SEF malaise- the calm before the storm?

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9 March 2012
David Easthope
Market participants are frustrated. Swap Execution Facilities (SEFs) in the US market should have been a reality by now. Instead, we have faced numerous delays and await SEF registration rules, likely in April. After that point, more debate and comments will occur until probably near the end of the year. Electronic trading of swaps on SEFs (acting as actual SEFs) may occur by the end of the year, but only for largest and most sophisticated market participants and only in select swap instruments (the most liquid CDS contracts for example). A far cry from what was envisioned when the G-20 reforms and Dodd-Frank were created and put forward. However, despite the malaise, is this the calm before the storm? Will we see an explosion of SEFs? Stay tuned for more Celent research soon, but here is a quick preview of our thinking: 1) SEF status is a rite of passage and not a guarantee of success in any fashion 2) Becoming a SEF is more than just taking an existing platform and layering on top connectivity to clearing and SDRs...oh, so much more and 3) To rather awkwardly quote the voice in the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams, the key question for incumbent and challengers in the future SEF marketplace is "If you build it, will they come?" i.e. will liquidity migrate to new innovative platforms offering new protocols or just existing platforms with minor tweaks? Will it be enough to justify the return on investment, or is it just a new cost to be passed on to the buyside for largely the same market structure plus central clearing for standardized swap instruments? ....stay tuned.

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