Accelerating transaction settlement demands a fresh approach to communication

In December of 2021, SIFMA, ICI and DTCC called for the shortening of the settlement cycle in the U.S. financial markets from T+2 (transaction date plus two days) to T+1 (transaction date plus one day) within the first half of 2024. Their report indicates that accelerating the settlement process will “reduce risks and costs for the industry while building upon the benefits achieved in the successful move to T+2 in 2017.” This is in line with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s announcement on Feb 9, 2022 of a proposed rule to shorten the standard settlement cycle for most broker-dealer transactions from two business days after the trade date (“T+2”) to one business day after the trade date (“T+1”), while soliciting comments regarding challenges and possible approaches to achieving settlement by the end of trade date (“T+0”).

Practically speaking, this means a number of post-transaction processes that previously happened within one business day of a transaction will need to happen by the end of the same day. It also means communication around any transaction exceptions or breaks will need to happen more quickly. But email, which is currently the main method of communication between stakeholders in this process, lacks the transparency to ensure that a recipient has received and will respond to their messages in time to settle a transaction before the deadline. It’s still a black hole of “did they get my email?” and “did i send it to the right place?”

The adjustments financial firms need to make to achieve T+1 aren’t just about speeding up existing processes–they’re about changing the way parties interact so that everything happens more efficiently. Here are three ways the industry can make progress toward achieving the T+1 goal.

1. Update communication methods

Typically, when a trader, salesperson, customer or manager needs information or resolution on an outstanding transaction, they send an email. As a result, I hear from customers that it’s not uncommon for a broker-dealer operations organization to send and receive north of 5 million emails every month. In addition, one customer shared that the average number of back and forth emails it takes to resolve a transaction exception is 57. And despite enormous innovation for operations processes including the rise of new FinTechs over the last several years, ops stakeholders are still drowning in emails related to the 1% of transactions of which Straight Through Processing breaks.

Sending an email, wondering if and when the recipient read it, and waiting for them to respond with the requested information seems too cumbersome and inefficient a process to make T+1 settlement a ‘seamless’ reality. Many things need to be done. As it relates to streamlining communication, stakeholders would benefit from delivering information their counterparties need proactively rather than waiting for them to ask for it or be alerted to an error. In addition, rather than defaulting to email, we should all be more deliberate and targeted when it comes to communication methods. Tools like instant voice, targeted notifications, alerts and, when necessary, embedded auditable & compliance enabled chat can be more efficient ways to exchange time-sensitive information, in particular given the reality that batch processing will continue.

2. Use a verified industry directory

Email’s lack of transparency also hinders a sender’s ability to know their message made it to the right team. Are they online? Is it the correct region? Is it the right coverage? If your contact has moved to a new group, or is not responsible for addressing your query, the best you can do is hope that someone will forward your message to someone who can assist you.

Alternatively, a trusted industry directory with standardized taxonomy to identify the right group enables users to determine and authenticate the identities of the individuals they need to reach. This is a game changer for exception management: give ops teams the ability to find the counterparties they need to escalate contact and send them a chat or targeted notification instead of an email that is likely to be overlooked in a crowded inbox. This allows for more real-time resolution – I hear from customers that this method even allows them to avoid settlement failures due to the fast follow. I know what you’re going to say next, SLAs can be leveraged here also.

For an industry directory to support T+1 transaction settlement, it needs to be up-to-date, and individual users cannot always be relied upon to keep their information current. That said, firms that link their active internal directories to trusted directories like Symphony and allow their teams to update individual profiles according to their own roles and responsibilities can help create more accurate and useful directories over time.

3. Pursue interoperability across tech solutions

Another key step to take in shortening the transaction settlement lifecycle is investing in tech solutions and interoperating with other providers to create a seamless interaction for customers. Interoperable solutions enable users to access data, tools and other resources without leaving the platform they are using. This reduces context switching and allows users to collaborate more seamlessly. Tools that consolidate transaction information would benefit from centralized communication capabilities to support both internal and external users.

Accelerating transaction settlement is an important step forward for financial markets, and the best way I see forward is to interoperate between tech solutions. Taking that step will require rethinking our approach to communication during the post transaction settlement cycle. Evolving past email, leveraging trusted directories and implementing interoperable solutions are three ways financial operations teams can make the settlement process more efficient and achieve the goal of T+1 by 2024.

Let’s discuss!

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