by Myles Udland, Business Insider
COPENHAGEN, February 9, 2015 (TSR-BI) – Danish bank Saxo Bank is taking a hard line on its foreign exchange customers who placed what turned out to be wrong way bets on the Swiss franc last month, reports The Wall Street Journal.
And while the bank is trying to recoup $US100 million in losses, its reasoning is largely philosophical.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Saxo’s operating philosophy takes its lead from Ayn Rand:
Saxo promotes a vision of individual responsibility free from government intrusion. The firm hands out copies of “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand ‘s hymn to individualism and capitalism, to employees and clients. It offers a free copy of the Danish translation of the novel to anyone who fills out a form on its website.
Ayn Rand’s work espouses the ideals of “objectivism,” or the idea that there is a reality which exists independent on human consciousness. Rand’s philosophical ideas also serve as part of the foundation of libertarianism, which emphasises free markets, small government, and individual freedom.
Many of the moral and economic tenets of Rand’s philosophy have become popular among a number of prominent business leaders.
Following the unexpected move by with Swiss National Bank to remove its peg against the euro, the Swiss franc rapidly appreciated in value, creating huge losses for Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and foreign exchange brokers as this decision roiled currency markets around the world.
Some firms, like currency broker FXCM, forgave a number of clients following their losses on the Swiss franc’s move.
Saxo Bank, on the other hand, is holding its clients accountable even though they thought they’d been “stopped out” on their positions.
In currency trading, daily fluctuations are so small that margin is used, often in large amounts, in an effort to capitalise on these small moves. So a trader might post say $US100 and get $US1000 to trade from its broker. Any losses over $US100, then, would be the responsibility of the trader to cover.
Many currency bets, therefore, will have tight “stops,” or a level at which their position is automatically closed, so that losses don’t create a situation in which they are faced with a “margin call,” or a requirement to put down more money or sell out of positions.
When the Swiss Franc moved quickly, a huge number of stops were triggered. And so instead of closing all clients’ trades at their stop, Saxo Bank is repricing some trades to, “better reflect the market’s chaotic conditions that day,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
In its report, The Journal gives an example of a Saxo Bank client who believed they’d been stopped out when the franc hit around 1.18 against the euro, only to have that trade repriced with the franc valued at 0.96, increasing this customers’ losses by €2000.
“I think it was a fair way of dealing with it,” said Steen Blaafalk, Saxo’s chief financial and risk officer told The Wall Street Journal. “Clients that lost money can blame us, or they can blame themselves.”
Or they can blame Ayn Rand.