Asset formula

Three key themes in equities and crypto for asset managers in 2022

By Tim McCourt, CME Group


  • The maturation of cryptocurrencies has led to increased adoption of crypto products, including centrally cleared and regulated crypto derivatives
  • With sustainable investments set to grow, index-based derivatives will be central to hedging ESG exposure

2021 has been an important year in the world of financial markets. We have witnessed a retail revolution, increased enthusiasm for crypto, and a deep entrenchment of environmental, social and governance (ESG) in financial institutions. As we approach 2022, I think these exciting trends will likely be on the minds of many equity and alternative market investors.

As phase six of the Uncompensated Margin Rules (UMR) approaches in September 2022, another important theme will center on a greater proportion of the buy side falling within the scope of UMR and the requirement to post higher initial margin on a variety of instruments, including uncleared equities. derivatives.

Diversification through cryptography

As 2022 approached, customers stopped asking “should I invest in crypto?” and now ask “How? ‘Or’ What many should I invest in crypto? Particularly amid rising inflation, clients are looking to add crypto exposure to their portfolios to diversify with uncorrelated returns.

The maturing of customer understanding of cryptocurrencies and how they can be added to portfolios has led to increased adoption of crypto products, specifically regulated and centrally cleared crypto derivatives. Being able to access a new and still relatively nascent market in a reliable and known way via regulated futures and options has enabled institutional clients to get started investing and trading assets such as bitcoin and ether. . This trend is definitely one to watch in 2022.

Continued innovation of new, appropriately sized micro-contracts alongside larger crypto futures contracts will also enable the deployment of traditional equity and investment strategies by risk-savvy institutional investors, while continuing broaden the participant base by attracting more sophisticated investors. , individual traders active in the market.

Derivatives and ESG

The rise of ESG factors within finance has been a source of inspiration. Moving from an academic consideration to an element in many investment decisions, ESG is increasingly influencing equity, bond and commodity markets, as evidenced by the launches of a wider selection of indices. robust and carbon offset products. As sustainable investments are set to grow in 2022, the need for risk management solutions specifically tailored to ESG criteria is also growing.

Risk management must be both simple and economical. To achieve this through derivative products based on ESG versions of existing benchmarks, such as S&P 500 ESG Index futures, enables companies to manage specific risks related to ESG factors in an effective and liquid manner. S&P 500 ESG futures contracts allow funds to achieve target allocation in a more cash-efficient manner than by investing directly in the underlying stocks, potentially allowing more capital to be channeled into sustainable investments.

The use of index-based derivatives with a reliable calculation methodology will be essential to effectively hedge the different forms of ESG exposure. One such example is S&P Dow Jones Indices’ S&P 500 ESG Index, which is considered Article 8 compliant under the European Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR).

UMR phase 6

A key settlement that will get more attention from the buyside community in 2022 is UMR. The threshold of the overall average notional amount (AANA) increasing from €50 billion in phase 5 to €8 billion in phase 6, a significantly larger proportion of funds will come into effect from September 2022 and they will be required to post initial margin on uncleared OTC derivatives. ISDA estimates that 775 counterparties will be captured in phase 6 of the UMR, compared to 314 counterparties in phase 5.

While so far the focus has naturally been on FX and interest rate instruments, equity swaps have slipped somewhat under the UMR radar, even though OTC equities have a higher initial margin is assigned than some other asset classes. This is expected to change throughout 2022 as margin efficiency becomes increasingly important to market participants.

As such, more attention is likely to be paid to the effectiveness of the margin provided by listed and cleared equity futures, so that participants can minimize the performance drag and expense created. by increasing the initial margin requirements imposed for equity swaps not cleared under the UMR.

On the way to 2022

An important factor to note is that these three key themes are all underpinned by an ongoing challenge for the buyside, which is rising industry costs. As 2022 approaches, as companies consider the application of crypto and ESG products in their portfolios, while adhering to regulatory changes and trying to become more profitable, the use of listed derivatives to manage risk and improve the returns will become even more significant. .

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