnership to build the central settlement solution in December 2006.

CLS Bank International, which is owned by 70 of the world's largest global financial institutions, settles more than 400,000 instructions equivalent to approximately USD4trn each day and provides global settlement services in 15 currencies.

The DTCC, through its subsidiaries, provides clearance, settlement and information services for equities, corporate and municipal bonds, government and mortgage-backed securities, money market instruments and OTC derivatives, and is a leading processor of mutual fund and insurance transactions.

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