It's not often that the entire senior staff of a team are put on indefinite suspension pending investigation into allegations of bad behaviour. Nor it is often that so many people are put on leave that the market reportedly struggles to function at key times.
Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Lloyds and UBS are all scrutinizing the behaviour of their spot FX traders. Some have made suspensions already. RBS has suspended London-based FX traders Paul Nash and Julian Munson. Citigroup has suspended Rohan Ramchandan, its London head of FX trading. Richard Usher, an ex-RBS trader turned chief dealer at JPMorgan in London, has been put on leave. Matt Gardiner, assistant chief dealer at Standard Chartered, has been put on leave. Barclays has reportedly suspended Chris Ashton and Mark Clark in London, along with Jack Murray in Tokyo and several traders in New York.
At Barclays, the suspensions are reportedly causing problems. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the UK bank dismissed six traders last Friday. Barclays' London-G10 spot desk only has six traders and is now reportedly 'understaffed.' Barclays is said to be 'scrambling to fill the gap' and has transferred some emerging market FX traders to the G10 desk and asked some of its Tokyo-based traders to work beyond midnight.
FX headhunters said the suspensions are unlikely to create new job opportunities: the suspended staff haven't actually been dismissed and banks therefore aren't free to fill their roles externally. "In the short term, these suspensions may create opportunities for junior and middle office people to step up into more senior roles," said Alex Tracey at Kinvara Search. "This won’t create jobs. People are just going to be replaced by new people coming up," agreed Simon Head at search firm Correlate.
Long term, however, this may be another nail in the spot trading coffin. Spot trading teams have been slashed already, with headcount cut from eight to nine a few years ago, to four to six now, according to Head. More FX trading is conducted online, with remaining spot traders operating in a environment of increasingly slim margins. “This is a market that’s been unregulated for a long time," one senior FX trader told us. "Of course people have been front running their clients. It's been tough and they could pretty much do whatever they wanted.”
“FX trading has been becoming more and more electronic anyway. This will accelerate the trend for trading to become electronic – automated systems can’t create scandals," said Tracey.
The bad news is that while remaining FX traders will need to work harder to fill the gaps left by senior staff, they are unlikely to be compensated for their efforts. Suspended staff are on full pay and FX bonuses are likely to be cut this year in anticipation of fines to come. "This is very likely to hit FX bonuses," said Tracey.