Technical glitches and heavy handed regulation

Technical glitches and heavy handed regulation

It wouldn’t be a week in the markets without an exchange outage and another massive dump of regulation and (guess what dear reader?) this week was no different.

It started with Nasdaq OMX’s NLX platform suffering a glitch that meant its main data server was unavailable for some 40 minutes, leaving clients having to log-on to a back-up which proved problematic for some.

The outage was not huge in the grand scheme of things but it was not good publicity for the exchange as it looks to win more friends and build liquidity.

On a more positive note, the nascent exchange moved this week to tackle a characteristic of trading on its markets, namely the spikes that take place as some clients pile in to collect their rebates.

The exchange has capped rebates, changed the bands and reshuffled the pot of cash made available to clients in a bold move that could see trading go one of two ways.

It is potentially a gamble by NLX and its management but the exchange has been up and running for a year now and it’s about time the market saw whether this is a viable contender or the latest in a long line of failed Nasdaq forays into Europe.

NLX is not getting much help from Europe regulators these days, as the Mifid II act that plans to undermine the monopolies of the largest European incumbents remains years away.

The new exchange could have taken some confidence this week from a rather unexpected source however. Competition in Europe’s liquid futures markets would seem to be a cause celebre for the European Commission though the tardy implementation of Mifid might suggest otherwise.

But Britain’s FCA piled into the debate this week with its sprawling probe into competition in the financial markets which covers many areas of investment banking, asset management and exchanges, including the access to clearing and index licenses made available by their operators.

It is unclear why the FCA felt it important to launch its own effort to open up the futures markets – one cynic said they need to justify their existence somehow – but the FCA competition probe adds to banks’ already long to-do lists.

Perhaps more worryingly for the futures markets, the FCA is also gearing up for a crackdown on the shady issue of payment for order flow.

FOW reportedly exclusively this week the British regulator will unveil before the end of the month a ruling on payment for orders that will stamp out the practice when dealing with certain clients, a position that could hit revenue for some firms.

The industry, through the FIA among other bodies, has been arguing vehemently against the ruling but it would seem the regulators have lost sympathy with their pleas.

The FCA insisted the payment for order flow review reflected the views of market participants but this is not true when it comes to some of its largest participants, namely the banks and brokers.

The latest in a long line of new lows in industry-regulator relations you might think?

No. That came in Paris at the Mifid hearings on Tuesday when, after a long critical statement by a British lawyer which culminated in him saying his clients were not happy with the reforms, a commissioner said in not so many words: “What you have to understand is they are not meant to be happy.”