Global Finance selects the best foreign exchange banks in 113 countries.
Justin Tsai from Standard Chartered (c) with corporate partner Leon Tompkins of World Vision International, and Peter Chau from HP Inc.
Trading in foreign exchange (FX), the world’s most liquid market, grew to $6.6 trillion a day as of April 2019, up from $5.1 trillion in April 2016. FX swaps continued to increase in market share and now account for about half of all currency trades, versus 30% for the spot market, according to the triennial survey of FX turnover by the Bank for International Settlements.
Trading of forward contracts also rose, due in large part to nondeliverable forwards (NDFs). Currency swaps and forwards are used by financial institutions and corporations to hedge exposure to exchange rate risk or to reduce the cost of borrowing in foreign currency.
In a currency swap, two parties exchange notional amounts of two different currencies for an agreed period and then reverse the trade at the same exchange rate at the expiration of the swap. Since swaps are typically done off the balance sheet, neither of the parties would increase its debt outstanding.
A nondeliverable forward is a forward or futures contract in which the two parties settle the difference between the contracted NDF price and the prevailing spot market price at the end of the agreement.
The leading FX trading centers by size are in the UK, followed by the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, which together account for 79% of trading. China advanced from the 13th most active currency-trading center in 2016 to eighth in last year’s BIS survey.
The share of cross-border trading in total FX turnover declined to 56% in 2019, from 65% in 2016, the lowest it has been since 2001. The dollar was used on one side of 88% of all trades, while the share of trades with the euro on one side was 32%. The Japanese yen remained the third most actively traded currency after the dollar and the euro, although the share of trades involving the yen fell five percentage points to 17%. Currencies of emerging market economies continued to gain, as in previous BIS surveys, amounting to 25% of global turnover.
Meanwhile, a recent survey by Greenwich Associates of some 2,369 users of FX globally found that many market participants are now trading via algorithms, which offer an important tool to source liquidity and minimize costs. “As FX market participants adopt sophisticated pre- and post-trade analytics enhanced by artificial intelligence and machine learning, the potential benefits of algo trading are becoming clear; and hedge funds and real-money accounts are leading the charge,” Satnam Sohal, principal at Greenwich and co-author of the report, says in a press release. Real-money accounts do not borrow or leverage to participate in the market, but pay for their purchases with actual cash.
Multidealer platforms and telephone voice trades are still most popular for FX trading, with single-dealer platforms in third place, according to another 2019 Greenwich Associates study. Since all the platforms and electronic communications networks offer application programming interface (API) access, API aggregators enable access to multiple types of liquidity from one point of contact. The API aggregators could eventually challenge the market’s biggest execution venues, Greenwich Associates says. The aggregators have an advantage because they are simply routing trades, lowering their compliance costs.
In this, our 20th annual Foreign Exchange Awards, Global Finance honors financial institution winners in 113 countries and seven global regions, as well as the best banks for FX research and analysis and for FX trading technology.
Global Finance selects its award winners based on objective factors such as transaction volume, market share, competitive pricing and global coverage, as detailed in public company documents and media reports.
Our criteria also include subjective factors such as customer service and technology innovations, using input from industry analysts, surveys, corporate executives, consultants and technology experts. Although entries are not required in order to win, our decision-making is informed by submissions that provide additional insight.
Executives from South Korea's KEB Hana.
GLOBAL FINANCE BEST FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS FOR FOREIGN EXCHANGE 2020
|Best Global Foreign Exchange Bank||Citi|
|Best FX Provider For Corporates||Société Générale|
|Best FX Provider for Emerging Market Currencies||Crown Agents Bank|
|Best Liquidity Provider||UBS|
|Central & Eastern Europe||Société Générale|
|Middle East||National Bank of Kuwait|
|Angola||Standard Bank Angola|
|Austria||UniCredit Bank Austria|
|Bahamas||CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank|
|Bahrain||Ahli United Bank|
|Bermuda||Bank of NT Butterfield & Son|
|Botswana||First National Botswana|
|Canada||RBC Capital Markets|
|Chile||Banco de Chile|
|China||Bank of China|
|Colombia||Banco de Bogotá|
|Costa Rica||BAC Credomatic|
|Côte d’Ivoire||Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire|
|Cyprus||Bank of Cyprus|
|Czech Republic||Komercni Banka|
|Dominican Republic||Banco de Reservas de la República Dominicana|
|Ecuador||Banco de Guayaquil|
|El Salvador||Banco Cuscatlán|
|Finland||OP Financial Group|
|Ghana||Zenith Bank Ghana|
|Hong Kong||The Bank of East Asia|
|Iraq||Bank of Baghdad|
|Jamaica||National Commercial Bank|
|Kuwait||National Bank of Kuwait|
|Luxembourg||Banque Internationale à Luxembourg|
|Morocco||Trade and Development Bank|
|Nigeria||Stanbic IBTC Bank|
|North Macedonia||Komercijalna Banka AD Skopje|
|Palestine||Bank of Palestine|
|Paraguay||Banco Itaú Paraguay|
|Poland||PKO Bank Polski|
|Puerto Rico||Banco Popular|
|Qatar||Commercial Bank of Qatar|
|Romania||BRD-Groupe Société Générale|
|Sierra Leone||Zenith Bank|
|South Africa||First National Bank and Rand Merchant Bank|
|South Korea||KEB Hana|
|Trinidad & Tobago||Republic Bank|
|Tunisia||Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunise|
|Turks & Caicos||Scotiabank|
|Uganda||Stanbic Bank Uganda|
|Ukraine||Raiffeisen Bank Aval|
|United Arab Emirates||Emirates NBD|
|United Kingdom||NatWest Markets|
|United States||BNY Mellon (Honorable Mention)|
|US Virgin Islands||Scotiabank|
|Venezuela||Mercantil Banco Universal|
|Zambia||Zambia National Commercial Bank|
Foreign Exchange Research And Analysis Winners
|FX Research||BNY Mellon|
|Technical Analysis||BNY Mellon|
Best Bank FX Trading Technology
|Best Bank Platform (Overall)||Citi Velocity|
|Most Innovative Bank Platform||UBS Neo (Orca-Direct)|
|Best Platform For Corporates||DBS DealOnline|
|Best Execution Algorithms||Société Générale|
|Best Transaction Cost Analysis||BNP Paribas|
|Best Big-Picture View Of Positions||Citi Velocity’s Command Centre|
|Best End-To-End Processing||J.P. Morgan’s Execute|
BEST GLOBAL FOREIGN EXCHANGE BANK
Citi’s leading market share in foreign exchange (FX) reflects the bank’s unmatched global reach, with a presence in more than 100 countries, its technological capabilities and the dedication of its experienced staff of currency experts, traders and analysts. Citi trades more than 140 currencies from FX desks in 83 countries and serves a broad range of clients. It is the top FX dealer to global corporations.
Citi has invested heavily in electronic platforms, which now account for the bulk of FX trading. The bank offers a wide range of derivative products, from forward contracts to highly customized FX options, which help corporations manage their worldwide exposures. Citi provides liquidity in difficult markets and helps to ease the trading experience in emerging markets, which often have complex payments and regulatory reporting infrastructures. The CitiFX Pulse platform offers corporations real-time, end-to-end visibility on fund transfers by way of connectivity with the Swift gpi solution.
BEST FX PROVIDER FOR COMPANIES
Corporations trade currencies and set up and manage hedging strategies using Societe Generale’s MyFX module on the bank’s SG Markets platform. Corporate clients can use applications to monitor and manage their accounts more efficiently. The platform’s pre-trade analytic tools, including application programming interfaces (APIs), help companies implement the optimal risk-management solution for their specific needs. SG supports its corporate clients’ business workflow over multidealer and direct API platforms, as well as its single-dealer platform. The bank improves hedging strategies with the help of machine-learning algorithms.
BEST FX PROVIDER FOR EMERGING MARKETS CURRENCIES
Crown Agents Bank
Crown Agents Bank’s EMpowerFX platform provides direct access to more than 100 emerging and developed market currencies, supporting trading across more than 500 currency pairs. The platform allows CAB’s international clients to do business with developing, emerging and frontier markets by providing competitive and reliable delivery of illiquid currencies. CAB is a UK-regulated provider of wholesale FX and cross-border payments services, focusing on technical and technological solutions for remote locales. The mobile wallet supported by CAB’s platform can solve safety issues around cash and the distribution of aid payments.
Crown Agents Bank executives picked up the win for Best FX Provider for Emerging Market Currencies.
BEST LIQUIDITY PROVIDER
Switzerland-based global bank UBS is a leading provider of market-making and trading services in the FX market, as well as in precious metals. The UBS Neo platform offers low-latency trading technology and algorithms that provide access to deep liquidity, including the bank’s large internal flows, around the clock. Clients can trade up to 550 possible cross-currency pairs in major and emerging markets, including a dozen non-deliverable forwards (NDFs). UBS serves wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide and has offices in 52 countries.
Citi’s leading-edge platforms provide quick, accurate and competitive FX pricing. Citi offers a wide range of market-leading FX products and services, which have enabled the bank to maintain its edge in the highly competitive North American market. Through digital applications, clients can find Citi research, commentary, and analytics; execute fast FX trades; and use the bank’s sophisticated, post-trade analysis tools. They can monitor breaking news, watch videos from Citi trading floors around the world and access Citi’s extensive proprietary data and content library.
BBVA is a major FX bank, with special expertise in Spain and in Latin America. It offers a wide range of FX services for customers in wholesale and retail markets both—from multibank platforms for major corporations, to web and mobile FX services for any user that has a BBVA account. BBVA has banking operations in many emerging market countries and deep knowledge of local markets. Its proprietary cash management platform has FX capabilities for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
UBS is the leading FX bank in Western Europe, thanks in part to its innovative technology and global reach. The bank offers top-notch FX prime brokerage and clearing services. The UBS Neo platform makes it possible for clients to have real-time access to their positions and to the bank’s research and market-risk data. Straight-through processing capabilities improve workflow efficiency. FX Investor, a portal for structured products, offers diversification and yield enhancement.
CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
Societe Generale is the leading FX provider in the five largest CEE markets, as well as a top player in Western Europe. It provides full FX services, including corporate client hedging solutions, in Russia (where it owns Rosbank), Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary. Altogether, it has operations in 14 CEE countries and boasts a network of 2,500 branches in the region. It offers unmatched market access and trading capabilities in frontier and illiquid currencies.
Melbourne-based Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) has an on-the-ground presence in 14 Asia-Pacific markets. Its depth and reach across the region provide local knowledge and relationships. The bank offers foreign currency accounts and a full range of FX services. The ANZ FX Online platform is user friendly and helps clients manage their international business payments and receipts. ANZ also assists companies in developing an FX risk-management strategy that fits their business model.
National Bank of Kuwait
National Bank of Kuwait, one of the largest banks in the Middle East, is the leading market maker and liquidity provider for the Kuwait dinar and other Gulf Cooperation Council currencies in the FX market in Kuwait. NBK deals in more than 100 currencies, including a variety of exotic currencies. It leads the Kuwait FX market in direct client sales and interbank trading both. In partnership with Ripple, NBK offers retail clients a cross-border transfer and payments service. NBK is present in major global financial centers. Its regional coverage extends to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Standard Bank is the leading liquidity provider for African currencies. With its 23 dealing rooms, it handles nearly one-third of the FX volume for the entire continent. Standard Bank makes markets in 41 currencies, and its strategic partnership with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China puts it in a unique position to handle trade and FX flows between China and Africa. The bank also has a strong presence in the offshore market, where it actively deals with large institutions and corporate accounts. Standard Bank supports electronic FX trading across a dozen channels for retail and corporate clients.
BNY Mellon’s FX research is based on a top-down, macroeconomic approach known as the Aerial View, which assists clients in identifying and predicting themes underpinning price movements in the world’s capital markets. The bank’s global team of FX commentators produces daily and weekly reports, as well as quick reactions to breaking news. Whether providing financial services for institutions, corporations or individual investors, BNY Mellon offers a unique insight that comes from being the world’s largest custodian, with $35.5 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration. The bank delivers investment management and investment services in 35 countries.
In partnership with Citi Research, CitiFX offers insightful economic and geographic analysis tailored to the user’s interests and needs. Its platforms offer real-time commentary, strategy, trade ideas and structured solutions. CitiFX helps clients understand complex market developments and recognize trading opportunities. CitiFX Wire, Citi’s real-time news service for clients, is one of the most widely read institutional FX platforms.
Citi and its corporate clients teamed up to win a slew of awards.
BNY Mellon’s proprietary iFlow data provides a unique perspective on how capital is being allocated across international financial markets and asset classes. Access to deep flow-of-funds information provides timely clues to market positioning. BNY Mellon has developed quantitative models that extract important signals of what is going on in the asset and FX markets. These signals have been rigorously backtested and validated in live markets.
Amid a sustained rally in the dollar last year, Société Générale leveraged its cross-asset structuring capabilities to add value, with investment products in FX derivatives. The French bank rightly surmised that with global growth slowing, the dollar should continue doing well. It compared the dollar rate curve with forward curves in emerging market currencies to structure products with capital guarantees at maturity. Meanwhile, the bank says the Chinese renminbi is following fundamentals and will continue to be used as a reactive and defensive tool in the trade wars.
BEST BANK PLATFORM (OVERALL)
Citi Velocity is Citi’s flagship trading platform for professional investors and active traders, such as hedge funds, asset managers, banks and other financial institutions. It delivers cross-asset execution across FX spot and options markets, as well as interest rate products and commodities. The platform includes advanced navigational features that help traders keep track of a wealth of trades and information simultaneously. As regulatory and compliance issues gain in importance, Citi Velocity focuses equally on best execution, analytics, controls and front-to-back workflow.
MOST INNOVATIVE BANK PLATFORM
UBS Neo (Orca-Direct)
Orca-Direct is a machine-learning algorithm on the UBS Neo cross-asset platform. It uses historical trading data and real-time learning to choose the best FX trades and find liquidity when markets become volatile. In a fraction of a second, Orca can decide the likelihood a trade will succeed and the impact it could have on the market. The adoption of FX algorithms has increased in recent years, but machine learning is a relative newcomer to the FX market.
BEST PLATFORM FOR CORPORATIONS
Singapore’s DBS Bank created DealOnline for SMEs, corporations and financial institutions. The regional electronic FX autopricing and autodealing platform offers more than 40 currency pairings in spot contracts, forwards, swaps and Asian NDFs. The platform provides FX and forward rates up to a year in advance, in order for clients to manage their exposure and hedge their risk. It offers competitive pricing, transparency and efficiency.
BEST EXECUTION ALGORITHMS
Algorithms enable a computer to complete a predefined task without human intervention. Algorithmic trading strategies aim to reach an objective, such as reduced market impact or speed of execution. Societe Generale is improving FX hedging strategies through a machine-learning algorithm that transforms historic data into a predictive tailored model. The recommendation engine suggests a hedging strategy that has the best probability of achieving a high score, based on parameters defined by the corporate client.
BEST TRANSACTION COST ANALYSIS
The implementation of MiFID II by the European Union, to regulate financial markets and improve protections for investors, along with potential new regulations on best execution, are creating growing demand for independent transaction cost analysis (TCA). BNP Paribas partnered with Itarle Group, a best execution order analytics firm, to provide clients with independent TCA. Clients can access the Itarle Vision platform for real-time performance analytics or order decisions based on live flows. Historical data are also available on the platform.
BEST BIG-PICTURE VIEW OF POSITIONS
Citi Velocity’s Command Center
Citi developed Command Center aiming for transparency, efficiency and appropriate delegation of authority to traders. This feature of the City Velocity platform is designed to provide clients with visibility and control over user access to the platform. Users can view firmwide accounts and net open-position limits. Trading permission can be varied for different products, such as forwards and nondeliverable options.
BEST END-TO-END PROCESSING
J.P. Morgan’s eXecute
From pre-trade transparency to intelligent order routing, robust trade processing and post-trade services, J.P. Morgan’s eXecute handles it all. Real-time, straight-through processing provides efficiency and flexibility across a choice of trading strategies. Clients can execute spot trades directly on aggregated prices from up to 14 electronic communication networks. FX trading on mobile devices offers one-touch execution with the tap-to-trade function. Users can trade a breadth of orders across 300-plus currency pairs, leveraging the bank’s diverse order flows to obtain reliable liquidity.