Trade Settlement Just Accelerated – What It Means for Your Money

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If you trade stocks, bonds or other securities, a major change is coming next week that could significantly impact your transactions and capital. On May 28th, the settlement cycle for trades in U.S. markets is shifting from the longstanding T+2 standard down to T+1.

What does this mean? Instead of having two business days after a trade execution to pay up and settle, you’ll now need to pony up your cash and securities just one day later under the accelerated T+1 timeline.

While seemingly a small change, this compression in the settlement schedule could have big ramifications for how you manage trades and the money involved. The transition is expected to cause disruptions, at least in the short-term, that all investors need to be prepared for.

For one, market participants anticipate a spike in trade settlement failures as brokers, banks and trading firms scramble to comply with the tighter T+1 window. With less time to line up cash and shares, there is higher risk that obligations don’t get met when due. History shows failure rates did jump when the U.S. shifted from T+3 to T+2 settlement back in 2017.

Settlement failures can lead to losses on trades, penalties, and reputational damage. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) expects “small changes” in fail rates initially, but any increase could create snags.

There are also concerns that risks and cash crunches could migrate to other areas like foreign exchange funding markets. Foreign investors holding trillions in U.S. securities may face challenges sourcing dollars for transactions in the compressed T+1 timeframe. This could drive demand for overnight lending at elevated interest rates.

Similarly, the shortened settlement cycle could disrupt securities lending by reducing the availability of shares to borrow if there is less time to recall loaned stocks before settling trades.

While ultimately aimed at reducing risks long-term, the shortened T+1 settlement period represents a monumental operational change that the investing industry has been scrambling to prepare for. Over 1,000 different firms have been coordinating testing, setting up monitoring “command centers”, and adjusting processes.

Even with months of planning, there could still be issues and errors in the first few days and weeks as standard practices adapt to the quicker timeline. Major transition risk points to watch include May 29th when trades from both the final T+2 date and first T+1 date converge, creating an expected settlement volume surge.

For all investors, some key implications are clear – be ready for potential trade failures and funding crunches, have contingency plans in place, and expect a Period of adjustment as the new accelerated T+1 regime takes hold. Flexibility and patience may be required as longstanding settlement processes are overhauled practically overnight.

The shift to T+1 is considered vital to modernizing market plumbing. But adapting to its faster payment cadence will put investors’ operational capabilities and capital management to the test like never before.

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