European banks, asset managers study halving stocks settlement time
By Huw Jones
LONDON, Mar 2 (Reuters) - Banks and asset managers have set up a new task-force to study whether Europe should keep up with Wall Street by halving the time it takes to settle share trades.
The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission last month decided to cut the period for settlement or final leg of a trade, to one working day, known as T+1, from two working days, the current lag in Europe.
Halving settlement in Europe would mean banks and asset managers having to reconfigure their IT systems at a cost.
"With the U.S. having announced its intention to move to T+1 settlement by May 2024, the discussion on whether Europe should follow suit has become more pressing," said Adam Farkas, chief executive of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME).
Last September, AFME poured cold water on an idea that would require agreement between the European Union, Britain and Switzerland to avoid fragmenting share trading.
The SEC has said that T+1 would make markets more resilient to the type of volatility seen during COVID-19, and the "meme stocks" phenomenon on Wall Street in 2020, when social media sites fuelled heavy trading in companies like GameStop.
T+1 cuts the amount of time brokers have to tie up capital and margin to cover unsettled trades, and failure to follow suit could put Europe at a competitive disadvantage to Wall Street.
The task-force will look at whether Europe should adopt T+1 -- and if so, when -- in a bid to shape regulatory thinking.
Given heavy transatlantic share trading, firms in Europe will have to make some changes to reflect the U.S. move in any case.
"An industry task force on T+1 settlement is a logical and necessary step for Europe, both in terms of managing the impacts of the U.S. move to T+1, and in considering a European timetable for a possible similar move," said Tanguy van de Werve, secretary general of EFAMA, the European investment funds industry body.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Christina Fincher)