Banking News

NatWest, Deutsche Bank, others participate in blockchain intraday FX swap trial

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Today blockchain startup Finteum revealed that 11 banks participated in a trial of its FX intraday swap solution. NatWestDeutsche Bank, Bank of Ireland, Banca Mediolanum and seven others banks participated with $14.5 trillion in combined balance sheet values. The solution is planning live trades in late 2021 or early 2022.

According to BIS figures, global FX daily trading in 2019 amounted to $6.6 trillion daily, of which $3.2 trillion were FX swaps.

So what’s the problem that intraday FX swaps aim to solve for banks? It’s all about bank treasurers managing intraday liquidity. Too much liquidity or too big an intraday buffer may not earn an optimal return at the central bank. Too little liquidity means payments need to be delayed or throttled. A big part of this juggling is the fact that FX transactions typically settle in two days.

What Finteum is introducing is another tool to manage intraday liquidity beyond buffers and payment throttling. Both legs of the swap, the initial spot exchange and the second reverse exchange, happen on the same day. And instead of two-day settlement, it’s either same day or instant payment versus payment settlement, depending on the solution used for settlement.

Back in 2019, Finteum said it was looking to work with Fnality (formerly known as the Utility Settlement Coin), the joint venture DLT payments solution backed by 14 major banks and Nasdaq. Potentially Fnality can provide cash on ledger. But for now, it looks like Finteum might be ready to go live before Fnality, given Fnality only currently has a clear regulatory path for pounds sterling.

A potential alternative to Fnality is to use CLSNow, the same-day settlement solution launched by CLS in 2019 with JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs as the first users. For now, CLSNow covers USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, but more are expected. These currencies are similar to Finteum except that the intraday FX swaps solution also supports CHF. 

CLSNow executes bilateral settlement on a single transaction basis at times when both currency’s real time gross settlement (RTGS) systems are open. It settles as soon as both legs of the payment are received. Hence some of the banks interested in Finteum are evaluating whether to onboard with CLSNow. 

Another potential future way to settle trades is central bank digital currencies (CBDC) when they go live. Ledger Insights’ observes that it may also fit nicely with Partior, the Singapore interbank settlement solution for multiple currencies backed by JP Morgan, DBS Bank and Temasek.

“While every bank treasury team is focused on controlling costs, efficient optimisation of liquidity buffers is often overlooked by senior management,” said Brian Nolan, Finteum co-founder. “It is great to see the banks from the trial encouraging their peers to join the initiative and optimise the cost savings for all involved.”

The Finteum solution is based on R3’s Corda enterprise blockchain. So far, Finteum has raised angel funding with a view to doing a more substantial fundraise closer to launch.


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