Tri-Party Repos: Minimising Risk, Maximising Efficiency
by Steve Lethaby, Senior Sales Manager, Global Securities Financing Sales and Relationship Management – UK, Ireland and South Africa, Clearstream
In my most recent article for TMI (‘A Value Added Approach to Corporate Cash Investment’) I outlined some of the reasons why treasurers are expanding their investment horizons into tri-party repos, and the characteristics of these instruments that make them attractive. This article looks at how treasurers can use tri-party repos to be very precise in meeting their risk and liquidity objectives, whilst achieving a high level of straight-through processing.
The investment context
Corporate treasury is typically characterised by conservative cash investment mandates, prioritising security and liquidity over yield. These priorities are starting to level up, with a greater focus on yield given the extended period of low interest rates, but security and liquidity remain as important as ever. As a result, cash and cash equivalent instruments, particularly deposits and to some extent money market funds (MMFs), have dominated corporate cash investment portfolios, together with instruments such as certificates of deposit (CDs) and commercial paper (CP) amongst those with larger cash balances.
Treasurers can use tri-party repos to be very precise in meeting their risk and liquidity objectives.
With a range of market, regulatory and internal factors now prompting treasurers to rethink their choice of investment solutions, as discussed in my previous article, investing in tri-party repurchase agreements or repos can be a highly effective means of meeting investment objectives. Banks too will be increasingly motivated to offer tri-party repos given the changing market and regulatory environment, while Target T2-Securities (T2S), the new European securities settlement engine, is harmonising market processes across major European markets, providing both the buy side and the sell side with a more consistent experience.
Tri-party repos in brief
A tri-party repo (or reverse repo from the perspective of the corporate investor) is a secured form of money market instrument in which one counterparty sells securities or other assets to another with the agreement to sell them back on a pre-agreed date. These securities or assets act as collateral in the event of counterparty failure, providing far greater risk protection than most investment instruments, which are typically unsecured. As most assets are subject to changes in pricing, the value of this collateral can be affected, so the use of ‘haircuts’ (margins) adds additional protection against changes in asset prices, usually assessed in percentage terms. For example, a haircut of 2% may be added to the market value of an asset, but this can differ according to asset class.