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Are we there yet? FX approaches the top

This column – indeed Euromoney as a whole – has always promoted FX as a key asset, but that doesn’t mean we shy away from the issues that portray the industry in a poor light.

When the results of this year’s Euromoney FX poll were released, I was swift to point out that FX was no longer seen as the poor relation by those who run financial institutions. I wrote: “The resilience of the FX market and the performance of its larger sell-side players means that currency trading is increasingly seen as a core competency in many banks.” (See 2009 Euromoney FX poll: Staying power in troubled times)

But now I fear FX may be deluded about its own sense of importance. Also, I worry that we have reached the top of the cycle in the FX boom. The clearest evidence is the way growth by (staff) acquisition is being recklessly chased by some. One of my buy-side contacts, watching in amazement, broadly agrees with me, although he reckons it’s still got some way to go. “There are so many egos with cheque books out there that I suspect we may see a few more soon,” he says, referring to some of the big-ticket hires that have happened. It seems that several banks – including some that have had their balance sheets shored up with emergency funding – have adopted the blank-cheque-book approach to building business.

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