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Meeting New TBA Margin Requirements: How You Can Prepare

As the March 25, 2019, implementation date approaches for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) Rule 4210, firms engaged in to-be-announced (TBA) transactions in the U.S. secondary mortgage market have formidable work to do to prepare for compliance. Rule 4210, which aims to reduce counterparty credit risk by setting new requirements for daily calculation and posting of margin, will demand systems upgrades and new documentation, and now is not too early to get started.


FINRA 4210 in brief


TBA transactions provide significant funding and liquidity for the U.S. mortgage market. According to FINRA’s 2016 TRACE Monthly Volume Report, the average daily par value of TBAs that year was approximately $194 billion.


Rule 4210 requires U.S.-registered broker-dealers to collect margin on TBA transactions.
In addition, if any required margin is not collected by the close of the following business day, the respective broker-dealer will have to deduct that amount from the firm’s regulatory net capital.


The rule has two parts: 1) credit risk limits to be assigned, which were put in place before December 15, 2016, and 2) margin calculation and collection and net capital impact, which must be implemented by March 25, 2019.



Daunting impacts on broker-dealers’ counterparties


Collecting margin is a routine process for most broker-dealers. After all, those that are swap dealers or even broker-dealers facing off to swap dealers have been calculating derivatives mark to market (MTM) and posting margin for quite some time--and with even more rigor since the global uncleared margin rules began to take effect in September 2016.


However, some entities that face the broker-dealers – and even some broker-dealers directly subjected to Rule 4210 - may have never calculated TBA MTMs in the past nor processed a margin call settlement. These processes can be quite daunting for firms that lack both the infrastructure to perform these daily tasks and the capacity to scale their derivatives middle office for the expected increase of TBA margin volume.


In addition, because it affects their liquidity, having to post margin to a TBA broker-dealer may negatively impact investment performance for these counterparties.



Documentation for each transaction


Under Rule 4210 each TBA transaction will be governed by documentation such as a Master Securities Financial Transaction Agreement (MSFTA). This document outlines the terms of the transaction, including margin calculation, margin posting and collection, and dispute resolution. For new MSFTAs, the documents will be necessary to manage counterparty relationships, and if existing MSFTAs are in place, updates may be needed to align with the new rules.

A checklist for successful implementation


Firms can smooth their path to Rule 4210 implementation through careful preparation on multiple fronts. The following checklist can help organize these efforts.


  1. Led by your legal, operations, and counterparty risk management teams, conduct a review of the entire rule along with its associated FAQs.

  2. Identify all entities/accounts/funds that face a U.S.-registered broker-dealer and do not meet exemptions.

  3. Complete MSFTAs with each counterparty on behalf of each entity/account/fund. Using the structure of an umbrella agreement can facilitate the document review and negotiation process while also maintaining separate and distinct legal parameters of each entity’s counterparty risk. NOTE: If MSFTAs have been used in the past, update them to meet the new requirements, which include a Minimum Transfer Amount of $250,000.

  4. Ensure middle-office systems –whether an in-house or vendor system - can calculate a daily MTM of TBA transactions and process margin calls.

  5. If an automated system to calculate the daily MTM is not yet in place, consider outsourcing the calculation and margin call communication work to a vendor. If deployed early, administrator options can be feasible to implement before the end of March.

  6. Develop procedures to ensure disputes are resolved quickly. This process should include training to front-office teams in case a transaction needs to be closed out due to disputes outstanding past five business days, as required by FINRA 4210.

  7. Ensure margin processing is STP. Using straight-through-processing services for margin call communication and affirmation as well as margin settlements and settlement confirmation, such as AcadiaSoft’s MarginSphere and DTCC-Euroclear GlobalCollateral Ltd.’s Margin Transit Utility, can mitigate operational, liquidity, and counterparty risk management challenges.