Monday, April 14, 2008

Clearstream's new processing environment

Well it certainly has been a busy few weeks for the world of European clearing and settlement. Not content with their trading counterparts stealing all the limelight in a post-MiFID world, the European CSDs announced their own 'Project Turquoise' in the form of the "Link Up Markets" initiative which will see seven European CSDs develop a common infrastructure for post-trade efficiency.

Fresh from that announcement, last week Clearstream the ICSD summoned a handful of journalists to its Canary Wharf headquarters in London to hear more details about the new generation of processing environment it announced back in March.

Instead of being courted with a glass of wine and a cocktail sausage, which we were told were being saved for all-important customers, we were given a detailed explanation of what Clearstream's new real-time processing environment really meant and how it provided a migration-free alternative to Euroclear's Single Settlement Engine (SSE), which aims to harmonise and improve settlement efficiency across five markets.

The move to a "real-time" processing environment is apparently part of a four-year strategic review that Jeffrey Tessler, president and CEO of Clearstream International initiated when he first joined the Luxembourg ICSD.

Philip Brown, relationship management, UK, Ireland & Nordics, Clearstream, said a number of market trends and requirements lead up to the new processing environment; a 25% increase per annum in custody volumes, increased complexity on the asset servicing side, investment fund volumes growing at a rate of 30% per annum, and the increasing move to same day repo which was putting pressure on clients to know where their collateral was and on ICSDs to support a same day settlement environment.

Brown said that Clearstream's new "real-time" processing environment would more tightly integrate settlement, custody and securities financing enabling clients to optimise their collateral by providing them with more timely information as to where their cash and securities are.

Clearstream's previous settlement engine was an overnight process which processed 95% of volumes efficiently. "It is the 5% we are trying to resolve by getting the market towards 100% efficiency" said Brown by providing same day settlement and financing.

Under the new processing environment, Clearstream will extend the settlement processing day from 4.30am to 6pm CET, which it said would not only optimise settlement efficiency by eliminating queuing times and enhanced fails management, but also minimise domestic turnaround times from three hours to three minutes, and optimise use of securities as collateral by enabling firms to hold less collateral.

"With event-driven real time processing we don't have a set time of day for starting processing," Brown explained. "Each cycle is driven by an event such as a corporate action or a bridge exchange file with Euroclear."

Commenting on its competitor Euroclear, Brown said that its processing environment was 'calendered' rather than event driven. I got the feeling that Clearstream also saw its new processing environment as an opportunity to steal some of the attention away from Euroclear's Single Settlement Engine project.

Brown was eager to point out that Clearstream was ready to switch on a real-time bridge between itself and Euroclear which would create the impression of a single processing environment, but that the Brussels ICSD was not quite ready yet.

"Euroclear's model is about the acquisition of CSDs around Europe for the creation of a single platform. Our solution is live now. Euroclear has not yet fully delivered its solution on a rolling basis," said Brown.

Arguably Euroclear's SSE, which requires platform consolidation in five markets, is a far more ambitious project than Clearstream's new processing environment. Brown would not be drawn on whether its processing environment was better than what Euroclear would offer. "I wouldn't say it is better or worse. We think you can get there quicker and more cheaply by using a robust infrastructure based on real-time processing."

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