Currently, $350 trillion worth of financial contracts reference the LIBOR rate worldwide. Banks and other financial institutions are now required to phase out any agreements that utilise LIBOR as a benchmark and transition to an alternative reference rate by the end of 2021. While this may seem like a long time from now, the process will likely be lengthy and complex. To ensure a smooth transition, banks and other impacted organizations will need to begin preparing well in advance. Right now, only 19% of firms say they’re ready. Neil Murphy, VP of global business development at ABBYY, discusses how these companies can best prepare for the changes to come.
The transition process will be no mean feat. It will involve creating task forces, sorting through immense volumes of documents, adopting new technologies, re-negotiating current agreements and developing entirely new financial products. Preparing early and thoroughly is critical for minimising risk from every angle – financial risk, legal and compliance exposure, and operational disruption. Planning ahead will also facilitate a smooth process for customers, helping maintain – or even increase – client satisfaction and retention.
While the transition may seem daunting for some organisations, it doesn’t have to be. To begin preparing, businesses need to understand what LIBOR is and how it will affect your business, including which products will be impacted, what the replacement options are, and what exactly the complex transition process will involve. Let’s start from the beginning.
What’s behind the transition?
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the LIBOR rate is based on specific types of transactions between banks which now do not occur as frequently as they used to, making the rate less reliable. The governing bodies that oversee this index have stated that they cannot guarantee the rate will be available after 2021.
Certain private-sector banks which are currently required to submit information that is then utilised to set the LIBOR rate will stop being required to do so after next year, which means the rate will subsequently not be an accurate reflection of its underlying market. At this point, the quality of the rate will likely degrade to a degree at which it is no longer credible, which could cause LIBOR to stop publication immediately.
The end of LIBOR is imminent, which makes preparing for the transition and implementing alternative reference rates in advance an imperative for financial institutions. All types of banks and financial institutions will be impacted, from small regional banks serving local consumers to large global financial institutions providing commercial services to multinational enterprises. In addition, related industries, such as insurance, will also be impacted by the discontinuation of LIBOR. Even industries that are completely outside of the financial sector will feel a ripple effect.
The end of LIBOR is imminent, which makes preparing for the transition and implementing alternative reference rates in advance an imperative for financial institutions.
What’s the impact?
From 30-page mortgage agreements to 340-page commercial loan contracts, every type of financial product that utilises LIBOR will be impacted. First up is derivatives, including interest rate swaps, cross-currency swaps, commodity swaps, credit default swaps, interest rate futures, and interest rate options. Bonds will also be impacted, including corporates, floating rate notes, covered bonds, agency notes, leases, and trade finance. As for loans, the impact will be far reaching, from syndicated to securitised, business loans, real estate mortgages, private loans and even certain types of student loans. In short, any type of loan that utilises a variable interest rate based, in whole or in part, on LIBOR will be impacted.
There will also be an impact on short-term instruments such as repos, reverse repos, and commercial paper, and on securitised products like mortgage-backed securities (MBS), asset-backed securities (ABS), and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Finally, in the retail sphere, it will affect loans, mortgages, pensions, credit cards, overdrafts and late payments.
To replace LIBOR, there will be various Alternative Reference Rates (ARRs), which will vary by geography.
How should we prepare?
Many companies have thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of LIBOR-based financial agreements circulating within their organisations. There are some global investment banks whose volume of related contracts reaches into the millions.
There will be many necessary steps in a successful transition. One of the most important is assessing where LIBOR is used across all business operations and identifying each individual contract, agreement and related document. Without a doubt, finding, collecting, and compiling every contract that utilises the LIBOR rate will be an extensive and complex process.
Whether it’s a small- to mid-size bank or a large financial institution with hundreds of thousands of contracts, sifting through, reading, and pinpointing every document that references LIBOR will be cumbersome, costly and time-consuming if conducted entirely manually. The right technology, particularly those that are powered by AI and content intelligence technologies, could transform this process. They can sort through volumes of documents, accurately identifying relevant contracts thanks to advanced OCR and NLP technology, and automatically extracting relevant data. The right tools go a long way in simplifying the complex document-related processes involved in the LIBOR transition.
Identifying all related contracts is only the first step, however critical it is. After all relevant agreements have been compiled, the next step is to transition each individual contract to the new alternate reference rate. For many financial institutions, there will likely be a significant degree of re-negotiation involved in this process, particularly for contracts governing high-value financial products or agreements serving commercial clients.
The transition process is one that will likely involve many business units – from legal and compliance for managing risk, to product management for creating new offerings, to marketing and PR for developing effective communication strategies for customers, investors and stakeholders. Successfully navigating the transition will require a clearly defined roadmap, long-term vision, and the right technology. This combination will be crucial for firms to be prepared for the transition, and to ensure their business isn’t adversely affected by it.
While the deadline for transitioning from LIBOR may be over a year and a half away, time is still definitely of the essence. For businesses that want to minimise financial and legal risk, ensure a seamless transition, maintain their market share, and ensure customer loyalty, the time to begin preparing is now.