Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Clearstream no longer thinks of itself as just a depository but as a commercial bank

At the London Capital Club, Jeffrey Tessler, CEO of Clearstream International, the Luxembourg-based ICSD, painted its competitor, Euroclear, the other half of the ICSD (International Central Securities Depository) duopoly, as being in a much weaker position - directly exposed to the failure of broker/dealer clients during the crisis, a number of changes at top management level including the impending arrival of a new CEO, and still stuck in the mindset of a utility, not a commercial bank that is moving up the value chain.

One could be forgiven for thinking that old rivalries between the ICSD duopoly, which go back decades, have never really dissipated. However, Tessler was also complementary towards his Brussels-based counterparts saying that it too recognised the importance of interoperability amongst CSDs (although the jury is still out on whether Euroclear is likely to join Clearstream's Link Up Markets).

He complemented Euroclear for the work it had done in integrating the CSDs within the Euronext markets into one with its Euroclear Settlement of Euronext-zone Securities (ESES). Yet he added that  it would be difficult for Euroclear to extend its single platform concept beyond the Euronext markets, so it would have to embrace interoperability and hopefully join Link Up Markets.

When I spoke to outgoing Euroclear CEO Pierre Francotte at Sibos in Hong Kong last September, he said Euroclear was looking at Link Up Markets, but he remained non-commital. It will be interesting to see how Euroclear's new CEO, Tim Howell, approaches the issue of interoperability and Link Up Markets when he finally  takes the helm at the Brussels-based ICSD.

If Euroclear decides not to join Link Up Markets, which has built a converter for fostering interoperability between different domestic CSDs, Tessler said you could still have bilateral links in all major markets. However, from Link Up Markets' perspective its ambition is to provide a single point of access into multiple markets."We believe interoperability as a strategy going forward is the right one," says Tessler. "Regulation is moving in that direction. Instead of destroying local market infrastructure, we want to leverage the infrastructure that exists." For more on Link Up Markets as a single pipe, listen to Jeffrey Tessler.

Clearstream Banking Frankfurt, which is the German domestic CSD within the Deutsche Bourse Group, sees its membership of Link Up Markets as a way of not only fostering interoperability among CSDs, but also moving up the value chain to prepare for a much-changed world post-TARGET2-Securities (T2S), which is the new settlement platform for euro-denominated securities due to go live now in 2014.
"T2S is like taking a chalkboard and erasing everything off of it," said Tessler. "Through Link Up Markets we will be able to access multiple markets through a single window. We are transforming Clearstream Banking Frankfurt from a domestic CSD into a hub for accessing multiple CSDs throughout Europe and the world."
 But Clearstream International, the ICSD part of the business, has far loftier ambitions. Tessler says it plans to become not just a depository but a commercial global custodian like J.P. Morgan or Bank of New York Mellon that provides value added services such as Global Securities Financing, which is an increasingly successful part of its business, going from has a 22% market share in 2002 to a 51% market share.

Interestingly, custodian banks are also customers of Clearstream, and when questioned on whether Clearstream would compete directly with its customers, Tessler said regional subcustodians that acted as an intermediary between the broker and the CSD, would find their business increasingly threatened. Increasingly, he says, brokers will ask themselves, 'Why do I need a subcustodian?'

Tessler says Clearstream is winning more securities financing business than its competitor Euroclear because of its vertical integration model which combines the trading functionalty of Deutsche Bourse, with the settlement and collateral management capabilities that also exist within the group, particularly Clearstream Frankfurt's direct links with the Deutsche Bundesbank. For more on why Clearstream has been successful in the securities financing space, listen to Jeffrey Tessler.

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