FX poll 1996: A close Chase

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Newly-appointed global foreign exchange chief, Guy Whittaker, fell silent when Euromoney informed him that the new Chase had topped our annual foreign exchange poll. He simply asked how we put the results together, and took a sip of water.

Click here to view the annual Foreign Exchange Poll (TABLES)

Had it been true, and not just mischief on our part - this being the first time in a generation that Citibank had genuine concerns as to who might win - there's no telling what might have happened. Informed that it was a joke and that Citibank had won again for the 18th consecutive year,he explained that Citibank's edge was "its customer relationships and the continuity of its staff".

Will Citi ever be knocked from its perch? Its service continues to impress clients. Richard Desmond, corporate treasurer of UK conglomerate BAT, is typical in his praise and concludes, "Citibank has an awful lot right."As our poll clearly shows, there's no bank to match it in emerging market currencies, and there are very few areas where its name is far from the top.

Pipped at the post

The Chase/Chemical combination came historically close to pipping Citi,but fell just short. Perhaps that is the closest the new entity will get for a while. We combined the two bank's results because the merger took place as the poll was being conducted and it was impossible to differentiate the votes.

Still in third place is HSBC Midland, though a fair distance from its American rivals. It will view its greatest achievement this year as leaping from nowhere into fourth place in our who's best in New York category. Some of the credit for this goes to Barbara Levchuk, a 13-year veteran of Citibank,who arrived 18 months ago to run the north American sales operation.

Overall it has been a good year for the British banks, with Barclays rising four places to number seven. NatWest Markets enters the top five -perhaps the efforts of the bank's inimitable head of sales, David Reason,are finally paying off, though maybe to the detriment of his model railway in Scotland. Another big climber is ABN-Amro, which narrowly misses the top 10.

In Asia, the same trio as last year continues to dominate: HSBC Midland,Citi and Standard Chartered.

Standard Chartered comes top in Malaysian ringgit, Thai baht, South African rand, Indian rupees and Singapore dollars. Charles Boswell, head of sales,says: "Despite the move to a one-stop service, customers today still value banks with a strong niche - particularly with the growing importance of Asia in both economic and political terms."

The other trend to emerge from the poll is the continued growth in the use of options. Over 66% of those polled say the proportion of business they do via options is increasing.


Star climber

The most explosive new entrant to this year's top 10 is a bank that did not appear even in the top 20 last year: Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. It comes in at nine.

Much of the credit for this jump lies with global head of foreign exchange Michael de Sa, a Citibanker of 17-years who joined DMG in April 1994.

"Each geography will have a global powerhouse," he says, referring to the increasing concentration of large banks. He wants DMG to be the powerhouse in Europe.

DeSa is aided by 15 former Citibankers, including former Citi head trader Nick Beecroft who joined last May to head forex trading and sales in London. Other high-profile hirings include Albert Maasland, who joined in September to head Europe and was formerly sales chief at Chase, then HSBC. In derivatives, Zar Amrolia was brought in - with a whole sales team from CSFP - to run global options sales and Dan Morehead joined in August from Bankers Trust to head global options trading.

In the past 18 months the balance between the 350 trading staff and the100 salespeople has been shifted to a more balanced mix of 250 traders and200 sales.

With technology, the key is to be one step ahead of the rest. "This year I have spent about 20% of my cost base on technology," says deSa.Deutsche, which has 33 branches, reported its FX earnings for the first time this year. They were up 20% to $400 million.


Methodology

Euromoney collects data for its forex survey by faxing a questionnaire to named individuals at industrial and commercial corporations, financial institutions, institutional investors and state agencies.

We received 230 replies. Breakdown by type is: corporate treasuries 60%;financial institutions 26%; institutional investors 9%; others including state agencies 5%. Breakdown by region is: Europe 57%; North America 19%;Asia and Australia 16%; Latin America 5%; Middle East and others 3%.

The overall ranking is based on the total volumes of forex business placed annually with the banks (respondents are asked to estimate their total annual forex requirement, and then to disclose the proportions placed with each bank). All other results are compiled by awarding points on a sliding scale(three points for first, two for second and one for third) and are there forenot weighted according to volume.