UK: 2013 Capital Markets Outlook - It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Last Updated: 14 December 2012
Article by Deloitte Financial Services Group

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Macro issues expected to affect the capital markets industry in 2013

Twenty-five years ago, the American rock group R.E.M. introduced a song that detailed, in rapid fire, a litany of pop culture references that summarized the concerns of a generation in its title – "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)."

For those who work in the 21st century capital markets sector, including many professionals who grew up listening to those lyrics, the recent combination of economic turmoil, regulatory reaction, and technological advances may, indeed, make it seem like it is the end of the world as the industry knows it.

Uncertainty and risk stemming from the slower-than-desired pace of economic recovery, looming end-of-year "fiscal cliff," and continued economic shockwaves emanating from Europe make this an especially challenging time for capital markets firms around the world.

In front of this backdrop, a number of critical developments, both regulatory and technological, are driving significant changes in the capital markets sector. These include:

The demise of proprietary trading. As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act's Volcker Rule, firms that once generated substantial income by trading for their own account can no longer count on this activity for much, if any, revenue. To offset this loss of income, firms are considering new business models that focus on opportunities in wealth management, emerging markets, and other areas that offer growth potential.

Taming derivatives' Wild West. As unregulated derivatives trades begin to migrate to over-the-counter exchanges offering greater transparency, profit margins are likely to shrink and capital markets firms will likely need to look elsewhere for new revenues to make up for these diminished returns.

High-powered electronic trading. As more hedge funds, institutional investors, and high-frequency traders rely on their own quantitative specialists to help set strategy, will the traditional research-and-service brokerage model go the way of paper confirmations?

Regulatory overhang. In many ways, the foundational issue challenging the industry is the need for restructuring and realignment to work toward compliance with the evolving regulatory landscape. Derivatives trading is but one example: firms will likely need significant investment to trade derivatives through a central clearing platform to get to a level of transparency that is required.

The 10 issues

We expect 2013 to be a year of adaptation to a rapidly evolving capital markets landscape. In this report, we cover 10 major challenges to the industry; for each, we present an overview, new developments likely to emerge in the coming year, and a bottom-line recommendation for industry professionals.

The top 10 issues sell-side firms face in 2013 are presented below, in two major groupings (see Exhibit 1). The first, which we are calling "Transformational," have the potential to fundamentally alter the strategies, revenue model, and structure of individual firms and the industry as a whole. Of course, these transformations will only happen if executives determine that responses to the situation in which they currently find themselves is something greater than merely a typical fluctuation in the business cycle.

We view the second grouping of issues as being more "transitional" in two ways: First, that changes in industry practices have been building over time, and are likely to continue to evolve. The development of electronic trading, as an example, has been building for decades and that trend should continue. Second, that some of these issues, and the bottom-line recommendations we are making, are in fact suggestive of a combination of cyclical dynamics and evolutionary global trends around wealth and populations that exist outside of the industry.

Group one: The transformative issues

Regulatory landscape: The devil may be in the details, but the regulators have yet to provide them

In the two-plus years since Dodd-Frank was enacted, capital markets firms are still waiting for clarification on many important issues. In the United States, there is continued uncertainty surrounding the impacts of regulatory actions like living wills and the Volcker Rule. Combined with potential actions related to high frequency trading and the shifting of derivatives processing to more transparent exchanges, capital markets executives lack a solid foundation upon which to make decisions. In the near term, as mentioned above, firms should also allocate budget to infrastructure projects to improve their ability to keep pace with regulatory reporting requirements.

This issue is compounded for firms operating more globally, as the uneven jurisdictional treatment of the industry adds to the uncertainty. Indeed, this regulatory unevenness has the potential to incent firms to move operations to more accommodating jurisdictions. Specifically, Ricardo Martinez, principal at Deloitte & Touche LLP, expects that "there may be a migration of activity from some of the most traditional markets, including the New York and London markets, to markets in Asia and other regions."

What's new for 2013

Actions from regulators and legislators, including the Volcker Rule, the living will process, and opinions like the Turner Report from the U.K.'s Financial Services Authority have the potential to force the separation of banking from capital markets once again. These issues will likely resolve in the coming year and are likely to accelerate restructuring of the industry in a once-in-a-lifetime way.

Bottom line

Capital markets firms that are part of larger bank holding companies should look to accelerate planning for potential independence. This includes the process of reframing their strategies as they become smaller and reorganize their structures.

Defining and finalizing the business strategy

Bulge bracket capital markets firms as standalone entities ceased to exist in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Kevin O'Reilly, a vice chairman and consulting partner at Deloitte MCS Limited in the U.K., sees fundamental change occurring: "It is a change in the landscape, a change in the profitability, a change in the human capital profile of the industry, so it is an industry in transition. And it affects all the participants in various ways."

Therefore, with regulatory and market forces obliging bank holding companies to examine their use of capital and sources of profit, executives are expected to conduct a fundamental review of their portfolio of businesses.

What's new for 2013

Alongside the potential for breakup of the banking/brokerage model discussed above, momentum should continue to build around the fundamental restructuring of capital markets firms in specific, and the industry as a whole. Deleveraging activities continue, and firms are anticipated to make some significant decisions about which of their businesses to maintain and grow, and which may be candidates for divestiture. These decisions are likely to result in the emergence of an industry where firms choose to focus their energies at either end of the spectrum. Some can continue to push their advantage as global, full-service firms offering institutional asset management, sales and trading, and investment banking services, while many others may need to rationalize their business models to focus on their specific institutional strengths.

Bottom line

Capital markets firms have put a lot of decisions on hold waiting for different rules and regulations to be finalized and, perhaps more importantly, waiting for the 2012 election cycle to conclude. The wait should be over: according to Jocelyn Cunningham, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, "The biggest issue for the entire industry has to do with figuring out what it will look like in the future, because the traditional business model has changed due to regulation, but at the grass roots level, there is likely no margin left in this business anymore."

Repairing the reputation: dovetailing of reputational and operational risk

Managing risk continues to be a prime driver for executives in the coming year. Of course, risk management never goes away as a major concern: Not only the standard array of market, credit, and counterparty risk, but also compliance failure, cyber-attacks, and other forms of operational risk. But in the coming year, Rajiv Shah, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, suggests that "there is an issue around safety and soundness. I think it has been neglected – how do you safeguard client interest, shareholder interest, and regulatory interest?"

Headlines have featured an array of issues: trading scandals, price fixing, and "flash crashes" among others. An effective way to lower the volume on this populist backlash is to increase focus on correcting weaknesses in operational processes and their supporting technologies.

What's new for 2013

In 2013, firms should be consumed with taking action to limit fraud and liquidity risk, each of which can lead to severe challenges. When capital markets firms collapse, it is usually not because they fail to value financial instruments properly or have weaknesses in their technology infrastructure. Rather, firms collapse because counterparties won't trade with them. In an age where the pace of business is now measured in milliseconds, reputation matters, perhaps more than ever.

Bottom line

As capital markets firms look to reshape strategy, reallocate capital, and return to growth, damage to their reputation – as employers, as counterparties, and as regulated entities – should be unacceptable. Therefore, investments in oversight of operational processes, analysis of funding sources, and de-risking of the client base should receive attention in the coming year.

Market structure: the age of specialization

Deregulation and the need for differentiation have driven the development of alternative exchanges and dark pools, as well as the rise of new trading strategies. For example, in an effort to achieve the favorable transactional pricing for their clients, capital markets firms are creating their own central limit-order books. Firms can then first attempt to match buyers and sellers from their own order flows, or from order flows of other privately managed "dark pools" before going through exchanges, where spreads are narrower.

In addition, through the use of algorithmic trading models, the size of institutional orders is shrinking from thousands of shares to hundreds of shares. By placing multiple small orders, investors buying or selling large positions are more likely to achieve the price they are targeting without moving the market. Finally, ultra-low latency high frequency trading has taken a significant share of volume, pushing the competitive envelope in search of additional milliseconds of advantage.

What's new for 2013

Firms should address the challenges of fragmentation by applying their resources toward reducing the complexity of their own environments. In many cases there are multiple instances of software that are in different versions based on geographic region or product. Combining the new compliance reporting mandates with the fragmentation issue, firms can focus on efforts to reduce and simplify their legacy back-end trading platforms.

Bottom line

The fundamental business model for sales and trading will need to change as capital markets firms transition from the more traditional high-touch trading to much leaner electronic platforms. Deloitte Consulting LLP principal Larry Albin observes that, "because the traditional business still exists and the high-frequency business exists, financial institutions have to pay for the infrastructure of two channels. While the volumes are moving towards electronic, it doesn't negate the need to do business the traditional way. So I think that it only adds more complexity to the system."

Group two: The transitional issues

The conflict between transparency and margin

As stated above, there is increased scrutiny of the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market, resembling some principles typically associated with exchanges (e.g., standardization, electronic and anonymous execution, and clearing). The establishment of a central clearing counterparty (CCP) is expected to gain momentum in the coming year as a result. Several players could be considered for this role, including the Intercontinental Exchange and the London Clearinghouse.

In a larger sense, the creation of such industry utilities for the provisioning of non-value-added activities could provide a huge benefit in that there is significant potential for cost take-out from individual firms. However, the increased transparency of these products will likely have the knock-on effect of lowering their profitability. Firms should examine the degree to which they participate in these markets in 2013, and derive strategies to improve their margins if they elect to continue offering derivatives products.

What's new for 2013

The transformation of the derivatives market is expected to continue over the next several years. "Dodd-Frank is driving a level of transparency in derivatives trading and that is changing the way securities are cleared," says Larry Albin. Firms should consider investing in process and technology to more efficiently work with these emerging CCPs. Despite this evolution, however, there is likely still a need for OTC and non-standardized products for hedging purposes. The market is not going away; it is just going to transform itself.

Bottom line

The creation of more standardized and shared utilities for initiation, clearing, and settlement of trades will not be the responsibility of a single firm. Indeed, some larger firms will try to corral trading volume in order to lower their costs. But for the industry as a whole, the establishment of these utilities could be a major contributor to the creation of a smaller, but more profitable industry.

Using wealth management offerings as a growth platform

Growth in the affluent sectors is likely to continue in 2013 as capital markets firms seek to leverage their position among consumers who may be the first to benefit from economic recovery, both domestically and globally. Indeed, as Deloitte's1 research has shown, the projected growth rate of "millionaire households" around the world affords attractive opportunities on most continents.2 However, this will be a competitive marketplace. As is often the case during economic downturns, financial services firms of all types focus their efforts on attracting more profitable relationships.

We have already seen sell-side firms increase their investment in private banking and wealth management platforms, and we expect that trend to continue in 2013. While these businesses – particularly private wealth management – tend to consume capital, they also deliver a more predictable base of income. In today's revenue-challenged environment, that has a great deal of appeal.

What's new for 2013

The challenge for capital markets firms as they shift from margin-based "alpha" businesses to a more fee-based income stream, is how to get leverage across these businesses. Retail and wholesale investment platforms evince a common set of processes and technologies, from order management systems to clearing and settlement. At the same time, there is a lack of agreement as to the desirability of allowing retail customers access to the same spreads and pricing that are offered to institutional clients. This channel conflict should be resolved if firms decide to embrace wealth management and build a cost-effective common infrastructure.

Bottom line

The shift away from margin-based businesses to ones that generate fees suggest meaningful changes to operational structures, capital allocations, and human capital planning. As in previous crises, firm executives should decide whether these shifts are merely cyclical in nature, or part of a more fundamental realignment of industry revenue potential.

Globalization: go to emerging markets or go home ?

With stagnation in the developed markets of the U.S. and Europe, many global firms are looking to emerging markets for growth. Much has been made about the increasing population of wealthy individuals and families in emerging market countries, which is part of the reason for the focus on private wealth businesses discussed above. But growth in these economies also offers opportunities for other offerings.

Economic liberalization in Asia, as an example, will create more demand for support of mergers and acquisitions. Similarly, overall economic growth creates demand for institutional asset management. Because of their combination of expertise and sophisticated technology platforms, many U.S. and European firms should be well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.

What's new for 2013

Beyond even the pursuit of growth in traditional services, capital markets firms are also turning to global markets for other reasons. "Some firms are putting front-office people in charge of regulatory arbitrage to help clients achieve cross-border efficiencies," says Kevin O'Reilly. "So it isn't just about regulatory compliance – it is also about regulatory-driven opportunities."

At the same time, some firms are also exploring the turmoil in Europe and other developed markets as a way to create new products that support financial institutions' need for capital and the attendant restructuring and divestitures that are a source of liquidity.

Bottom line

Despite economic stagnation, the market for wealth management services in the U.S. is still quite robust. But growth in other business lines is challenged – trading volumes and profitability are down, and mergers and acquisitions are at a relative standstill. Firms may look to emerging markets, but should consider their overall strategy and competitive strengths as they chase revenue around the globe.

Tying the operating model to the shift to electronic trading

The growth of electronic trading has not been accompanied by a change in the business model. Most firms still maintain a more expensive, sales and research-based model for their trading businesses alongside newer technology-based trading platforms.

In addition, firms are being required to provide end-to-end regulatory reporting throughout the trade life cycle. The speed of electronic trading creates more risk in the marketplace from "flash crashes" and other events. Regulators want firms to be able to monitor and report on transactions even as they course through their technology systems in nanoseconds. Moreover, because of the business model rationalization and restructuring discussed above, capital markets firms should increase their attention on efforts to drive cost transparency in their operations. As volumes shift and product strategies evolve, operations leaders should be prepared to up- or downsize their infrastructures/data centers to drive a more flexible, variable-cost operating platform.

What's new for 2013

One of the principal regulatory changes that capital markets firms will need to begin addressing in 2013 is the Securities and Exchange Commission's new Rule 613, which supplants the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Order Audit Trail System. Rule 613 establishes a market-wide consolidated audit trail designed to enhance end-to-end trade monitoring. Rule 613 will apply to large firms in 2013 and smaller firms in subsequent years.

Bottom line

Regulations prescribing improved trade monitoring certainly put pressure on the industry. At the same time, clients continue to emphasize the need for best execution at the lowest cost. These requirements should demand ongoing and significant investment in information systems – many of which operate in a patchwork fashion over legacy infrastructures – as well as a robust capability to parse and analyze the underlying data. Firms should confirm that they have the appropriate resources in place to develop and enhance these mission-critical systems.

Innovation: The return of financial engineering?

For years, Wall Street was synonymous with product innovation, though not always in a positive light. Collateralized debt obligations and other structured asset-based securities may have generated profits for capital markets firms and investors, but they ultimately came to represent what some believe to be the worst of speculative excesses.

Despite the public outcry against this "financial engineering," the reality is that innovation in product and process still offers a way forward for capital markets firms. It is expected that many firms will allocate some attention to the development of new offerings that are designed to support mergers-and-acquisitions activities and new OTC products that may offer greater margins. There is also the potential to see firms implementing product ideas that have been on the back burner for the past few years. There is a caveat: recent history suggests that innovation in data management and analytics, supporting traditional margin-based products, has been the preferred method to grow. As capital markets firms shift to a fee-based revenue model, they may need to learn how to adapt their innovative approaches to processes and service levels that offer some level of differentiation in these businesses.

What's new for 2013

Innovation is not the sole property of the firms themselves. In the ongoing competition to capture more trade flow, other industry participants are beginning to be a bit more creative in terms of the trade process itself. Custodial firms are expanding outsourcing support, market data providers are looking for ways to increase their fees, and exchanges are developing co-location offerings to high-frequency traders.

Bottom line

In an industry as competitive and dynamic as financial services, any business that ceases to innovate ceases to grow. Extensive product innovation will likely be more difficult in the short term as new demands for transparency will both take time to operationalize and will reduce product margins. For capital markets firms, the focus on innovation may shift, even if just temporarily, from product to process as the industry adapts to a new regulatory environment.

New compensation models and luring the talent of tomorrow

As stated above, the reputation of the financial services industry has suffered over the past several years. According to a recent tracking study by Harris Interactive, just 17 percent of 17,000 respondents have a positive view of Wall Street – a score that ranks the largest financial services firms ahead of only the tobacco industry and government.3 As a result, there is increasing pressure to change compensation models, which may contribute to an exodus of talent from traditional sell-side firms to other segments of the industry.

For chief human resources officers (CHROs), the negative perception that prospective employees may have towards the financial services industry also makes the job of attracting and retaining top talent even harder. Coupled with public pressure to reduce discretionary bonuses at a time when many people are experiencing financial hardships, many CHROs are struggling themselves to reduce voluntary turnover, especially among members of the millennial generation, on whom capital markets firms are counting to succeed the baby boomers nearing retirement.

What's new for 2013

As economic conditions slowly begin to improve in 2013 and beyond, the financial services industry may be looking to replace some of the positions that were eliminated over the past several years. The leading candidates will have more career opportunities from which to choose – including opportunities in technology and other non-financial services sectors.

Bottom line

Capital markets firms should prepare for a more competitive talent market by examining both their corporate culture and their compensation policies to make sure that the environment and rewards that they offer prospective employees are commensurate, if not ahead of, those offered by other employers vying for the same talent.

Moving forward...

It's no secret that the financial crisis fundamentally altered the structure of the capital markets business that had been developed over the previous decades. At the same time, increasing technology capacity and sophistication is fragmenting the market and forcing participants to compete more aggressively for a millisecond's advantage.

Today's industry faces overcapacity, profit margins that are slim to none at all, and a damaged reputation that attracts regulation and repels leading talent to join in its redevelopment. Firms are expected to be challenged to redesign their industry – and themselves – but reality suggests there is no other way out.

True, some opportunity for innovation in product and process may offer some glimmer of hope, but it may be that the best way out is by going backward. The larger impetus of Dodd-Frank, the Volcker Rule, and Basel III could do worse for the industry than to force its expulsion from the control of bank holding companies, return to privately held status, and allow its leaders to make the best longer-term decisions to strengthen the industry and firms' balance sheets.

Perhaps capital markets firms should consider revisiting the concept that launched this industry – the vision of independent, privately held firms whose core business is really promoting the development of capital and applying that capital to business growth – rather than trading on the margin for a millisecond advantage.

For the capital markets industry, 2013 may not be the end of the world, but, instead, a new beginning.


1 As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

2 See VgnVCM2000001b56f00a RCRD.htm

3 Roose, Kevin, "Wall Street's Reputation Still Falling," The New York Times, February 13, 2012,

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