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Foreign Exchange

Euromoney FX Survey 2012: State Street wins most-improved market share

The bank has moved five places up the table in the overall rankings and back into the top 10 with its core client group, real-money investors. Guy Kirby, global head of FX sales at State Street, tells EuromoneyFXNews that the firm is continuing to grow its real-money franchise - and also advancing with other client segments – thanks to its focused product offering.

Last year’s FX survey result, which saw State Street’s global ranking with real-money investors slump from seventh to 15th, was an aberration according to Kirby. Thus, the result in this year’s survey, which has seen the custodian bank’s position improve six places to 9th with real money investors and climb five places to 17th overall, puts it back in its rightful position. “We did not see a commensurate fall in our market share in 2011. Our analysis of our market place was that we were still seeing the same or larger share of our clients business as in previous years,” says Kirby.

 "We're happy to do FX
business regardless of
where the assets are 
Guy Kirby

At the time, the consensus view in explaining the slump in State Street’s market positioning was due to the slew of lawsuits it and other custodian banks were facing in the US. Indeed, its market-share decline in the US had been even more pronounced, falling from third place to 13th with real-money investors. That has partially recovered this year, rising two places to 11th. Meanwhile, in Europe, it picked up three places to 11th with the same client base.

Kirby is keen to point out that much of its business these days is not driven by its custodian business. Indeed, he says, the mix is about 50/50 between custodian and non-custodian clients, and adds that any public perception that its FX volumes are driven off custody services are incorrect.

“We’ve been significantly growing our FX business with investment managers for many years. In fact we trade with as many funds held in custody at other banks as we do for funds under custody at State Street. We’re happy to do FX business regardless of where the assets are custodied,” says Kirby.

That said, the bank remains very focused on servicing institutional investors, with an offering that Kirby believes cannot be matched by its rivals, whether that be the larger flow banks or the trust banks that State Street is often loosely grouped among.

“We believe we have been growing faster than our competitors, and it’s interesting to note, how people compare us. Some people only compare us to other trust banks,” says Kirby. “ In the past I have not seen other US trust banks in the top 10 with real money in the survey. That suggests that we’re doing something different”

 State Street and BNY Mellon real money market share

 Source: Euromoney Market Data

This unique selling point is based on a few factors. For the past decade, State Street has been following what Kirby calls “a discreet research agenda”, where it has partnered with leading academics throughout the world, and takes financial theory from academia and applies it to practical situations. For instance, it comes up with daily measures of market turbulence, which model break downs in correlations as well as the more conventional measures of implied and realized volatility.

More recently, State Street has made available to its clients daily measures of inflation by partnering with the firm PriceStats. It was a concept that was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, called the Billion Prices Project, which developed software to collect prices from online retailers, and now monitors price fluctuations on about five million items on the internet in 70 countries.

“The power of this tool is the power to catch turns, and to determine trends,” says Kirby. He cites the example of measures of inflation today that suggest inflation is more stubborn in the UK and Germany than official levels state.

All in all, Kirby believes his firm has a fairly compelling offering that will allow it to grow its market share, beyond just real-money investors. Add to that, in the most recent round of bank stress tests conducted by the Federal Reserve, State Street came out as one of the strongest of the US banks.

Kirby says: “Why wouldn’t you if you were sitting in a hedge fund want daily measures of turbulence, and inflation. If you believed you were getting the price you wanted, and you were getting service, and you were getting a globally integrated sales force, why wouldn’t you want to trade with an entity such as State Street, especially if that entity also has the strongest tier 1 common capital ratio compared to the other 18 participating banks in the Federal Reserve’s 2012 stress test.”

Indeed, the firm seems to have got some traction with leveraged funds in this year’s survey. It rose seven places to 18th. This is largely attributable to changes in the structure of this year’s survey, which increased the collection of volumes from clients’ top-20 counterparties.

Even though State Street might wish to expand beyond the somewhat tarnished custodian FX model of recent years, there are some positive attributes of the model that might stand it in good stead and allow it to service its clients well when mandated clearing is implemented beyond 2012.

“State Street is extremely well-positioned in this marketplace to talk about how you clear products, how you settle products, how you confirm products,” says Kirby. “That historically has been one of State Street’s real expertise areas, so I feel comfortable that State Street will have answers to those sorts of questions.”

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