Machines trump man in currency trading

NEW YORK • The US$5.1 trillion (S$7 trillion)-a-day currency market is losing its human touch.

That's the conclusion of trading and foreign-exchange heads surveyed by organisers of the TradeTech FX conference in Miami. Of the 100 North America-based respondents, 94 said they aimed to automate more of their foreign-exchange trading operations in the next three years.

The market is embracing electronic and algorithmic trading, and Coalition Development estimates that from 2012 to 2016, banks cut front-office sales, trading and research headcount by about a quarter in Group-of-10 foreign exchange.

Automation has also gained favour after some of the world's biggest banks were entangled in currency-rigging scandals that resulted in more than US$10 billion in penalties.

Last month, a former HSBC Holdings executive was the first individual to be convicted for front-running after the revelations prompted investigations around the world.

"These scandals just accelerated that move" towards technology, which enables investors to execute orders online and get better prices more rapidly, said Mr Paresh Upadhyaya, a portfolio manager at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management, which oversees about US$83 billion.

"It gets people a little nervous and more accepting of regulations," said Mr Upadhyaya, who also sits on the TradeTech FX conference's advisory board and participated in the survey.

INEVITABLE

It's an irreversible trend. The focus on money management clearly is the best execution for our shareholders, and it's also important to keep expenses down.

MR PARESH UPADHYAYA, a portfolio manager at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management, on the increasing automation of foreign-exchange trading flows.

The poll shows that market participants still have room to increase the amount of trading that steers clear of humans, with 62 per cent of respondents having automated a quarter of their flows or less. Just 8 per cent said automation accounted for more than half their flows.

"It's an irreversible trend," said Mr Upadhyaya. "The focus on money management clearly is the best execution for our shareholders, and it's also important to keep expenses down."

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'Machines trump man in currency trading'. Print Edition | Subscribe