June 16, 2017 / 12:32 PM / 2 months ago

BAML'S electronic loan trading platform celebrates one-year anniversary

NEW YORK, June 16 (Reuters) - Electronic trading in the US$900bn leveraged loan market celebrates its one-year anniversary Friday. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Instinct Loans, the bank’s electronic loan trading platform that kicked off June 16, 2016, touts increased liquidity and has won over many initial skeptics in the private loan market where trades typically take place over the phone.

Since inception, the bank has done almost US$5bn in loan trade volume electronically. In the last three months, transactions on Instinct have made up about 17% of trade volume in the loans offered on the system, according to data compiled by the bank.

"We're very pleased with the success of the platform during its first year," Brian Callahan, head of electronic initiatives and US par loan trading at the bank, said in a statement. "We look forward to helping our clients and the broader loan market increase the liquidity of leveraged loans."

Electronic trading platforms have blossomed in the wake of regulatory pressure that has forced banks to cut back on market-making. The systems promise investors improved liquidity by facilitating multiple offers for the debt.

Trade volume in the loan market, which provides financing to back acquisitions, has skyrocketed, hitting US$174.5bn in the first three months of the year, according to IHS Markit, the second most active quarter since 2012.

The Instinct platform allows multiple participants to bid on a specified number of loans during two daily trading periods. Recent sessions have included more than 200 loans totaling more than US$385bn of debt, according to the bank.

Five of BAML’s top 10 most active loan trading clients completed an average of 32% of their activity electronically, the bank said.

BAML reached its first US$1bn of pure electronic trade volume on August 30, according to a September 19 e-mail to clients, LPC reported at the time.

The bank’s trading desk sets fixed, mid-market prices for large syndicated loans and hosts a matching session where clients can bid or offer against that mid price. When two participants match, the trade is completed. The mid price is set once per session and does not fluctuate with market activity outside the session.

The bank continues to make markets and trade loans through traditional trading. (Reporting by Kristen Haunss; Editing by Jon Methven)

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